Understanding God’s big picture
Seeing how everything fits together is the secret to good Bible reading.
Do you consider yourself a bit of a detective? See if you can spot the problem from the following Bible talk from 1 Samuel (have a quick skim over the passage if you don't know the bit I'm talking about).
David was conscience stricken for having cut off a corner of Saul’s (the King’s) robe… and so David bowed down and acknowledged Saul as his King…and in the same way we too must show respect to our rulers and leaders.
Makes sense doesn’t it? The outcome of the passage is that we’re to respect our leaders. It’s a good thing to do. So what’s the problem?
How NOT to read the Bible
While it’s definitely a good thing to respect our leaders, the reason given in this sermon for doing it, is wrong. We’re told to respect our leaders because David respected his leader - just copy what David did!
But if we were to copy everything David did, we’d be doing lots of dodgy things. David later became King, lusted after a woman he saw bathing, and used his power to have the woman’s husband placed in the frontline of a battle so he’d most likely be killed.
Are we to abuse power just as David did? Of course not? But if we are told to copy him in respecting our leaders, why don’t we copy him in abusing our power?
The reason is, we can’t apply the Old Testament writings directly to our lives, like we do with Jesus teaching. We need to have an understanding of where everything fits in the story of the Bible, so we don’t make mistakes like this. This understanding of the story of the Bible is often called 'biblical theology'.
A better way to read the Bible
The secret is reading each part of the Bible in the wider context of God’s long-term plans to bring people into His Kingdom. So using biblical theology how would you read this passage correctly? Here's a few ideas:
1) We could say Saul wasn’t a good King - he didn't perform his role well, which was to represent Israel before God and lead Israel in being godly.
2) Neither Saul or David were perfect, but God doesn't just leave it at that. Later on in the Bible, God brings a better King to lead Israel & the world in the future - Jesus.
Let's try that again...
So, taking a look at that Bible passage once more. Saul didn’t fulfill his role as king, but we have the ultimate King in Jesus, who unlike Saul and David represented God perfectly and led Israel in being godly. We should give full honour to king Jesus, and follow him with our lives.
You’ll notice I’ve referred to Jesus even though he’s not mentioned in the passage. Because we live after the cross we also need to look see how the story of David and Saul fits into God's 'big picture'.
This is a brief snapshot of biblical theology, I’ve left out many ideas for the sake of being brief, but if you want to understand how to read the Bible in context, there’s a good book called God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts that you can read or there’s a conference called Next Gen each January in Katoomba that will help you understand biblical theology, and teach you the skills to understand the Bible correctly.