Affliction, Light & Consecration: Thoughts On True Interpretation

August 16th, 2009 by

p7110004-geneva-bible-picture-427x341“…. no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of the human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” -2 Pet. 1.20-21

Please hear this remarkable word from Nathaniel West:

In the hour of affliction we learn more of God’s word, and God’s way, than in a whole age of sunshine and prosperity, and it is well to remember that the prophecies were spoken first in that moment when Israel’s night was the darkest. Paradoxical indeed, it was then that the light was the brightest, the promise the sweetest, and the devotion the deepest. So will it be again. Israel will be able to say, when emerging from the last great tribulation, as when returning from Exile to build the Temple:

“The Lord hath chastened me sore,
But not abandoned me to death.
The Lord is God. He hath given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords,
Even to the horns of the altar!”

Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.

(Nathaniel West, The Thousand Year Reign of Christ; Kregel Publications, p. XVI)

It is often said that we form our theologies and interpret the Scriptures based on the lens through which we look. Depending on the stream of our religious upbringing and our experiences in life, we often interpret passages with our own particular presumption and bias.

It is also said that we often interpret the Scriptures based on the level of willingness we possess to truly hear what they require and promise. In other words, we find in the Word what we want to find, and discard that which demands a higher call to the death of the self-life. We see what we want to see, and no more.

Nathaniel West wrote that “Affliction, Light, and Consecration” are the greatest and most necessary helpers for a true interpretation of the Scriptures.

What do we know of affliction? West is speaking of Israel’s affliction under judgment and exile, but is there an affliction that we willingly give ourselves to, and that would make way for a better interpretation of Scripture? I believe, in at least one aspect, that our self-made value systems, bumptiousness from familiarity, and “know-it-all” attitudes must be afflicted before the Light of interpretation can be opened. We’ve got to crucify our own wisdom, and lay our souls low before the same Spirit that moved the prophets. Are you reading the Scriptures categorically and robotically, or are you turning away from your own frozen knowledge and facing the burning bush that the Scriptures constitute?

Next, there is the element of light. When our own wisdom has been afflicted and set aside, then we are postured inwardly to receive the Light of God through the Scriptures. We must receive Light from the Spirit of God, or else the Bible is an impossible book to engage, enjoy, and receive from. If the same Spirit who rested on and moved the prophets does not rest on us, we will not gather from the Scriptures what the Lord has desired to give. We must ask the Spirit to come with His own Light, otherwise we will not be reading rightly. Therefore, dear saint, we ought to pant for the presence of the Spirit in the midst of our reading, so that Light may come, and our reading may itself become an act of Communion with God.

Lastly, the element of consecration. If we come to the Scriptures with no true intention of consecrating our lives to the Light that He gives us, we are not likely to come into a true interpretation. The Scriptures were not merely given for the formulation of eschatological ideas, the constructing of Doctrinal charts, or any such thing. They were given so that the Eternal God, and His great purpose, would be exposed to Israel and the nations, and that men would come into the reality of what He has always intended; namely, the revelation of Himself, and the glorification of His ways.

If we are unwilling to consecrate our lives to the Light that He gives, we will invariably miss what He is speaking. But if we come to the Scriptures in the same Spirit by which they were written, all the glories of His nature and will become intensely available to us.

“Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.”

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