The New Testament records three instances when God spoke directly, each of which mark a major event in our Lord’s life. 1) Jesus’ Baptism—Matthew 3:13-17 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and come thou to me? ….And Jesus when he was baptized went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Our Lord came to demonstrate His two fold being, both Son of man, and Son of God, Perfect man, Perfect God. John’s baptism was to return the Jews to the Law of Moses. Jesus said, “to fulfill all righteousness” -Vs. 15. In “due time,” He would command baptism for His new church. Mt. 28:18-20. God’s Voice blessed our Lord’s EXAMPLE OF OBEDIENCE. 2) His Transfiguration—Matthew 17:1-8 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother…and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun….and behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; Hear ye him…..” Peter , James and John saw three great men of written law. Moses—the lawy of Israel; Elijah—the Prophets of old; Jesus, the author of the New Covenant. The cloud covered Moses and Elijah leaving only Jesus, and God the Father spoke, “HEAR YE HIM.” Jesus is now the only source of religious authority. God’s Voice blessed JKESUS’ AUTHORITATIVE WORD. 3) His resolve to be The Sacrifice for sin—John 12:28, “…Father, glorify thy name. Then came a voice from heaven saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Soon it would happen. God the Father blessed His beloved Son’s COMMITMENT TO DIE—FOR US! God’s Voice blessed His Son’s Baptism, Covenant, and Sacrifice. YET, even with God the Father’s blessing, some did not and still do not accept and obey. O beloved, let us do better; let unity from God be every your mission and mine! <Harland R. Huntoon>
What Does It Mean?
It is one thing to read a text. It is another to ask, “What does that text mean?” Just reading a text word for word does not in itself tell us what it means. Asking what it means will necessitate entering the realm of interpretation. It is inevitable (e.g., try teaching parables without interpreting them). Saying “we don’t interpret; we just read what it says” is naive at best and dishonest at worst. If one truly believes that interpretation is itself a problem, then we should expect only the reading of the text from that person with zero commentary. No one really operates that way. At least I’ve not seen it in my own life.
Interpretation is necessary, but not all interpretation is equal. There is always a need for keeping a passage in context and using terms correctly. Figurative language is everywhere (hyperbole), and even straightforward language has challenges (Why was it said? To whom was it said? How universal is it? Etc.). Making proper connections takes careful study, and knowing something about the way translations work is helpful.
Much of this is done through normal common sense (insert obligatory “common sense isn’t all that common” here). We are continually inferring from what we read and hear (please don’t deny the importance of inference; it’s a bad look). Even the way we read a text can change its meaning. People can understand Scripture, but we need to recognize what we are doing, see the challenges, and work hard at it.
One of the most egregious mistakes we can make is using or changing a text to fit our already-established agenda. This is easy to do because we are already coming to the text with various preconceived ideas and opinions. If we decide ahead of time that our chosen agenda must be true, then we will find a way to support that through how we interpret Scripture. This manipulates the text to serve our own ends rather than letting the text guide our minds to the truth to which we should submit. We are all susceptible to this problem.
Why am I writing this? 1) Because I was just thinking about it; 2) Because it helps me be more careful; 3) Because I see Scripture manipulated to serve worldly agendas; 4) Because this is my page and I want to promote sound Bible reading and exegesis. 🙂
Be careful how you read, what you take from it, and how you use the text. It is not our clay to shape however we want. <Don Moyer>