Here is some Biblical tension for you: the book of Job. At the beginning of the book, God makes a deal with Satan. Satan is allowed to test the faithfulness of Job by inflicting him with numerous tragedies. the following chapters of Job give a poetic account of the arguments of Job and his friends. These friends insist that Job must have done something wrong to deserve the punishment that he is enduring. Job insists over and over that he is innocent. Finally, at the end of the book, after 39 chapters of silence, God defends Job. God points out that all the arguing has been empty. He calls the accusations of Job’s friends nonsense and points out to Job that he and his friends will never understand the ways of God.
Don’t you feel a little ripped-off after spending a couple of hours reading Job only to find out that God calls the majority of it nonsense? Thirty-nine chapters of nonsense? I never learned that in Sunday School.
I always learned that the Bible was the inspired Word of God and every verse was true and relevant to me. What about all those chapters in the middle of Job? There is the tension. Did God inspire four men to spend days arguing from their ignorance just so He could make a point? Did God inspire a man to write 39 chapters of empty words and have it included in the Bible only to refute it all? Hmmm . . .
Obviously, I can not pick a verse from the middle of the book of Job to create a rule for my life (perhaps I should not do this with any part of the Bible). I still believe that God inspired this book and intends me to read it. Does this mean that God inspired Job’s friends to say a bunch of nonsense? I don’t know. Here is the tension that I must live with though: God’s inspiration is contained in the words of the Bible, but there is no interpretation guide. I must struggle to understand and interpret what it has to say to me.
Should all of the Bible be taken as literal instruction to all people? Certainly not. I don’t know a single person who would advise me to adopt the action of Psalm 137:9 as a part of my spiritual development. (“Happy are those who seize your infants and dash them against the rocks.”) Do I relegate the Bible to only being relevant to people of a particular, historical time and place? No. If I do, then the Bible becomes wholly irrelevant (and maybe Christianity becomes irrelevant).
We must struggle and wrestle with the Bible. We must acknowledge that it is complex and difficult to understand. we must acknowledge that it seems to contradict itself at times. Most of all, we must acknowledge that God has preserved the Bible so that we can know Him.
The Bible is the story of God. It is a collection of books that reveal different perspectives (under the inspiration, not dictation, of God) of the story of God’s work with humanity. The Bible is a revelation of God to humanity.