What Interpreting the Bible & Communicating with Your Wife Have in Common

The authors of the new book Invitation to Biblical Interpretation demonstrate how interpreting the Bible and listening to your spouse relate to each other:

In our quest to understand the Bible, author, text, and reader each have an important part to play. Every document has an author, and the resulting text is shaped by his or her intention. It is this authorial intention the interpreter must aim to recover. The text is not ‘just there,’ left to be interpreted any way a given reader chooses. When my wife talks to me, I dare not give her words my own preferred meaning. The rules of proper communication demand that I seek to understand the meaning she intended to convey.

It follows that the text of Scripture, likewise, is not neutral, that is, malleable to a great variety of interpretations that lay equal claim to represent valid readings of a given passage…It is an authorially shaped and designed product that requires careful and respectful interpretation.

…There is no excuse for interpretive arrogance that elevates the reader above text and author. The ‘golden rule’ of interpretation requires that we extend the same courtesy to any text or author that we would want others to extend to our statements and writings. This calls for respect not only for the intentions of the human authors of Scripture but ultimately for God who chose to reveal himself through the Bible by his Holy Spirit. (p. 57-58)

You don’t get to make the Bible say what you want it to say anymore than you get to twist your spouse’s words in a way that they do not intend. Well, actually, you can do both of those things, but it will not go well for you and you will not honor God or your spouse in the process. If you love your wife, you will strive (though imperfectly) to understand what she really says and really means in her communication with you, and if you love God, you will strive (though imperfectly) to understand what he has said in his communication with you through his Word.

Oftentimes Christians interpret the Bible according to a “what it means to me” principle, but imagine if we did this in normal communication when listening to the one’s we love.  In this case it really doesn’t matter what it means to you–it matters what it means to them. If I consistently give what my wife communicates to me a meaning that she does not intend and that only I desire, I am only serving myself and hinder the growth of the relationship. (I do this far too often!)

Now, if you have been married for any time at all, figuring out what your spouse means takes time and even tools to develop, but if you value the relationship you will take the time to learn what your spouse intends to communicate. It is the same way with God. It takes time in his Word and proper tools to understand his Word (and, of course, the person and work of the Holy Spirit whom ultimately gives spiritual understanding!), but if you value who he is and what he says you will seek to do this to the best of your ability.

God’s University of Brokenness & People After His Heart

I’ve been going through 1 Samuel lately and observing what makes up a David and a Saul. Sadly, all too often, I see Saul in my own heart more than David, and I want to resemble the man after God’s heart. This phrase “a man after God’s heart” (1 Sam. 13:14) is a noble thing to desire. Many use it, but don’t always consider how this kind of person is fashioned. Gene Edwards, in his book, A Tale of Three Kings, speaks of the kind of school that makes these kind of people,

God has a university. It’s a small school. Few enroll; even fewer graduate. Very, very few indeed.

God has this school because he does not have broken men and women. Instead, he has several other types of people. He has people who claim to have God’s authority…and don’t–people who claim to be broken…and aren’t. And people who do have God’s authority, but who are mad and unbroken. And he has, regretfully, a great mixture of everything in between. All of these he has in abundance, but broken men and women, hardly at all. (p. 15)

David himself, in a pivotal moment of deep confession, wrote about the kind of heart and the kind of sacrifices that God desires from his people:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (Psalms 51:17)

What is left out of the call to be a person after God’s heart, is that the kind of heart God is after is a broken one. God’s delight is not in those who think they can give him a worthwhile sacrifice and offer him something (51:16), rather his delight rests upon those who admit they cannot and in desperation offer up their broken and sinful selves to his magnificent sin-washing and new-heart giving mercy (51:7).

Psalm 51 is clearly a confessional Psalm of sinful brokenness penned by David after his adulterous and murderous affair, but this is not the only kind of brokenness that David experienced. He experienced the brokenness of being hated by God’s anointed king. Therefore broken people don’t just know their own sin. They have also known the sins of others against them, but this does not harden and embitter them–it softens them. Godly brokenness over personal sins and the sins of others produces tenderheartedness.

Broken men and women after God’s heart are not simply “woe is me” people. They don’t complain consistently about how they have been wounded by others (even when massively so), and they don’t simply revel in their own sinfulness (of the most heinous kind) in a kind of overly introspective and depressed false humility. To the contrary, the “joy of salvation” (51:12) is poured upon the broken and humbled. The tune resulting from brokenness is a song of joyful praise (51:14) not a morose dirge. The broken heart is the new heart that only God creates (51:10) and is the heart God is after–“The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after his own heart” (13:14).

What Your Goal Should Be Everyday

My favorite verse (well, currently, this may change at any moment) in the Bible, and the reason my blog is titled 5:21, is 2 Corinthians 5:21, where Paul writes,

Jesus was identified with an alien guilt (yours!) so that you could have an alien righteousness (his!).

For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Greg Beale’s elaboration on this verse in his massive A New Testament Biblical Theology is very helpful:

This affirms that Christ was identified with an alien guilt and suffered a punishment that he did not deserve. The verse says that the purpose of this is that the sinners for whom Christ bore the punishment would “become the righteousness of God in Him [Christ].” This means that they would thus be considered “not guilty” and not deserving the punishment even though they had been sinful. However, to “become the righteousness of God in Christ” apparently involves more than a “not guilty” status; it also means being identified with “the righteousness of God,” not just in the dead Christ but explicitly in the risen Christ, so that some positive aspect of Christ’s righteousness is attributed to believers. Some contend that this passage has nothing to do with Christ’s own righteousness that represents his people, since it speaks of “the righteousness of God.” But this is “the righteousness of God in Christ.” Thus, Christ himself reflects God’s righteousness, and that righteousness is attributed to believers “in Christ.” (p. 472)

It’s one thing to be forgiven of your sin, it’s something more to also be totally righteous. The good news (gospel!) is that by trusting Jesus you can be both–completely forgiven of your sins and considered just as righteous as Jesus is. For those who believe this gospel, Jesus was identified with an alien guilt (yours!) so that you could have an alien righteousness (his!).

The goal of your day today and everyday is to excessively believe this