Various interpretations

Fredy Winkler

There are areas of the Bible that can have various interpretations as to their meaning. Biblical statements shouldn’t always be taken literally; in some cases they should be understood in the sense of pictorial images. For example, in Exodus 19:4, God tells the Israelites that he carried them on eagles’ wings, but that statement wasn’t intended to be taken literally. The same goes for many other portions of the Bible. It’s usually pretty easy to determine if something is intended to be taken literally or in the sense of a pictorial image. Sometimes though, it’s difficult to determine the exact meaning of certain statements. One such example is found in Deuteronomy 6:6-8, where the Israelites are told to tie the commandments as symbols on their hands and bind them on their foreheads.

In later times, the Jews took a literal interpretation of this statement and made phylacteries, or small capsules that contained these Bible verses, which they bound to their hands and foreheads during their morning prayers. Thus, this important part of the Bible became for them an outwardly visible religious practice. The deeper meaning of the statement, however, is clarified in verse 6, where it says that the Word of God was to be in their hearts.

In biblical Hebrew, there’s no word for “conscience,” which is why the Bible always uses the term “heart.” Our consciences should be completely filled with the Word of God, so that all of our actions (typically performed with our hands) and all that we sense (or see through the eyes in our foreheads) is filtered through the Word of God. Everything that comes into us and everything that we do should be filtered through the Word of God in our hearts.

To properly interpret some difficult passages of the Bible, it’s important to seek guidance from other, similar passages in the Bible.

In Exodus 13:9 and 16, we find nearly identical statements, but the context of these passages makes it clear that the observance of certain rituals for festivals and the corresponding activities for those days, are to be “like” signs on their hands and reminders on their foreheads. Those rituals and activities should always remind the Israelites and their descendants of the mighty things that God did for them, so that they would always fear Him and obey Him.

Every year at Passover, the Israelites were to remember God’s great deeds, when He led them out of Egypt with His mighty hand.

During the last Passover meal that Jesus celebrated with His disciples, our Lord gave new meaning to that festival. Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, it is no longer about the deliverance of the Jews out of Egypt; it involves much more, namely our deliverance from the “great Pharaoh,” Satan, in whose hands the power over death and hell had been held prior to those events.

Growing numbers of Christians today believe that they need to return to celebrating the Old Testament biblical festivals, such as Passover. Those festivals, though, are only shadows of perfection. Jesus was the perfect fulfillment for the salvation of Israel. The deliverance from Egypt was only a shadow of what was to come through Jesus, the unblemished Passover Lamb.

The salvation that Jesus brought wasn’t just for the people of Israel, as it was previously in Egypt, but rather for all mankind, as John the Baptist proclaimed when he saw Jesus coming to be baptized, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

A return to the festivals of the old covenant actually minimizes the honor due to Him, who rightly deserves all honor: Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of all hope that the Old Testament festivals anticipated.

During the last Passover, Jesus said that the bread and the wine were symbols of His body and blood, through which we are to remember what He did for us. His death wasn’t the most important thing, though; it was His resurrection. For all who believe in Christ, His resurrection should be the greatest and most important fact in their lives. The day on which we remember His resurrection should be the greatest of all festivals.

We are all in danger of making mountains out of molehills and thereby forgetting the most important things. We must read all Scripture in its complete context, even the passages that apply to Israel, in order to see that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is central to everything.

News From Israel - 10/2017

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