1. The Bible is God’s Word. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). It is not surprising that the Bible contains things hard to be understood, because it is the revelation of the omniscient, omnipotent, eternal God. “A revelation coming down from an infinite Mind to finite minds must necessarily involve difficulties. This is true of all Christian doctrine. Take for instance the doctrine of God, or immortality, or the incarnation. There is no Christian doctrine altogether free from intellectual difficulties. ... Once we begin to reject the doctrines of Christianity because they involve some intellectual difficulty, then we shall finally reject them all. But when we have done this, when we have sought refuge in atheism, we shall find ourselves no better off than before. For the intellectual difficulties of unbelief are immensely greater than those of Christian faith. Let us settle one thing right here—we live in a universe of thought, and there is no place in this universe of thought where we can escape from all intellectual difficulties” (Alva J. McClain, The “Problems” of Verbal Inspiration).
2. We are separated from Bible events by thousands of years and by vast cultural and linguistic differences. God gave the Scriptures for all people of all centuries and He was in control of the time and context of its giving, but it is not reasonable to expect there will be no problems in understanding the Scriptures.
3. Some things are purposely hidden from the scoffer. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus did not speak in parables to make the truth clear to simple people; He spoke in parables to hide the truth from willful unbelievers (Mat. 13:13-17). Daniel said the wicked will not understand prophecy (Da. 12:10). Peter said that scoffer is willfully ignorant (2 Pe. 3:3-5). Peter said that the difficult things in Scripture are misused by unbelievers to their own destruction (2 Pe. 3:16). God is not mocked; He has ordained that men reap what they sow (Gal. 6:7). He has designed His Word in such a way that those who willfully reject Him are unable to discern the truth properly. The truth of Scripture is plain to those who believe, but it is obscure to those who disbelieve. In other words, God gives willful unbelievers enough rope to hang themselves! This is true of the Bible as a whole and of the prophecies in particular. For the believer, there is ample evidence that the Bible’s prophecies have been fulfilled; but the skeptic, looking at the same prophecies, doesn’t understand (and doesn’t want to understand) and is thus confirmed in his unbelief. Harvard law professor Simon Greenleaf said, “Christianity does not profess to convince the perverse and head-strong, to bring irresistible evidence to the daring and profane, to vanquish the proud scorner, and afford evidences from which the careless and perverse cannot possibly escape. This might go to destroy man’s responsibility. All that Christianity professes, is to propose such evidences as may satisfy the meek, the tractable, the candid, the serious inquirer” (The Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by the Rules of Evidence).
4. Understanding the Bible requires spiritual perception (1 Cor. 2:12-15; Heb. 5:11-14). It is the unsaved, the spiritually immature, and the carnal who find inconsistencies in the Bible. God has ordained that it be so.
5. God requires man to study (2 Timothy 2:15; Prov. 2:1-6; 25:2). The Bible does not read like a morning newspaper because it is not a morning newspaper! It is the eternal Word of God, and God has ordained that a man must dig into it diligently or he will not understand it properly. The chief solution to Bible difficulties is diligent, believing STUDY of the Holy Scriptures!
6. The Bible is for all men and all times. It is possible that some things are difficult for me to understand because they are intended to be better understood by someone else in another situation. Some of the prophetic discourses fall into this category (Dan. 12:4; 1 Pet. 1:10-12).
7. The Bible uses symbolic language for many reasons, just as men use symbolic language in everyday life, in normal conversation (“he is as fast as lightening”; he has a “long hand”), in music, in poetry, etc.
Symbolic language can emphasize the message. Consider hyperbole - “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer 9:1). “Tyrus ... heaped up silver as the dust” (Zec. 9:3). “Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?” (Ec 6:6)
Symbolic language can make the message more visual and memorable. “... they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth” (Zec. 4:10). “they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear” (Zec. 7:11). “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings” (De. 32:11). Christ continually used symbolic language to describe Himself: Good Shepherd, the Door, the living Bread, the living Water, Light, the true Vine, the Bridegroom. All of these are powerful images that communicate deep truth to the understanding human heart.
Symbolic language can condense a message. For example, the image of Daniel 2 that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream is described in five verses (Da. 2:31-35). But even the briefest interpretation of the dream requires 10 verses (Da. 2:36-45). And in fact, many entire books have been written to explain it.
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