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Verily, verily…

January 7, 2008

was proclaimed by the preacher, with gusto of voice and flourish of his right hand. An usher in the foyer paused to whisper into the ear of the assistant to the children’s ministry. She quickly bustled off to the children’s area, inwardly worried that the announcement would disrupt children’s church. Once there, she took a quick breath and hollered to the pianist, “Vera Lee, the pastor wants you in the sanctuary right now!”

And that’s about where our Biblical memory has gone it seems. The phrases of the Bible once oft quoted by even the smallest of children are unknown to the biggest, now having their own children. Raising your Ebenezer is a suspect action, laying out a fleece could come with a criminal record just because it sounds violent, and weeping and gnashing of teeth is what happened when the Wii didn’t show up under the tree on the 25th.

If it were only a case of no longer speaking ye merry ole King James, then perhaps there would be no concern. But our weeping should not be at how language has changed, but at how Biblical context in our language has been swallowed up from lack of Biblical knowledge.

Hosea 4 is a charge against Israel by the Lord for their lack of faithfulness to His law, for ignorance of His commands, and for corruption in words, thoughts and deeds towards each other and even the land itself. In verse 6 He states, “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests;” These stern words are not only for the religious leaders of the people, but for the people themselves who have demanded the cheap and easy instead of pursuing the costly treasures of grace.

Matthew 11 includes a similar indictment.

16“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17” ‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge
and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”

In this passage, Jesus is criticizing the crowds who were unhappy with John the Baptist’s message of, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” And they were equally unhappy with Jesus’ message of, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” These petulant children did not want to hear that their ways were foolish and unrighteous, or that they were in need of repentance and salvation.

These curious seekers of the spectacular who flocked to see and hear John the Baptist wearing his strange clothes, and taking of his strange diet decided that they did not like his habits of austerity. These same curious seekers of the wondrous also then congregated to see the miracles of Jesus, but decided that His sociable habits of dining with the tax collectors, prostitutes, and “sinners” were also suspect behavior.

Instead they desired ear tickling words that matched their opinions and traditions, or that would grant even shaky foundation to their self-righteousness. Like an Add-A-Bead necklace of the ’80’s, the religious establishment had taken the pure Word of God and tacked on their cheap trinkets. And with each easily bent bead, Biblical memory for the substance of what God really said faded even more.

Jesus’ last statement in this passage both warns and encourages the genuine listener, “But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” Meaning that the one who knows God’s Word will live and act upon God’s Words. Wisdom is shown by the exercise of wisdom. Wisdom comes by the study and application of the Bible, and through the instruction and teaching of the Holy Spirit to the humble believer who repents and believes.

Only then will Biblical memory be rebuilt into this generation. Only then will Biblical context and knowledge regain a standing among the people of God.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Veronica Mitchell permalink
    January 7, 2008 1:11 pm

    It’s not clear to me how you are relating the Matthew 11 passage to your argument. Jesus’ words there criticize the crowd for their fickle, silly demands of a prophet, not for a lack of knowledge of scripture.

    somehow I got left behind when you moved to wordpress. It is so good to find you again.

  2. Fiona permalink
    January 7, 2008 1:30 pm

    How true your words ring for this generation. Thank you for caring so much to sound an alarm. I am surrounded by an entire family (in-laws) that has added on cheap beads to the pure Word of God. And unfortunately, these beads continually bend with every ear-tickling wind that blows along. It is utterly heartbreaking the deception that has occured and continues year after year. The good news is that there is a simple cure, which is to read and study the living Word. And as you can imagine, that is my humble prayer.

  3. January 7, 2008 7:00 pm

    Thank you for these thought-provoking words–God is really challenging me in the area of Bible study and memorization.

  4. January 7, 2008 7:04 pm

    Veronica, I actually gasped when I read your comment because a very faint ringing sound of a voice, in my foggy head, saying, “remember to connect Mt 11…” began to clang loudly. In attempting to point out the deficiencies of Biblical memory for this generation, I’ve ironically and transparently exposed the deficiencies of personal memory. The proofing of draft was not completely thought. Ba dump dum.

    To make the connection, I should have also incorporated Mt. 11:7-10, 13-14 which links prophecy about John the Baptist as the forerunner of Christ to the crowds’ fickle silliness being so paramount that they neither recognize John as the forerunner nor Jesus as the Christ. This is a mistake on my part and does make the argument unclear.

    What I wanted to convey without making the post 4,000 words was, that generation’s error of not knowing Scripture led to the error of not knowing Christ, which is the same fault borne today. A generation that does not know His Word cannot know the Word, Christ.

    I have missed the frog. I’m glad that you found me again, and as always, I appreciate your insight of clarity.

  5. January 7, 2008 8:23 pm

    “that generation’s error of not knowing Scripture led to the error of not knowing Christ, which is the same fault borne today. A generation that does not know His Word cannot know the Word, Christ.”

    And that is what it comes down to – exactly! I was irritated, at first, by mother-in-law’s criticism of the popular paraphrases of the day. I have seen now, however, that there are places where the paraphrases miss the boat completely from what the original translations say. Heck, even the NIV (my translation of choice) is sometimes vastly different from KJV.

    Very good, very thought-provoking.

  6. January 7, 2008 9:23 pm

    Col 1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

    Amen, Amen, Amen!

    Wonderful Post!

  7. January 11, 2008 10:04 pm

    Easily bent add a beads…thanks for the blast from the past! Oh yeah, and for a solid, Truth-full post…

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