mysteries, secrets and parables
They tell me that the Bible was the first book ever printed. It is the one book more published then any other, yet it is probably the most controversial, having hundreds if not thousands of different versions. There must be a reason why a book so popular would also be so disagreed upon. There must be a reason why so many Bible study groups walk away from its table with so many different interpretations.
Many new readers of the Bible complain that it is a book which is hard to understand. They too easily stumble at some particular passage that just doesn’t set right with them. Then there are other people who consider the Bible to be a book filled with errors and contradictions. If you allow them, they will gladly show you how much they know about those supposed errors, howbeit the errors are usually in their own minds. They "understand not" because GOD has yet to open up to them HIS mysteries, secrets and parables. Therefore, they can’t grasp the purposes and intents of GOD’s word.
Other readers are not prone to believe "all that the prophets have spoken". They pick and choose what they believe according to what they consider acceptable. They believe that GOD is love but they wrestle with the idea that HE is a consuming fire (HEBREWS 12:29). They believe GOD is kind and they desire HIS goodness, but they rarely speak of HIS wrath and they try to ignore HIS judgments.
Having little true knowledge of GOD’s will, they construct their own temples of worship, and they mold GOD into a concept that pleases them. As GOD has commanded us to guard our hearts, I think HE must guard HIS also. HE is not going to reveal HIS secret purposes to those such as these. HIS eyes look for those who seek the whole truth. HIS lips whisper to those who believe all of HIS word. GOD gives HIS understanding to those who guard in their hearts what HE has already revealed to them from HIS word.
GOD has placed all of us on a "need to know" basis. HE only reveals to us what we need to know, not necessarily what we want to know. GOD is hidden, and HIS knowledge and will are also hidden. Man only knows what GOD chooses to reveal about himself. We don’t need to know everything GOD knows and therefore some are blinded and others see only in part. If GOD’s ways are hard for some to understand, may I suggest that it is because GOD intends it to be so, at least to a certain degree.
One does not understand the things of GOD simply because he says he wants to. But rather, if one understands these mysteries, secrets and parables it is because GOD has delighted to open the eyes of his understanding. They are HIS secrets and HE reveals them only to whom HE wills. An understanding of GOD’s words must of necessity emanate from GOD. If man could give it, it would be only an understanding of man’s words. GOD’s words, as well as an understanding of those words, must come from GOD.
- ROMANS 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
Unless HE chooses to reveal them, GOD’s ways are "past finding out". It is HIS word and therefore it is HIS choice who hears and understands. It is not our mission to teach the blind to see. Nor, if we are enlightened is it so as to cause fools to understand. GOD has not been waiting for someone with "natural leadership ability" to lead into the light those sitting in darkness. It is as John wrote in his epistle,
- 1 JOHN 4:6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
Some people have been prepared to receive GOD’s words, while others are on the wayside, or on the stony ground, or among thorns. It is a common belief in the Christian community that we need to teach and preach the Bible until all men agree with us. Yet our Lord taught fools and hypocrites in parables, that they might not understand. We are more directed not to speak what we understand then to cast our pearls before swine, which afterward will only turn and rend us. As the Proverb says, "…fools hate knowledge".
We have a tendency to want to set others straight when we think they are Biblically wrong. We think that if they would just shut up and listen we could make them understand. But that assertion is wrong. Only when it is GOD’s pleasure to allow us to be HIS instrument in unfolding truth to others do we open our hearts. Otherwise, we are instructed to guard them, to "protect them from intrusion".
We are to pray for open doors, not so much that we can speak, but rather so that when we speak others might have ears to hear. One does not need an open door to speak. The reason we seek open doors is so that when we speak, open hearts can receive an understanding of GOD’s words. The open doors we pray for are entrances into other men’s minds so that they might understand and believe.
PROVERBS tells us that he who reproves a scorner (one who is proud) brings dishonor upon himself. It also says, "Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee" (9:7). And again, "Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words" (23:9 LXX). These are repeated warnings from GOD that we not speak to fools and scorners. There are many other examples like these in PROVERBS but let us take time for just one more.
- LXX PROVERBS 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou become like him.
In his letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul revealed one reason some people find the Bible impossible to understand. This verse explains why so many cannot see what to others is so clearly understood.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
If an individual is not born of GOD’s spirit, there is no way he can understand spiritual things. Likewise, if he is a carnal Christian he is not likely to understand much, except maybe the most basic things of GOD's word. They will both consider the things that the mature believer understands as foolishness, or unrealistic, or think as king Agrippa did when he told Paul, "much learning doth make thee mad".
Paul instructed his companion Titus also concerning those people who are not meek to receive the things which he had taught them when he wrote, "avoid foolish questions" (TITUS 3:9). Titus was not to jump into the middle of an argument about the Bible to demonstrate his ability to wield his sword of the spirit. He was rather to avoid them. In Paul’s letter to the believers at Rome he beseeched them also to avoid those who "cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned" (ROMANS 16:17).
It is true that in Scripture there are places where we are told to "reprove, rebuke and exhort" but usually the translation from the Greek manuscripts into our modern versions has been misleading. "Reprove, rebuke and exhort" might better be translated "expose, restrain and encourage," which does not presume a face to face standoff with an unbeliever. Rather, we should expose the unbelief, restrain its spread and encourage belief in the truth.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains that the new wisdom he was revealing was previously hidden in a mystery. It was concealed until finally Paul could speak of it, but not to all, only to "them that are perfect [mature]" (1 CORINTHIANS 2:6). The understanding of those parables and the revelation of those mysteries did not belong to whosoever half-heartedly sought an understanding. Neither did the unveiling of those secrets belong to him who read only to find contradictions. It belonged to the mature, to the initiated.
Matthew wrote that his Lord taught that to some it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to others it is "not given" (MATTHEW 13:11). Paul wrote that "the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations…now is made manifest to his saints" (COLOSSIANS 1:26). Then in the next chapter he begins, "For I want you to perceive…that their hearts may be consoled…unto a realization of the secret of the God and Father, of Christ, in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are concealed" (Concordant Version). So it is GOD’s will to make these mysteries known, which were hid and concealed, but only in HIS time and in HIS way and to whom HE willed.
Every interpretation of the Bible is limited to the enlightenment of the interpreter’s own understanding of the word of GOD. The word of GOD itself is too big for any of us to get our heads completely around. It is too fluid to be able to grab hold off and think we have attained unto a full understanding. It is ever changing in its effect upon us. Each time we read it, our perception changes and our understanding matures. This is because GOD can utilize HIS whole creation to affect upon us the understanding HE desires us to have. What was a "burning bush" to Moses, was the "mouth of an ass" to Balaam, a "great fish" to Jonah, and a "light above the brightness of the sun" to Paul. GOD laid down HIS creation so as to be able to both hide and reveal himself.
The Bible was written in such a way that the unbeliever could read it and walk away with one understanding. Then the novice can read it and walk away with a different understanding. Likewise, the student, the teacher and the prophet receive their own respective understandings. Each receives an understanding according to how GOD chooses to dispense it. This is because the words of GOD are alive in regard to their effect upon one’s mind.
If GOD has elected not to reveal himself to some people concerning a particular portion of the truth, who are we to frustrate over that blindness? We would be better off to simply recognize a closed door and move on to others who have been "made ready" to understand. This is precisely what Yeshua (Jesus) taught His disciples to do when they encountered those who resisted the reality of HIS world.
- LUKE 10:10-11 But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
They weren’t to stay and argue or debate their point from a different angle. They weren't to find other sources to support their position. They were instead instructed to wipe off the dust, and move on!
But why would GOD give HIS word to man and then cloak it in mysteries and secrets? One reason is because man often acts as an adversary to GOD and endeavors to thwart HIS good intentions. Some are deceitful workers, false apostles or prophets, and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Thus GOD often hides HIS ways and intentions to hinder some men from miss-using them.
It is a common teaching that GOD was hidden in the Hebrew Bible but Yeshua came to make HIM known, and so now GOD has been revealed in that portion we call the New Testament. This is only true in part. Yeshua did reveal many truths about GOD, but usually only to His followers, not to all the people. Those outside the fold were taught parables that they might not know, while only a few were "taken aside" and taught the true and fuller meanings of those parables. Some believed a little and were thus taught more, while others refused to believe the little unless they were taught more, which usually they never were.
Another reason GOD has chosen to hide HIS ways is because of a little known principle. GOD holds us accountable for whatever truth HE has revealed to us. We are responsible for what we know; therefore GOD takes great care in how much HE reveals to us. Perhaps Yeshua's words apply, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" (LUKE 12:48). Babes are fed with milk, while the mature are fed with meat. No loving parent would try to stuff a piece of steak down their infants throat.
- 2 PETER 2:20, 21 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
"For it had been better for them not to have known!" In this case, not knowing is better than knowing. This in itself is a good reason not to try to cram truth down somebody else's throat.
You wouldn’t let a child play with dynamite. This is the same kind of thing. First you would want the child to mature and show that he is responsible. Then you would give him instruction in the proper handling of the dynamite. Yet, even after all of your efforts, some students may still ignore all your instruction and bring upon themselves great harm. But at least the instructor had not been negligent in making sure he has been diligent in offering the proper instruction. Likewise, GOD is also not reckless with what HE reveals to us of HIS mysteries and secrets.
However, if ever GOD has an intention of maturing us to be able to receive some truth, it means not that HE intends for us to tell it to another. It is more likely the other way. HE may in reality desire us to keep it to ourselves. If HE desires others to know it, HE has the ability to reveal it to them just as HE did unto us.
- PROVERBS 4:23 Keep [to guard or keep secret] thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
The wisdom of the world is that you should share your heart with whosoever will listen. GOD however, says "guard your heart!" (see JUDGES 16:17-18 for an example of one sharing all his heart). The way in which GOD works within each of us is different than how HE works within anyone else. The experiences HE chooses to expose us to are peculiar to us, and intended for our learning. The only way our learning can be transferred to another is if GOD has chosen us to be one of their experiences. We each can be a source of learning for the other, but only as GOD opens the door.
- LXX PROVERBS 16:17 The paths of life turn aside from evil; and the ways of righteousness are length of life. He that receives instruction shall be in prosperity; and he that regards reproofs shall be made wise. He that keeps his ways, preserves his own soul; and he that loves his life will spare his mouth.
We learn from scripture that the less we speak the better off we usually are. Save your words as something valuable. One’s words communicate his heart, which may possess the secret workings of his Creator. Again, PROVERBS is a source of much wisdom.
- PROVERBS 10:19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
- PROVERBS 21:23 Whoso keepeth [guards] his mouth and his tongue keepeth [guards] his soul from troubles.
- LXX PROVERBS 11:12-13 A man void of understanding sneers at his fellow citizens: but a sensible man is quiet. A double-tongued man discloses the secret counsels of an assembly: but he that is faithful in spirit conceals matters.
We each come to the table of learning with a lifetime of experiences, which are most likely vastly different from one another. We may not even understand one another’s terminology, let alone his perception of our argument.
I’ve often found it humorous to hear someone ask another if he understands his or her point. How would they know? They may think, ‘yea, I understand,’ yet not understand at all. And how does the speaker know if his point is understood? Just because the listener says he understands means nothing at all. If on the other hand he says that he doesn’t understand, then at least you know something, but if he says he does understand, that tells you nothing. The listener may think he understands what you intend but in reality completely misunderstand your point.
GOD knows each of us and only HE can understand us and know how fully we understand HIM. HE must be the one to bring together our different experiences into a common understanding (sunesis), as two rivers flowing together. HE only is the author of our "mutual faith". We can be "of one mind and one heart" only as HE purposes.