Wednesday, March 4, 2009

1 Samuel 6 Part 3

Some additional thoughts on Bible interpretation before we get back into this passage:
1. Biblical interpretation is about finding out what the text says, and what God intends through it. This is not about finding 'what this means to me.' Want to get into what something means to you? Spend some time in the Hallmark aisle.
2. This author-intended meaning is static throughout time. Does this mean we grasp all of it at once? No. Does this mean there are not author-intended layers of meaning? No. However, generally there is a fairly straightforward meaning to the text.
3. There is a difference between meaning and application. For example, our passage flows through the narrative, and I think we see there that God is holy, has standards related to that holiness, and that He does not need man's help with anything. So far, that's where I am. Now, I am certain this is exactly right? Not yet. I've been wrong before, but usually careful study of the Word keeps me close to accurate on meaning. Application gets fuzzy, because it changes with time. For example, the application that God is holy and has standards for Philistines 3000 years ago was "Send the Ark back and throw in some gold to show you're really sorry." The application for the church today is going to be slightly different. (unless you have the ark. In which case, send it back).

So this brings me to the point of right now's efforts:

What is the application to bring from this passage? Well, first, where are we as a church? This is why there is frequently a difference in guest-preaching and pastor-preaching. A guest coming in that doesn't know what's going on in this church or town will most likely preach a slightly different application than the pastor who lives there and sees what's happening. An important aside: That doesn't make either one right or wrong. Application has to be tested against the rest of Scripture, to make sure you're not twisting the Word for your own purposes.

(This is why it may seem that visiting preachers and evangelists are more direct or more individual in their preaching. Your pastor is considering all he knows about the church, and may be addressing situations that you don't know about, while the visiting preacher is often more focused on how this passage applies to individual believers.)

Now, I've prayed through and studied this passage more than this blogging indicates, and I'm comfortable that the meaning God is conveying through this narrative is that He is a Holy God, and worthy of respect and honor. Additionally, that He is not a helpless God, but is fully capable. Both of these, in my understanding, are what stands behind the larger narrative unit from chapters 4 through 6. Also, this not an esoteric or detached meaning that requires me to neglect or ignore other portions of Scripture to support it. In fact, this is a repetitive theme.

So, how does this apply? Application comes at several levels: individual, family, local church, Christian people, the world at large. So, I'll break it down:

1. Individual: What individual actions should a Believer take for having read this passage? An understanding that God still brings judgment on His people for violating His standards (c6v19) leads us to teach people God's law, and to live by it. Don't think He is responsible to bail us out of sinful decisions, but that His grace will preserve our salvation, even if we are disciplined. (ties to Hebrews, the Lord disciplines those He loves
2. Individual: What about an unbeliever? The truth is, all of us, at some point, have been away from the Kingdom of God. We have been afflicted by the hand of the Lord, facing His wrath. However, God knows the way home, and He invites us to come with Him (John 14:1-6). Surrender your life to Jesus as Lord. Don't be like the Philistine rulers who saw the Ark went home, and then they went home. Follow.
3. Families: I'm not seeing a separate application toward family life. Might be there, but not relevant to what God is teaching me right now or to what He is leading me to preach.
4. Church & Christian People: Just as the Philistine rulers saw that they needed to give up some of their material wealth in recognition of God's holiness, should we not do so all the more that are His people? Why do we grasp wealth rather than release it? And they gave not just the minimum, but exceeded it (notice about the rats...)
5. The world: judgment is coming to those that don't worship the One True God. Will you be judged or accept Him? Are you like the Philistines that just wish to be left alone? Like the Philistine priests who figured out the right answers but did nothing? Like the Philistine rulers who learned, acted partway, but chose to just go home?

Now, for preparation purposes, now that I am starting to see applications, I'll go looking for illustrations to use for attention getting/retaining. Since this is a narrative passage, generally I'll use the story line to illustrate. That's one of the reasons it's there. Probably will look to news headlines about being lost and needing to be found. Either that or something historical. Occasionally, if there is a good usage, I'll use something biographical. I shy away from too much of that for 2 reasons. 1. Preaching is not about me. I should honestly not care if you remember that I preached that sermon, but that you heard from the Lord. (do I care? um, yeah. I like people's approval.) by not overly self referring, that helps keep the sermon on task. 2. Personal biography is unverifiable, which leads people sometimes to doubt the illustration. Then they doubt the sermon.

If you use biographical illustrations or anything that starts with "I," it better be true. Don't fabricate, don't stretch the truth, don't make up stories. This is not junior high school. Better a story read straight from the newspaper than a lie in the pulpit. (this is not about errors in personal stories. If you mistakenly remember a name, that's an error, correct it. People will continue to respect you and your desire for honesty and correctness).

The other word on illustrations is this: know your audience. I have 1 golfer in my audience. I have a gazillion hunters. I don't hunt. (no problem with it, just don't do it). I used to golf, but it got to expensive (don't ask). I know more about golf than hunting. So, I learn about hunting, and use that knowledge quest to illustrate, but I don't refer to golf much. Nearly everybody down here understands football, but nobody seems to know soccer or hockey. So, use football. If I were farther north, I'd learn hockey and use it.

There you go.

If you want the full product, you'll have to come to Calvary Baptist, Monticello, Sunday night. Or overnight me a rig that I can podcast from.


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