Exodus 17, Job 35, Luke 1

Read Exodus 17, Job 35, and Luke 1.

This devotional is about Luke 1.

Stories often begin with words like this, “There once was a man…” or “Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away….” These opening lines establish for us readers how we should interpret the story. They tell us that the story is either fiction or legend. Fictional stories are completely made up. Legends are old stories about people and events that may have had some historical basis, but that are not being told as fact.

Fictions and legends can be entertaining. They can also powerfully illustrate principles or ideas that are more easily learned from stories. Fictions and legends should not, however, be treated as literally or historically true. They serve a different purpose than conveying history.

Some people say that some or all of the stories in scripture are fiction or legends. People who say that will allow that the Bible teaches some principles, but not that the Bible is literally true. This is nonsense for several reasons. Our reading here in Luke 1 shows one of those reasons.

When Luke wrote, he claimed that he was writing about facts, not fiction. Consider these elements:

  • The things Luke wrote about were “fulfilled among us” (v. 1). That’s not appropriate language for a fictional story or an old legend.
  • The stories came from “eyewitnesses” (v. 2)–people who actually saw what Jesus did and heard what he said.
  • Luke himself did research, double-checking the claims he’s heard with these eyewitnesses. We see this in his statement, “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning” (v. 3b).
  • Luke’s purpose was, “…so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (v. 4). Knowing the certainty of something is different than illustrating a principle.

In addition to these, Luke told us the time (v. 5a–“the time of King Herod”), the names of the people involved (Zechariah and Elizabeth), and their family ancestry in verse 5. Luke also told us that what happened to Zechariah happened in the temple (v. 9) and that his sudden loss of speech was witnessed by a group of people (v. 22).

In all these ways, Luke claims that his writings are true. Not true in the sense that they describe spiritual realities–although they do that, too. No, Luke is saying that the people are real, they lived in the real world at a specific time and in a specific place. When we say that the Bible is “literally true,” that’s one thing we mean. We mean that everything the Bible claims is true–the spiritual concepts, the miracles, the miraculous revelations of angels–all of it.

This is important for a few reasons:

  1. If all the Bible is true in every way, then we can’t just pick and choose to believe what “feels true” or “seems true” or “resonates with my truth.” We must believe all of it or reject it all.
  2. If the Bible claims to be true in every way, then we must interpret it accordingly. That includes the promises and prophesies of scripture that have not happened yet.

Do you believe that the Bible is true–all of it, in every way? Then don’t be selective about what you believe or about which aspects you will obey. Instead, receive it all as God’s word that has been revealed in real time to real people. Then, obey it all completely.

Judges 17, Jeremiah 30-31

Today we’re reading Judges 17 and Jeremiah 30-31.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 31:36, “‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the Lord, ‘will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.’”

There is a method of interpreting scripture that interprets the promises God made to Israel, the nation, as fulfilled in us, the church. The church, according to this interpretation, is a full replacement for Israel.

There are significant problems to that method of interpretation. A primary problem is the specificity of God’s promises to Israel. Note in verses 38-39 how specific the proper place names are: “… this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah.” How can these specific places be “spiritualized?” If you believe that “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16), then why did God keep making these promises to the nation, including specific places in the Promised Land, if he meant them in some kind of spiritualized way?

The only answer that makes sense and takes these promises seriously is a literal interpretation of them. In the future, after Christ returns, God will re-establish the nation of Israel in the land on earth with Jesus as king. We Gentiles will take part in that kingdom because we’ve been grafted in (Rom 11:13-17) and because it was always God’s plan to include people from all nations, not because we have replaced Israel.

The fact that Jewish people still claim a unique identity is a testimony to God’s faithfulness to these promises. Someday he will make good on every promise. When that happens, his people will be redeemed spiritually (vv. 33-34) and everyone on earth will “know the Lord” (v. 34). Human life will finally be restored to the condition God created us in–holy, devoted to him, and perfect in our faith and obedience. All of this will happen, of course, only by the grace of God: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”