Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say Part 2: “For I know the plans I have for you”

If you’re on twitter, you’ve seen them;  Any play on “Stuff my Dad says”, “Stuff Nobody Says”, or even “Stuff Runners Say”.  How about “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say?”   Let’s be honest here, most Christians don’t spend time in the word. I’m not talking about listening to someone else tell them what it means, I mean actually reading, learning, and studying the word.  This isn’t meant as a guilt trip, but it is what it is.  Most polls show that less than 10% of professing Christians have read the entire Bible.  If you ever wondered how so much goofiness gets passed off in the name of Christianity, that would be a good place to start.  Where do the other 90% get their info from if not from the inspired/inerrant word of God?  Well, they either hear it from someone else, they make it up as they go along, or they defer to what they feel (The good old “quiver in the liver”.)   Over the next several posts, I’ll look at some of the most popular verses that simply do not say what people try to make them say.  In other words, “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say.”

“Sometimes the immature 
Christian suffers bitter disappointment not because 
God failed to keep His promises, but because wellmeaning Christians made promises “for” God that 
God Himself never authorized.” – R.C. Sproul

Next up on the list of most abused verses?  Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” NIV

Now, let’s look at the verse in it’s full context:

[Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles]
[29:1] These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. [2] This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem. [3] The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: [4] “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: [5] Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. [6] Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. [7] But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. [8] For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, [9] for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.
[10] “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. [11] For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. [12] Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. [13] You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. [14] I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
[15] “Because you have said, ‘The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,’ [16] thus says the LORD concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your kinsmen who did not go out with you into exile: [17] ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten. [18] I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, [19] because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the LORD, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the LORD.’ [20] Hear the word of the LORD, all you exiles whom I sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon: [21] ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall strike them down before your eyes. [22] Because of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” [23] because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the LORD.’”

(Jeremiah 29:1-23 ESV)

CONTEXT:
Who wrote it? Jeremiah
Why and to whom did he write it?  God ordained Jeremiah to act as a prophet, declaring to Jerusalem and Judah that they had participated in idolatry and not kept the sabbath, thus breaking the conditions of the Mosaic Covenant. As with breaking any other “contract”there were penalties. in this case it involved going from a nation of deliverance (from Egypt) to a nation of bondage (Babylon). Jeremiah prophesied that Babylon would attack and that God would send them into captivity which would last for 70 years (Jer 25). This happened precisely as Jeremiah prophesied and they were taken captive and exiled into Babylon in 597 BC by Nebuchadnezzar II.

3 years later (594 BC) Jeremiah (who was not in captivity) wrote a letter to the exiles in Babylon. This was sent to in response to false teachers who had been telling those in exile that captivity would be short (in contrast to God’s word in Jeremiah 25) and that they would soon be returning home. (And I’m sure the people ate it up, I mean God only wants our good, right? He wouldn’t SEND us into captivity ((He did)) and he would surely get us out of this quickly ((He decreed 70 years)) Right?) This false teaching led to the people just “hanging in there” when the message from God, via Jeremiah, was that you are NOT coming home anytime soon, continue to live your normal life in Babylon.
(NOTE: They would not return until Persia conquered Babylon and more than 40,000 captives were freed by Cyrus II/Cyrus the Great)

So there you have it.  God decreed that the Babylonians would enslave the people and take them into captivity. He decreed that they would be there 70 years and not be freed a day sooner.  Many of the people who were taken captive DIED in captivity, having lived most of their lives as slaves. Some were born, lived, and died as slaves.  Is there any way this can be viewed as a PERSONAL statement from God? As God promising a “life of enjoyment”? (I’m guessing those 70 years in Babylonian captivity, decreed by God, were not quite a “life of enjoyment.”)
What this verse does NOT mean:

I’ve seen the verse used in prosperity preaching to say that since God has plans to “prosper” you, that it must mean financial prosperity, or even “a life of enjoyment”. This exegesis of scripture shows a serious misunderstanding/mishandling of the text. Is there anything, ANYTHING in that text that would lead you to believe that God was speaking to financial increase? Or “life of enjoyment”? Can you point to anything IN THE TEXT that would support that? Notice that “prosper” is translated as “welfare” or “take care of you” in other versions. Let’s go to the original Hebrew. The word used is SHALOM.
Shalom contains many deep meanings: Peace, Wholeness, Harmony.
This SHALOM is contrasted with RA-AH in Jeremiah 38:4, which Jeremiah writes 8 years later which states:

“Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good (SHALOM) of these people but their ruin (RA-AH).”

(Clearly, Jeremiah was not going to be put to death for not seeking the “financial prosperity” of Jerusalem.)

We cheapen God’s promise, and the sovereignty of His plan by interpreting this verse as giving us “smooth sailing” or “more stuff”.  In fact, the text here isn’t a personal promise at all; it was a promise that the nation which found itself in captivity would be freed, and on the timeline which God had decreed.

Here’s a test for you: Would your interpretation make sense to John the Baptist, who was beheaded for doing precisely what he was commanded to do? How about Paul?  Things didn’t work out too well for these guys on earth, did it?
So, rather than wrongly viewing this as a personal guarantee that things will work out well and making personal promises to young believers which will turn them into atheists when things go poorly, why don’t we use  this scripture appropriately, as a great statement of God’s love in disciplining His people, and His great faithfulness in ultimately delivering a nation out of captivity to His glory.
As always, I’m available at Marc5Solas@gmail.com for questions.  I appreciate the questions I’ve received so far and look forward to continued discussion.
May God richly bless you as you seek the truth revealed in His word!
Marc

So You Want to Date My Daughter?

With props and thanks to Jared Wilson from The Thinklings (Thinklings.org), I’ll put my spin on some of his thoughts: 

So You Want to Date My Daughter?

1. You must love Jesus. I don’t care if you’re a “good Christian boy.” I was one of those too. So I know the tricks. I’m going to ask you specific, heart-testing questions about your spiritual affections, your daily devotional life, your idols, your disciplines, and the like. I’ll cut you a little bit of slack because you’re young and hormonal and your pre-frontal lobe isn’t fully developed yet, but I’ll be watching you like a hawk. I know you. I was you. You will think you can fool me, and you likely have fooled many other dads who didn’t pay much attention to their daughters’ suitors, but I will be on you like Bourne on that guy whose neck he broke. Which guy was that? Every guy. So love Jesus more than my daughter or go home. 

2. You will install X3Watch or Covenant Eyes on your computer and mobile devices and have your regular reports sent to me. 

3. I will talk to your dad and tell him I will hold him responsible if you don’t treat my daughter like a lady. If he thinks I’m a crazy person, you fail the test and won’t get to date her. If he understands what I’m saying, that bodes well for you. 

4. You will pay for everything. Oh, sure, every now and then my daughter can buy you a Coke or something and a gift on your birthday and at Christmas. But you pay for meals, movies, outings, whatever else. Don’t have a job? I’m sorry, why I am talking to you again? 

5. You will accept my Facebook friend request. 

6. If it looks like you need a belt to hold your pants up, I will assume you don’t have a job. See #4. 

7. Young people dating are putting their best face forward, so if you appear impatient, ill-tempered, or ill-mannered, I know you will gradually become more so over time. I will have no jerks dating my daughters. 

8. I will talk to your Pastor. If he doesn’t know who you are, why I am talking to you, again? 

9. You don’t love my daughter. You have no idea what love is. You like her and you might love her someday. That’s an okay start with me, so put the seatbelt on the mushy gushy stuff. Don’t profess your undying love, quote stupid love song lyrics to her, tell her you’d die for her, or feed her any other boneheaded lines that are way out of your depth as a hormonal goofball. A lady’s heart is a fragile thing. If you play with hers, I will show you yours. 

10. If you ever find yourself alone with my daughter, don’t panic. Just correct the situation immediately. If I ever catch you trying to get alone with my daughter, that would be the time to panic. 

11. You’re not married. While scripture states that someday my princess will submit to the authority of her husband, you haven’t earned that title yet. She has guy friends, you were probably one of them before you won the girlfriend lottery that is my daughter.  Deal with it.  Anything that looks remotely like controlling or jealous behavior and “you done son.”

12. You may think all this sounds very legalistic. That’s fine. You can be one of the many antinomians not dating my daughter. If you don’t know what an antinomian is, you’ve got 24 hours to look it up.  I’ll ask. Believe that. 

Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say

If you’re on twitter, you’ve seen them.  Any play on “Stuff my Dad says”, “Stuff Nobody Says”, or even “Stuff Runners Say”.  How about “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say?”   Let’s be honest here, most Christians don’t spend time in the word. I’m not talking about listening to someone else tell them what it means, I mean actually reading, learning, and studying the word.  This isn’t meant as a guilt trip, but it is what it is.  Most polls show that less than 10% of professing Christians have read the entire Bible.  If you ever wondered how so much goofiness gets passed off in the name of Christianity, that would be a good place to start.  Where do the other 90% get their info from if not from the inspired/inerrant word of God?  Well, they either hear it from someone else, they make it up as they go along, or they defer to what they feel (The good old “quiver in the liver”.)   Over the next several posts, I’ll look at some of the most popular verses that simply do not say what people try to make them say.  In other words, “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say.”

“Sometimes the immature
Christian suffers bitter disappointment not because
God failed to keep His promises, but because wellmeaning Christians made promises “for” God that
God Himself never authorized.” – R.C. Sproul

Here’s the problem; The majority of believers simply do not study the Bible, so they take a verse here and there and then when God doesn’t deliver on the promises they’ve claimed for themselves, they believe God has “failed” them.  If you don’t think poor biblical interpretation is dangerous, then you’ve never met someone disillusioned with the church who leaves due to God’s “failing” them.

Here are some principals for solid, biblical interpretation as we move forward over the next few weeks:

1.  Exegesis:  This is from the greek ἐξηγεῖσθαι, EK or EX meaning “out from”.  In short, this is deriving your meaning of a biblical text FROM the text itself.  You let the text speak for itself, in context.  This is GOOD.

2. Eisegesis: From the greek εἰς (EIS), meaning “into”.   This is taking something from OUTSIDE the text and putting it INTO the actual text.  This is BAD.

3. And somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I’ll offer up “Narcigesis”  This is narcissistic eisegesis, where the reader/preacher inserts THEMSELVES (and their subjective life experiences, opinions, goals, etc. to the objective truth of scripture).  This is BAD.

With that, I ask that you open your Bible and get into God’s word.  Read it! In Context! In whole!  I’m probably going to step on some toes by going after popular “life verses”.  For that I offer no apology.  Get into the word and see what the text actually says, not what we want it to say.

Ready?

Here goes:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

1. First, let’s try Exegesis:  Let’s let the text speak for itself;

παντα ισχυω εν τω ενδυναμουτι με χριστω (Literally; I am strong for all (these) things in (he) who empowers me, Christ.)

Who is speaking here?  Paul

Who is he speaking to? The church in Philippi.

Why is he speaking to them? What is the CONTEXT? What is this letter to the church in Philippi about?  At the very least, read the entire chapter.  Better yet, Philippians only has 4 chapters, read the entire letter!  Here’s a summary:

Paul is writing to the church in Philippi (the Philippians). This is a church he had a great history with. It was a church he had founded (the first in Europe), and they had been longtime supporters of his continued ministry.   As Paul writes this letter, he is in prison. He has just received a gift from the church in Philippi, delivered by one of their members, Epaphroditus.  Among other things, this letter is to thank them for that gift, and to encourage them in their continued work.    Paul spends the first part of this letter reflecting on his imprisonment; how it has meant progress for the gospel (1:12-18), how to live is Christ (1:19-26), examples of humble service (Ch 2).  This brings us to our target chapter; Chapter 4, where Paul is thanking the church for their gift:

10I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

14Yet it was kind of you to sharec my trouble. 15And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.d 18I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Do you see it? Do you see the “all things” Paul is speaking of?  “I learned i whatever situation I am to be content”  The “all things” in verse 13 are in listed in verses 12. (There’s a thought… look at the preceding verses to find context. Crazy how that works, huh?)

So there you go, there’s the EXEGESIS; The scriptures here tell us that Paul, in being brought low, in abundance, in facing plenty or hunger, abundance or need, can do all these things through Christ, who strengthens Him.

Sounds like this brings great glory to… Christ and his sufficiency!

Now, for the EISEGESIS:
This is the stuff of bumper stickers, coffee mugs, and probably half of the chotchkies at your local christian book store.  “I can do all things” meaning, I can do all the stuff I want to do.  Here’s the problem… you can’t, and you know it. It’s not faith, it’s delusional.  I can’t grow hair. I can’t dunk a basketball. I can’t fly.  I can’t do all things.  Seems obvious enough, right?  I know, if Jesus really wanted me to, I could. Got it.  Any indication that this is what the verse above is talking about?  Is it IN THE TEXT? Nope. Anything you try to bring into the text that isn’t there is EISEGESIS. It’s simply not there. Paul was writing to a church to thank them for their support while he was in prison. Does this sound like some word-faith/positive thinking self-empowerment mantra?  Seriously?

Now for the NARCEGESIS:

Let’s go crazy here. Let’s not even look at context, or author, or audience. Let’s take one verse,completely out of context and make it about… ME! 🙂    Now, i’ve got a personal empowerment verse, a “life verse”.  That should work, right?  I don’t know, let’s try it:

Could Paul really do “all things”? Of course not, he couldn’t remove the thorn in his flesh, he couldn’t escape from his second Roman imprisonment, he couldn’t fly.  παντα (all) in verse 3 is forced by the greek grammar to refer to those things in verse 12.

As you see, the grammar, the context, and the totality of scripture show us that this verse is about the sufficiency of Christ for contentment in all circumstances and not a self-empowerment mantra.
Next blog….

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.