My mother once told me she was holding onto a verse in the Psalms [Ps. 138:8]. She believed God gave her this verse concerning her two sons, my brother and I. She was convinced we would both become ministers of God’s Word, working together.
The LORD will perfect that which concerns me… Ps 138:8 NKJV
This became somewhat true. In the course of time my brother would obtain a Masters in catholic theology and enjoy ministry teaching God’s people the Word of God (perhaps, I should add: from a catholic perspective). I was a protestant pastor for almost 25 years before I changed “careers.”
Is this realistic to believe in one’s heart that God speaks to a particular situation in a particular verse of scripture? Some claim it is not:
- Not only since the Bible warns that “No prophecy is of private interpretation” [2 Peter 1:20] which some interpret to apply to all scripture. but
- because the very thought of giving the average christian, without pastoral guidance, license to “read into” a verse what might not be there makes God complicit in spreading false hopes while
- A wrong interpretation invariably devalues the spoken Word.
Our pastor, some years ago, wrote in his autobiography, “God’s Plan & Purpose for your Life,” that while pastoring his first church in Vermont, his wife came down with Bright’s disease but it wasn’t diagnosed until the condition was so far advanced doctor’s thought there was little they could do for her. She was dying. After the family discussed moving her to a diagnostic center in Boston, He went before the Lord in prayer asking for wisdom when God shared Psalms 46 verse 5 with him in the translation of the time [King James Version].
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
Two days later she was well enough to be discharged from the hospital—in Vermont. She was not moved.
John Calvin called the Psalms: “The anatomy … of the soul.”
Many of “The Psalms,” Walter Brueggmann argued are
“not unlike ‘Negro spirituals’ that have no author or identifiable place or origin, but simply arise in the life and practice of the community and are found to be recurringly adequate to many different usages overtime. [Brueggmann, 313]
If this is so, how about the rest of the Scripture? Is there a hermeneutic, a science of interpretation, that allows for the individual believer to find uncommon hope in its message? I want to believe so. What about Isaiah 43:2:
“I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. [Christian Standard Bible]
And to whom does God promise such protection? Does not this apply also to us, as believers!!
- Verse 1: I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
- Verse 4a: Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and
- Verse 4b: because I love you,
Some might say verse 3 is particular to Israel: “I give Egypt for your ransom.” I argue that this is simply the validation of the real emphasis of this verse [3a] “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” He is our Savior, too. Is He not!
The Word of God should not be viewed as a static history of what God did but as a dynamic revelation of what God does.
To get to the actual heart of the matter, one must know the heart of God! One’s interpretation must somehow through a life of prayerful meditation be able to grasp the true meaning discernible in the stories, the testimonies, and the recollections of the saints of old.
Since my latest experience with cancer, I have become more aware of the pain of others who face the same disease. I believe that for all believers facing this dreaded enemy of the body that Isaiah 43:1-3 is ours for the asking (prayer).
If God were to give me a pulpit for one hour, I would prayerfully desire to provide faith-strengthening hope to any within the sound of my words. As a child of God we have every right to claim this truth in our most trying and painful circumstances.
But we must see clearly the fulcrum point of all this in verse 2. It has been translated “I will be with you” but perhaps the original is tighter than that.
In the Hebrew this is 2 words connected by an elevated dash they call a “makkeph [ ־ ].” Scholarship tells us these words together indicate “companionship” It is perhaps better to understand that promise in a more intimate way:
When you go through such deep waters, such pain emotionally or physically you doubt you can endure it, the Lord reassures you.