I find it humorous when someone brings up a list of questions that they would like to ask God face-to-face when they get a chance. It is funny because the statement assumes that we would have a back-and-forth discussion, as we insert “Yeah, but what about …” between his responses to our questions.
If there is a heavenly Q&A opportunity, if indeed we could manage to pick ourselves off the floor after face-planting before the holy, almighty God, there will be far more listening than speaking on our part.
About eight hundred years ago, chapter numbers were added to the Bible text; and five hundred years ago, verse numbers were added. We’ve been interrupting God in mid-thought ever since.
A few years ago, I led a small-group study looking at the twenty-five most popular Bible verses based on internet searches. Over the course of the study, it became apparent, in every case, our understanding of the verse was incomplete at best.
For example, one of the most-searched verses is 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV): “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”
I think I have a framed needlepoint of it around here somewhere.
It’s a great verse, but the section from verses 3-14 is infinitely richer and more complex. A writer quoting this single verse would instead be wise to discuss the broader section. It would give a reader a deeper understanding of what the Scripture is communicating.
Bible verse numbers create nice quotes for wall hangings but, often, thin theology. That’s what we get for interrupting God.
One of my favorite sections of Scripture is found in the book of Job, starting in chapter 38. After 37 chapters of Job’s life and struggles, trying to understand God’s ways, chapter 38 begins: “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:”
What follows are four full chapters of God explaining who he is. It is rarely quoted because we cannot fit it on a T-shirt. But it is one of the clearest descriptions we have of the God we worship.
Job never interrupted, but waited until God was finished speaking in chapter 40 and then again in the first six verses of Job 42, when he responds each time, “I am a fool, and I am sorry for questioning you. Please forgive me” (DBT [Dan Balow Translation]).
When we sprinkle verses throughout our writing, we could be interrupting God in mid-thought. We might have communicated okay theology when we might have instead communicated deeper theology with a more expansive use of Scripture.
There are several indicators of deeper meaning in Scripture that we often miss. Whenever we see the words but, therefore, or so, almost always there is something following that takes the passage from okay to deeper, or at least indicates broader context and application.
I recall hearing the great Bible teacher R.C. Sproul teach an entire workshop on the “But God” statements in the Bible.
Christian writers desire to communicate the complete gospel, the totality of God’s love for his children, along with many other big thoughts. Almost always the way to do so is with longer passages of Scripture where we let God speak without interruption.