Despite the title, this post doesn’t have a lot to do with a certain 80’s band, but it’s about an experience that I’m sure everyone who’s read the Bible has had at one time or another.
It looks like this: You’re spending time reading the Bible, and you come across a passage or Scripture that’s confusing – you’re not sure what it means.
Now the temptation can be just to ignore it and move on…. pretend it’s not there and put it in the ‘too hard’ basket. Or you could take the option to disagree with what it seems to be saying because it doesn’t make sense to how you see the world or what you value.
But the truth is that there’s gold sitting right in front of you.
God has made His Word to be like a treasure hunt, and the difficult parts are actually designed to be doorways rather than dead-ends.
If you’ve been around church for a while, you’ll have undoubtedly heard the word ‘revelation‘. It might sound like a very super-spiritual word – but it simply means ‘to reveal’ – to take the veil away. It’s the ‘aha’ moment that comes when something that was mysterious becomes obvious. It’s like when an illusionist does a trick and you sit dumbfounded… until he shows you how he did it! Then the ‘aha’ moment… the ‘revelation’ comes.
So when you hit a Scripture or passage that looks like it’s a dead-end for you, rather than get discouraged, get excited… you’re looking at an opportunity to understand who God is and how He works in a greater way. An ‘aha’ moment is waiting!
So how do you go about the process of getting a stream of water out of a brick wall? Here’s what I’ve found works for me:
- Look at what’s around the verse or passage. What’s before it and after it? What context is it being said in?
- Look at the key words in the verse or passage and find where they’re used elsewhere in the Bible. This is where a concordance or a Strongs Dictionary comes in handy. Discovering how the words in the verse are used in other parts of the Bible can help shine light on understanding what the passage is saying.
- Ask God to show you what it means, and journal what you feel like He’s saying. Write down any thoughts you have, questions that it makes you ask, conclusions that reading the passage and looking at the words brings you to.
- Look at what other great Bible teachers and commentaries say about this verse. The awesome thing about the day we live in is that we have such easy access to wisdom and insights from brilliant Bible teachers through the ages. Some great online resources include the Blue Letter Bible, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (really good for historic Christian writings) and I also really appreciate John Piper’s writings on DesiringGod.org. If you’ve got e-Sword or a Bible program on your computer, Matthew Henry, John Gill and James, Fausset & Brown are great commentaries too.
There’s nothing wrong per se with going straight to a Bible teacher or commentary to discover what a Bible verse or passage means. But something I’ve discovered is if I go through the first three steps and use the last as a ‘check’, then I develop my ability to mine gold from the Word of God. And it’s MY gold too! Not just something I heard from someone else.
So the next time you hit a passage or verse you don’t understand – remember, it’s not a dead-end, it’s a doorway. There’s treasure to be found… and an AHA moment waiting for you!