I’m reading a book about preaching (no intentions to preach, just to be edified). The first part of this book describes the various purposes of the preacher: to evangelize, to edify the church, to encourage, educate, rebuke and so on. Then the author builds a case for preaching Christ from every text and in every sermon. That is, the Lord Jesus is at the core of God’s redemptive plan and at the core of every part of His Word.
He says that this type of preaching will include some interpretations of the Old Testament much like those made by New Testament disciples. These interpretations often sound very subjective, yet God includes them as His Word to us. This type of interpretation is largely lost in today’s world.
In modern history, when a preacher offers this same kind of interpretation, that is, seeing Christ in every passage, they are often accused of being subjective and reading something into the text that isn’t there. However, I’m beginning to wonder if those preachers who do this are like the person in love. They have a deep affection for Jesus Christ and a deep relationship with Him. They see Him in all situations and want to bring Him into every conversation.
Today’s devotional reading is something like that. The verse is about an event that happened in the life of Christ. If a literal interpretation and application is the only option, the passage becomes very narrow. Only people with paralyzed servants can draw anything from it.
“Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” (Matthew 8:6)
However, if interpreted from a broader understanding of the way God works among His people, this can describe Christians in need. Their need is expressed to Jesus and He sees that we are “suffering terribly.” Here is how the author of the reading uses this passage, which is about Jesus Christ anyway, to point everyone to Him.
We, in this age of the church, are in the position of that sick servant at Capernaum. To the eye of sense we are separated from the Savior. We see Him not — we can touch Him not — the hand cannot steal amid the crowd to catch His garment hem — we cannot hear His loved footsteps as of old on our threshold; but faith penetrates the invisible; the messenger — prayer (represented by the one who took the need to Jesus) meets Him in the streets of the New Jerusalem; and faith and prayer together, the twin delegates from His church below, He has never yet sent empty away.
This works for me. I’ve read passages and understood a truth from God. Even though it seemed out of context for the passage, it was in context for my life. For example, God makes a promise to someone like Jeremiah when he is down and out, and as I read it, the Holy Spirit says to me, “This is how Jesus cares for You and will help You in Your situation.”
For a long time, I have been cautious about such interpretations because I have been taught to avoid subjective exegesis and stick to as literal an interpretation as possible. Some even say, “There is only one meaning to a text, but there can be many applications.” I’m not sure we honor God by putting Him in that kind of a box.
On the other hand, there have been folks whose hearts are bent on having their own way. When they read a passage, they interpret it to verify their spin on things. This is the danger of subjective interpretation, and it is not the same as interpretations made by someone who is in love with Jesus. When I twist Scripture to mean what I want it to mean, then I am loving myself — and dishonoring the Lord.
Jesus, since You are the Living Word of God, it makes sense that You can be seen and heard in every part of the written Word of God. I know the danger of subjective interpretation, yet I would hate to miss hearing You by ruling out the possibility that You can use any part of the Bible to speak directly to me. You do — and I am grateful. Help me to be on guard against reading into it what I want to hear. Instead, keep me open to what You want to say.