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Handling the Scriptures Accurately, Part 2

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
January 16, 2023 7:05 am

Handling the Scriptures Accurately, Part 2

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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January 16, 2023 7:05 am

Growing Deep in the Christian Life: Returning to Our Roots


Ask the average man on the street, and you'll discover people tend to respect the Bible as an interesting piece of literature.

But to most, it's nothing more than an old book, and you can make it say whatever you want. What Christians say is critically important. Today's study comes from the series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. Chuck titled his message, Handling the Scriptures Accurately. The direct issue of concern to me these days is the mishandling of the Bible. I want us to become not simply sincere students of the Scriptures, sound in our theology, I want us to become careful in our interpreting the Scriptures. When you study the Bible, look at words, find significant words, pull out your dictionary, trace the meaning of the words, talk the words through, think the words through, compare that word with another word, and another place in Scripture where a similar word is used so that you will begin to see the meaning of the passage.

Now I want to show you an illustration. So turn with me back to Nehemiah chapter 8. This is one of the clearest illustrations I know of in all of the Scriptures where the Bible is handled accurately, where it's correctly rendered for the people. Let me offer four suggestions or observations from this passage as it relates to Ezra and the Scroll. But first let me set the stage. The first one is to read the book of God.

It's a book that was written by the first two years. Bring the scrolls, bring the book of God. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.

Until midday in the presence of men and women. Those who could understand and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. And Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium. This is the first place in all the Bible where even a passing reference is made to a pulpit.

He stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And on his side were these men who helped interpret the law and they are named for us here. Now let me begin as I give you these four observations with the same statement to begin with. Accurately handling the Scriptures.

I'll finish the sentence four times. Accurately handling the Scriptures, number one, starts with reading the Scriptures. Accurately handling the Scriptures starts with reading the Scriptures. You will observe that they read from the book of the law. Verse three. And those who understood, verse three, were attentive to the book of the law. Verse five. He opened the book in the sight of all the people. For he was standing above all the people. The reason I read that so laboriously and tediously is I want you to see the focus of significance was upon the book of God. Not some performer, not some scene that they came to applaud, not the opinion and wisdom of this wise man Ezra.

That's not important. We are reading from the law of God. This is God's book. And if we're going to carefully handle the book of God, then the Scripture must be the basis of our thoughts. Not my idea, not my plan, not even my teaching lesson, but the book of God.

And that's what they opened and that's what they gave attention to. Second, accurately handling the Scriptures includes having respect for the Scriptures. It includes having respect for the Scriptures. It says they were attentive to the book and when he opened the book in their sight, all the people stood up. That is respect.

There was a podium which seemed to speak of a place of authority. There was reverence when they stood and in silence they listened. And verse six tells us Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and the people answered, we believe it. Amen. Amen.

While lifting up their hands and they bowed low and they worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. This isn't just a casual listening. This isn't planning the menu for the afternoon while the Scripture is being presented. This is focusing attention and time upon the book. Now, let me have you come into my study with me. When I began to prepare a lesson or a sermon or a talk of some kind, I began not with Time magazine, not with a newspaper, not with someone's comment that was made to me in my previous time with them, not with an event on television or something I've read in a book.

As important as that may be for your illustration, my first place of reference is the open book. What does it say? And I read it aloud. I read it repeatedly. I read it with emphasis and feeling. I pause.

I think. I sometimes pray over that section. I work it through as best I can till it becomes very familiar in my mind.

The English text, I'm reading it over and over and over again so that the focus of my concentration is upon this book. I am occasionally surprised to meet up with men in the ministry who don't do that. They come at a passage with a bias or with a plan of something they want to say and they start looking for a verse that says it for them. And they find it. You can find it.

Anything you want to find is here. If you just stop reading soon enough and don't finish the thought, it'll say it for you. Or if you start in the middle and don't give the context, you can make it say what you want it to say. That's not what Ezra did. He said to the people, as it were, let's hear from God.

Let's unroll the scroll. And they stood and he read from the law of God and they said without any comment from him, amen, amen, we believe it. That's the book. That's the lesson.

That's the truth. We care about what God says. He doesn't stop there. When God's book was open, remember our lesson earlier? God is speaking. Third, accurately handling the scriptures means that the truth is explained so that all can understand. Accurately handling the scriptures means that the truth is explained so that all can understand. Now I'm glad to say we've come to this great verse, verse 8. It's the finest verse on exposition in all the Old Testament, in my simple opinion. They read from the book, there it is again, from the law of God, translating.

Don't go any further. To harass means to make distinct, to separate, to take apart for the sake of making something clear and understandable would be a nice paraphrase. So that it will fall in place. Now, why did he need to translate?

Stop and think. Who were the people? Well, they were Hebrews. What was the scroll? Well, the scroll was in Hebrew, but where had they been?

You need to know a little bit of history. They'd been in captivity for decades. Some of them didn't know when they weren't in captivity.

They were born in captivity. Their whole frame of reference was Chaldean, Babylonian. Their language was from Chaldea. They thought in terms of the Chaldeans. Their culture, their lifestyle was Chaldean, but the book of God was Hebrew. Not only were they removed from the truth by centuries since its writings, but they were removed from the truth culturally. All the more reason to harass, to make distinct, to clarify. In other words, when Ezra and his scribes built the bridge of understanding in the minds of the people, they took the Hebrew scriptures and they made them distinct in the Chaldean mind.

That is the job of the teacher. We are even further removed from the days of the Bible. All the scripture, in fact the latest in the whole Bible is written at the very end of the first century. So the latest piece of scripture is 20 centuries old. And it's from another continent.

It's from another culture. So the careful student of the scripture will remember the desire in his heart is to understand what that passage meant then, 20 or more centuries ago, and then to make it meaningful to today, 20 centuries later. In that sense, he translates. That's the task of the good teacher. Please observe, they gave the sense.

I don't want to miss that. They translated to give the sense. The original term means insight, to see into something. They shed light on that which was otherwise unclear to the listener. Notice what happens so that the people understood the reading. One of my favorite, favorite questions when people come following a meeting and they comment about the passage, or they thank me for something that was said, or they have questions about the teaching, or they want to know something further about it, I will often say as we talk a little further, did you understand it?

Did you grasp it? I'll even say, did it make sense? It's always humiliating when they say, no, it didn't make any sense. Usually they'll say, yeah, I understood that.

Yeah, that makes sense because, and then they'll comment on something related to today. Even though they're referring to a passage that was written in the days of Samuel or David or Amos or Jesus, centuries removed, they understood the reading. In fact, the greatest test of good teaching is the day or two or three after you've heard it, you can sit down at your kitchen table and you can go back through that passage and pretty well explain what it is saying and what it means. That's a major test. Sometimes you can't even remember the end of the day, the three points of the morning talk.

A little embarrassing, isn't it? Now the good part is this, accurately handling the scriptures results in obedience to the scriptures. Bible study is not an end in itself.

It is a means to an end. Accurately handling the scriptures results in acts of obedience to the scriptures. And I'll let you read for yourself.

It's a good assignment tonight. Verses 9 through 18, just take your time and read through and you will see that they heard what God said and they did it. They heard what he said and they changed. They heard what he said and they planned this.

They heard what he said and they wept and they cried out and ultimately they built booths and they celebrated God and they recognized his feast. Why? Because his book had talked about it. I want to read one more time from Bernard Ram's comments because I got so much out of that little article. I feel that I have experienced a good session of Bible study. One, when I felt the teacher took me right into the text and not around it. Second, when I felt we interacted with the text itself and not with the party line beliefs of the teacher.

You've had that experience, haven't you? Third, when I felt that I had a better understanding of the text than when I came into the session. Fourth, when I felt that the time was basically spent in meanings and not religious platitudes.

And fifth, when I felt challenged and comforted, encouraged and practically instructed. That's a good word. Some of you are getting serious about Bible study.

Some of you need to get a hold of some tools that will help you do that. You need a Bible concordance, which is an alphabetical listing of all the words in the Bible. The bigger the concordance, the more the words. Some are exhaustive, meaning every word that appears in every part of the Bible is listed alphabetically. It's called a concordance. You need to have a copy of a concordance. Second, you need a Bible dictionary.

Take your choice. Go to your local Christian bookstore and have them give you examples of what they've got on the shelf. And you choose a Bible dictionary. Third, you need a Bible atlas, which gives you direction in geography so that you become adept in geography. You need some Bible commentaries.

First, you need to have one that comments on the whole scripture. You use one particular one and others use another. There's not one that seems better than another.

It's just what you prefer. You need to get serious about tools. These are tools. They're not 98-cent booklets.

So don't go with $1.50 planning to buy three of them. These are heavy-duty guys that you need to have in your library. You will not do serious Bible study without tools. You won't.

You have to have them with you. You have to have a Bible that you can study with, a serious version. Translation of the scriptures, not a paraphrase. And if you're going to translate to give the sense, you don't have to know the Greek and the Hebrew. You don't have to.

It may give you color and deep meaning at times, but there are many tools written in English that you can use and get by very, very well. You don't even have to go to seminary. You can teach the scriptures very well. You can learn from the scriptures without ever being in seminary. I say to men and women who are interested in doing that professionally, that seminary is extremely helpful.

In some cases, it's downright essential. But to do serious Bible study and to do serious Bible teaching, you don't have to have a seminary education. Now, as I began this talk, I had reference to being biblically abused. And the interesting thing about child abuse in our day, we're discovering more and more that people who abuse their children were themselves abused.

I find this same true in scripture. People who were abused biblically abuse others biblically. If you were abused, why don't you stop the train and do a shift? Just face the fact that you were ripped off. And rather than sending hate mail to your teacher of yesteryear and spending all your time resenting what you were taught, just change. Just forgive him or forgive her and pay no more attention to what they're teaching. Give it up. Walk away from it.

It may even be a cult. Get away from it and commit yourself to the reading of the scriptures, to respect for the scriptures, to dealing with an explanation of the scriptures and then obediently walking in the scriptures. Just change the style from what you were given. I want to give you, to make that happen, help make that happen, five simple rules. I try to remember them myself and I have never written them down before, but they sort of flowed out of my thoughts when I wrapped up this preparation. Number one, never forget what you are handling.

I'm going to give you these five under the titles of what, who, why, where and when. Never forget what you are handling. And what is that? It is the word of God.

That will keep you sensitive. Second, under who. Always remember who has the authority.

And that's the Lord himself. That'll keep you humble. Never forget what you are handling.

Always remember who has the authority. I was speaking with some folks recently and they commented on a particular individual that they had heard and they said the thing that disturbed them about this person was that there was a sense of arrogance about that individual. Nothing wrong with competence.

He was certainly competent. He was experienced, but there was an arrogance about his style. Arrogance has no place in Bible teaching, no place whatsoever. When I hear an arrogant teacher, I realize I'm listening to a person who has forgotten who has the authority and I get scared for him or her because I wonder if they're really listening to what God is saying. Always remember who has the authority. It'll keep you humble.

Number three, under the why. Keep in mind why you are teaching. This will keep you accurate. Keep in mind why you are teaching and why is it?

To get to the meaning and then the application of the Scriptures. That's why. Would it help if I drilled it home with a couple of nots or negatives? Not to impress. Don't try to impress anyone with your scholarship. If you've got it, they're automatically impressed.

They'll know it. You don't have to blow smoke to make them think how bright you are. No reason to quote 39 Greek words you just learned last week. It doesn't help your case.

It confuses an English audience to have a lot of words dangled in front of them. Don't try to impress. Second, don't ride a hobby horse. Everybody has them. I've got them.

You've got them. Sometimes I get on them and then my staff reminds me to get off of them and I need that reminder. I have axes I grind, things that bother me a lot. They come out in my teaching on occasion. Remember, it's to get to the meaning of the passage and then its application.

Keep in mind why you are teaching. Number four, this is the where. Think about where people are.

That'll keep you interesting. Think about where people are. If you're dealing with people in Southern California, it takes one kind of approach. If you're dealing with people in the Northeast, it takes another kind of approach. If you're dealing with folks on the mission field, yet another kind of approach. If you're dealing with folks in a situation where there's very little knowledge of Scripture, your presentation will be more interesting if you'll remember where they are.

They're not as far along as in another circle. If you've been around teachers that have no sensitivity with an audience, you just can't wait until they get through because they're not connecting. You want to feel like that teacher sitting right there by you and you're in touch with the same world. Keep it interesting.

Number five, when. Focus on when the teaching ends. That'll keep you practical. When the teaching is all over, when the Bible study that you've been involved in is over, what difference will it make? And that'll help you be practical. Well, doesn't that excite everybody? Every time I do a lesson like this, I want to get back in the study.

I want to get back at it. I love his book. It is my joy and my delight to communicate it.

And I don't know if anybody would rather talk about that within you. Thank you for listening. We thank you, our Father, for your book, which lives and abides forever. Thank you for giving it to us, for the painstaking process of preserving it, even though men and women have attempted to deny it, to blaspheme it, to burn it, to destroy it, to ignore it, and to criticize and explain it away.

It survived. It is with us. We revere it.

We worship you. And we revere the book. May our lives be shaped according to its truths. May we be different people because we have taken your word seriously. May we live it, not simply study, memorize it. May it change our attitudes and our actions. I pray for Jesus' sake. Amen.

To learn what's available in your area, just go online to And did you know that Chuck Swindoll provides a daily devotional by e-mail? In this way, you can either start or end your day with reading and reflecting on biblical truth. The daily devotional is free when you sign up online at slash devotional. In addition, every sermon Chuck presents on Insight for Living is paired with interactive study notes. We call this resource Searching the Scriptures. By using this online document, you can learn to study the scriptures in the same manner that Chuck does.

To access this online Bible study tool, go to slash studies. These free resources and the daily programs that feature Chuck's messages are available through voluntary donations from people just like you. We're especially grateful for those who automate their giving as monthly companions of grace. Their regular monthly gifts empower Insight for Living to be heard in multiple languages and on more than 2,000 radio stations across the world. And with the advent of the mobile app and the Internet, anybody with a cell phone can hear the practical Bible teaching of Chuck Swindoll. So join the team today. To become a monthly companion of grace, give us a call.

If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888, or you can sign up online at slash monthly companion. Take it from Chuck Swindoll. There's nothing quite like the beauty of the great frontier. Wide open skies, pristine glaciers with various shades of blue and turquoise mingled within them, towering pine trees and all manner of wildlife. I'll tell you, Alaska is truly a masterpiece of God's creation. I've been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things, but honestly, nothing compares to the beauty in Alaska.

God is awesome. Come with us on the Inside for Living Ministries cruise to Alaska, July 1st through July 8th, 2023. When I'm in Alaska, I feel like I'm in an amazing painting created by God. Let yourself get lost in the majestic beauty. Spend quality time with those you love. Allow God to refresh your soul as you reflect on His word and His goodness in your life. To learn more, go to slash events or call this number 1-888-447-0444.

The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us next time when Chuck Swindoll continues his series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life right here on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Handling the Scriptures Accurately, was copyrighted in 1985, 1987, 2005, 2008, and 2011, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-15 14:05:37 / 2023-01-15 14:14:58 / 9

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