Thursday, April 7, 2011

Digging Deeper into God's Word: Meaning

I yearn to dig deep and find meaning in God’s word.
But, how do we know what the Bible means?  I am not talking about the pragmatic “this is what it means to me” point of view.  I am talking about understanding the meaning that God himself put in His Word and wants us to know.
I have decided to write a series of blog posts on the topic that is most near and dear to my heart: understanding God’s word.  My quest for understanding all began several years ago, in college, in a class called Biblical Hermeneutics. To say that this class turned my world upside down would be an understatement.  This class inspired me to search for meaning in the Bible, and fueled a passion for the Word of God that I did not even know was possible. This class taught me to dig deeper into the Word of God and search for its meaning.  The things I learned completely changed how I think about, read, and understand the word of God. Yet, I still have so far to go, and so much to learn!  So, I invite you to come along with me on this journey as I seek to find an absolutely priceless treasure: meaning.
I am assuming that you accept that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God. If you believe that, then you must believe that this is a journey worth taking. It is hard work, but is there anything else more valuable than knowing and understanding the Word of God? I think not!  
 So…. Let’s start digging!
The first step is to recognize that there is some intended meaning in the words that the author wrote. (For clarification, from now on, when I speak of “author” I am referring to both the human as the physical writer and God and the spiritual inspirer.) Without recognizing this, there is no point to our quest; there is nothing to dig for. However, if there is intended meaning, then there is something specific God wants us to know, and something worth digging for.
The basis of meaning is that when God inspired men to write his word, there was something specific that he wanted to communicate to a specific group of people. Did God know that we would read the Bible some 2,000+ years later? Of course he did!  But, he still chose to reveal his word at a specific time in history to a specific audience for a reason. For us to completely ignore this is arrogant and dangerous. It is arrogant because we assume our contemporary lives are more important and more meaningful that the first audience’s, and dangerous because this opens the door for anyone’s interpretation of the Word to be as good as the next person’s.
At first glance, you may think this would steal richness and depth from what we read, but it actually has the exact opposite effect. By recognizing that there is an author-intended meaning, it gives us something to dig for, and in our earnest digging we find more truth, depth and meaning!  This also brings us to a more humble approach to interpreting God’s word. Realizing there is an author-intended meaning leads us to stop asking, “What does this mean to me?” and begin to ask, “What is God saying?”  For now, we will try to take the “me” out of our understanding (as best we can), but don’t worry, we will reinsert “me” later when we discuss application, where it rightfully belongs.
I hope you are still with me here. I know that some of you may think this isn’t your “thing.” Maybe you think it sounds too nerdy or scholarly, but I plead with you to take this journey with me.  The rewards are far greater that you can imagine.
So, are you ready for this quest?  Do you believe there is meaning in God’s word, waiting for you to dig deep and find it? I believe there is; which is why I started this journey, and feel so compelled to blog about this. Tomorrow, I hope to share with you a little bit more.  I hope you stay tuned as we dig deeper into God’s Word.

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