Devotional - The Dire Importance Of Accurate Scriptural Interpretation

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Mar 15, 2013.

  1. Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. - 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NIV)

    As we continue into the end times we will continue to see more and more false teachings arise. We can be assured of this because the Bible tells us so, and Jesus Himself taught just as much. While some false teachings are easier than others to spot, there are more insidious teachings that mix a little leaven with accurate Scripture to present a theology that sounds right at first glance. When the Apostle Paul traveled through the region of Berea however, he found the Bereans were of more noble character because they checked Scripture to ensure that what Paul was teaching was indeed accurate. We should do no less in our attempts to weed out false teaching in our lives. We have to realize that false teachings that are accepted may lead us further away from the real God and further down the broad path to destruction. False teachings can mean we think we are saved when we are not or that we adversely affect others in their pursuit of God. It also can mean that we set up a false understanding of God in our hearts and minds which the devil will then use to destroy our relationship with Him. There is a lot at stake for believers. Doctrine is so important it is one of only two things Paul warned Timothy to guard closely.

    Here is a recent example. Joel Osteen was preaching recently about the notion that we need to have a bigger view of who we are if we expect God to move in bigger ways in our lives. While I agree that we can keep ourselves down with our self view, the reality is that we need to thing bigger of God, not ourselves. But Osteen goes on to support his premise by saying (paraphrase), “Whatever you want, you have to be able to imagine it if you expect God to bring it to pass. It says in Genesis that nothing will prevent them from what they imagine." Which sounds great except it is not true. The verse he was referring to was from the story of the Tower of Babel:

    And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. -- Genesis 11: 6 (KJV)

    You cannot say with a straight face that this was just his interpretation. These verses were dealing with God being very upset with man for his imaginations. So upset that He spread them across the world and confused their languages! Now it is true that a verse can have multiple interpretations but they all must stay true to the text and the context. For example, I once heard a sermon from renowned prosperity preach Kenneth Copeland who was using Deuteronomy 28: 2 to defend being presented with two luxury automobiles as gifts by his congregants:

    And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God. - Deuteronomy 28: 2 (KJV)

    The sermon intimated to his congregation that this was just an example of the blessings of God overtaking Mr. Copeland for hearkening unto the voice of God! Hallelujah - pass the offering plate! Well…not so fast. The first rule of Biblical interpretation is always CONTEXT:

    And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: - Deuteronomy 28: 1 (KJV)

    Read this verse with the one Copeland so causally misused and we see that the story is quite different. Deuteronomy is the completion of the Torah so the “commandments which I command thee” actually refer to the entire Mosaic law. That included 613 laws beloved which no one was able to keep - which is why God had to send Jesus Christ to earth. Not for our temporal blessing but for our eternal prosperity. What Copeland did was misuse Scripture to prop up a pre-determined point. That is not interpretation. In fact, if he was fairly interpreting he would have come to this verse:

    But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: - Deuteronomy 28: 15 (KJV)

    This just gets worse for Mr. Copeland because the following 53 verses outline the curses God will pronounce upon Israel if they broke this covenant. So in the 28th of Deuteronomy we have 14 verses outlining blessings for obedience and 53 verses outlining curses for disobedience. The blessings and curses are clearly dependent upon obeying the Mosaic law but for Kenneth Copeland he was able to pluck one Scripture horribly out of context and use it to pretend that God intended to “overtake him” with blessings.

    So what is the harm some might wonder? Well remember that in these two examples there were tens of thousands of people listening to these men passing themselves off as preachers. For those in the Copeland audience we will end up with people chasing the temporal riches of this world instead of valuing the eternal blessings of God. You also could see many fall away when the blessings they were seeking don’t quite overtake them as they had Mr. Copeland. In the case of Mr. Osteen, we have people inflating their vision of themselves instead of their God. Scripture is given to us to guide us but if it is misused then it can certainly misguide us. Realize that in neither of these examples was there just a difference of opinion on interpretation. Both falsely interpreted Scripture.

    That brings us to our last example and the key verses for today. These two verses represent the Biblical story of a man named Jabez. He is never mentioned anywhere else in Scripture. The surrounding verses have nothing to do with him either meaning all of the context we can glean is right there in the key verses. So what can we factually know? Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother gave birth to him in pain. Jabez prayed for four specific things and God agreed and granted the answer to his prayers. That is it. Since all births carry some pain it is possible that his mother was dealing with either exceptional physical pain or she was referring to some other kind of pain - emotional etc.

    In 2000 however, Bruce Wilkinson published an entire book based upon these two verses called “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life.” The essential instruction was to repeat the Jabez prayer from Scripture daily for 30 days and see how much God will start to bless your life. The scam is easy to see through because anyone who has anything positive occur will be told it is because of their adherence to this rote prayer regimen and anyone who does not see anything positive will be summarily ignored (plus they bought the book anyway). You may be thinking how silly this sounds but realize that 9 million copies were sold and this became an international best seller. It was the all the Christian rage and churches bought into the lie just like they would years later with the Purpose Driven Life and again today with The Circle Maker. It seems the body is quick to pick up any book of man over the Bible because they get to hear what their itching ears want to hear. This is your best life now! You only need seven steps to a better you! Enlarge your territory! God hasn’t answered your prayers? Just draw a bigger circle and demand it!

    For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. - 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT)

    We chase myths so quickly and easily these days. We do not even stop to examine how things line up with Scripture before jumping in head first. How big was the Jabez wave? It was converted into audio and video formats. Merchandizing included Prayer of Jabez key chains, mugs backpacks, Christmas ornaments, scented candles and an entire line of jewelry! Hallelujah - pass the offering plate! They then wrote a journal, devotional book, female version written by Wilkinson’s wife, worship CDs, and Bible study. Three different children’s versions were produced to target different age groups because why shouldn’t a nine year old be able to demand that God enlarge his territory? Make no mistake about it, this was a big wave that produced big money and warped Scripture in a big way.

    So what was the big deal? Well for starters - none of the premise is true! Once again, this is a matter of a mindset seeking a Scripture to use. Wilkinson clearly believes in the heretical prosperity doctrine that is poisoning the church. So he searched Scripture and found this story about a man who had his prayers answered. But why did Jabez receive a positive answer from God? What can we determine from Scripture? There is no indication of repetitive prayer in these verses. Additionally, there is no support for such a notion in the entire Bible. In fact, Jesus taught this:

    “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. - Matthew 6: 7 (NLT)

    So the instructional premise is proven to be Biblically inaccurate. The context here would indicate that the Prayer of Jabez was answered because he was more honorable than his brothers. This is directly supported with in the local context of the key verses and is supported overall within the Bible as a whole. Throughout Scripture we find character after character who is blessed because of their obedience to God or cursed for their disobedience. So not only is the instructional premise not Biblically supported but the entire premise of blessing based upon the prayer is not Biblically supported either.

    The underlying assumptions are also probably wrong. Just because Jabez prays for blessings that does not mean he was praying for material blessings. This appears to be a very spiritual man who was making a spiritual plea. Modern Christianity has warped the notion of blessings into the riches of this world when God wants to give us eternal blessings:

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. - Ephesians 1: 3 (NIV)

    Spiritual blessings beloved. That God would draw us closer to Him. Take us to a deeper level with Him. That we would be tested by fire and proven worthy. Ironically, Wilkinson may have had people praying a prosperity prayer based upon a Biblical character who was praying to be pruned by God. Today we reflexively see in the church the notion that blessings are defined by increased temporal earnings instead of eternal earnings such as increased wisdom, righteousness, or love. The false teachings and prophets have convinced the church to take their collective eye off the ball. Instead of valuing the things of God we fix our eyes on the things of this world.

    We see this again when we see Jabez pray that God would enlarge his territory. Just because he prayed for God to enlarge his territory, that does not mean he wanted more physical property. If we were to pray for God to enlarge our spiritual territory that would include our ministry efforts, souls brought to the cross, or increased discipline in our lives for example. Instead Wilkinson sold the notion that territory again was equated with material wealth on one level or another. That is not supported within the context or the Bible as a whole. Jesus said to not fix our eyes on the things of this world. That we needed to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven not on this earth. Let Your hand be with me and keep me from harm!

    The book based on Jabez reached nine million people with a prosperity message that was not supported in Scripture. It was not an “alternate interpretation.” It was heresy based upon a false interpretation. It set the stage for further works of heresy we see even today with something like the Circle Maker or the self help books from Joel Osteen. Beloved, Scripture was designed to change us. We were not designed to change Scripture. Do not believe the notion that all interpretations are acceptable. They are not. They must be supported within the local context and the context of the Bible as a whole. Who knows how many people prayed the false prayer of Jabez only to be fully disappointed and thus gave up on God altogether. Who knows how many have based their faith now upon a book that turns God into a cosmic ATM, waiting to pour out blessings upon us without consideration for the qualifying portion of the key verses - Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. Let us strive to be more honorable before the God we serve. Don’t chase the myths of man and the latest Christian fad. Chase God and examine His Scripture as the Bereans did before us. That is where the true blessings always are - in God and His Word. Stay true to that beloved. Stay true to that.
    Reverend Anthony Wade - March 15, 2013
    Rusty likes this.
  2. Is there a certain denominational movement or school of theology that spawns this sort of rubbish? Or are all American denoms., effected across the board??
  3. theyare primarily spin offs in the pentecostal circles
  4. Oh...I see...Why is this you reckon?
    I'm aware of spinoffs in many other denoms. but somehow these seem to be more appealing to Americans; why is that?
  5. it fits in better with american culture. Money and greed, believing nonsense. The church started believing in popular secular theories of church growth and slowly leaven started being accepted.
  6. I see...When do you think "the church" (do you mean all pentecostal churches or the generic church?) starting getting leavened?
  7. well, i think most churches have been leavened. There are real sheep in the congregations but they cater to the goats.
  8. I by "pentecostal circles" you mean any such church whether with our without organizational ties to established pentecostal organizations?
  9. basically. the catholic church has its own issues. I do not know enough about baptist but most other denominations have fully embraced secularism allowing gay bishops and not believing in the innerancy of scripture.
  10. Right right...I was just asking about the prosperity teachers and the Circle Makers and that ilk, actually. Nor the secularism per se. I'll PM you.

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