LESSON 1: SLOW DOWN, LOOK, AND REALLY SEE
IT IS SO EASY TO COME TO A FAMILIAR PASSAGE
THINKING YOU KNOW THE POINT SO THAT YOU FAIL TO
AND REALLY SEE
ONE OF THE FIRST LESSONS THAT MY DAUGHTER SALLY WAS TAUGHT AS AN ARTIST
WAS TO PAINT WHAT SHE REALLY SAW
AND NOT WHAT SHE THOUGHT SHE SAW
BY REALLY LOOKING, AND NOT ASSUMING,
SHE HAD TO STUDY THE BARK, THE LEAVES, THE SHADOWS
AND THEREFORE NOT DRAW THE UNTRUE TREE
I WOULD HAVE DRAWN!
I welcome you to this new short series on how to study the Bible so that we do not just become smarter sinners but are transformed. God’s Word has the power, if we approach it rightly, to set us free.
If you are new — click on the directions on the right to join. Your first comment will need to be approved, but once you are on, you can just jump on and comment any time. You’ll find a wonderful supportive group here and we help each other see!
Sometimes we have been taught wrong. There are some historical passages in the Bible that should not be taught to children for children are not ready for them. I cringe when I see a book about Esther for toddlers, or even young children. They distort the story to make it suitable for children, changing it into an exciting beauty contest instead of the sordid sexual abuse of girls that it was. Josephus says four hundred young virgins were “taken” from their homes — and one by one they lost their virginity to this salacious man. Though we cannot know how many were taken and how many Xerxes slept with before he got to Esther, the text itself supports that they were “taken,” and also shows, if you read carefully, the abuse. Again and again women who did my study on Esther objected — until I showed them how to really look and see what was there, and not what they thought was there. They had to slow down, and look carefully at the passage (as we will do during this series) and see not what they thought was there, but what was really there.
The passage we will look at this week has often been taught wrong. It is a challenging passage and some older translations did not make it clear. (Later translations such as ESV and NIV did better, but it is simply one of those murky passages.) If you have heard a passage taught incorrectly repeatedly, it is hard not to come to it with presuppositions. But we must be like the Bereans and look for ourselves, to see if the things we have been taught are really true.
We’ll also listen this week to a panel discussion of women from The Gospel Coalition called Training Women To Teach The Bible. It’s free and downloadable. Click Here
SUNDAY/MONDAY (Icebreaker and Getting to Know You)
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. If you are willing, in a sentence, tell us your name, where you live, and what in your life gives you joy and
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
Malachi 2:16 is a challenging passage, which increases its propensity for mis-interpretation. Some of the phrases are antiquated, such as the phrase “covers his garment with violence” (ESV) or “covereth violence with his garment” (KJV). What does this mean? One way to find out is to look at other passages that use this concept of covering.
Likewise, the KJV says “I hate divorce,” whereas the CEV says “The Lord God All-Powerful of Israel hates anyone who is cruel enough to divorce his wife.” Which is closer to the true meaning? One way to find out is by looking at the context.
AND REALLY SEE
CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT
3. Find the pattern of how the priests respond to God. How do they respond when He says:
A. I have loved you (Malachi 1:2)
B. You have despised my name (Malachi 1:6)
C. You have offered polluted food upon my altar (Malachi 1:7)
D. Note in the above, how God then goes into detail when they object that they have not offered polluted food. How does He substantiate His charge? (Malachi 1:8-14?)
4. What did God call priests to do and how did these priests failed? (Malachi 2:7-9)
5. These priests of Judah were married to Israelite women. But they have divorced their wives. Why, according to Malachi 2:11?
COVER, COVER, COVER
A theme of the prophets is that bad behavior is covered with religious ritual. Isaiah 58 is classic — they fast, yet they beat their workers, they “seem” to seek the Lord, but do not do what is right. There is a play on words here that you can see better when you understand the concept of covering. As God has covered us with His grace, husbands are to cover their wives, protecting them, cherishing them. But that is not what they are doing. See if you can find it.
AND REALLY SEE
The concept of covering is a beautiful one. The Hebrew word “kanaph” may be translated garment, or corner of the garment, or even wing — as this delightful picture, originally found by our own Joyce, portrays.
6. Find the concept of covering in a positive sense in:
A. Psalm 91:3-4
B. Ruth 3:9
7. Have you experienced this covering from either your Heavenly Husband or your earthly husband? If so, share an example.
8. In Malachi, God shows that, just has been their pattern, the priests have twisted His calling for them. How is covering used in the sense of “cover-up” in Malachi 2:13?
9. Now we come to the oft-misinterpreted passage. In light of the context, what do you think is God’s central point?
10. If this different than you have sometimes heard — or not?
11. One mis-interpretation that is common is that God is opposed to divorce in any circumstances — and that those who have been divorced, even if they had no say but were abandoned, should be disciplined. Can you explain, in light of the context, in light of other, perhaps clearer passages on divorce, why this is a twisting of the truth here?
The following in an e-mail I received from a woman after speaking on Malachi 2:
I separated from my emotionally and physically abusive husband. He wouldn’t get help and moved in with another woman. We are now divorced. So many shattered dreams.
Today when you said that what God hates is “covering his wife with violence,” I wept, for I had never seen that part of the passage. I have so often felt condemned by the church, but today I sensed God covering me with His tender mercies, letting me know that He sees, He cares, and that He will deal with my husband. I left the seminar feeling loved by God…
Thursday-Friday: Listen to this panel of women from the Women’s Gospel Coalition: Link
12. How would you define, after listening to this, expositional preaching?
13. Why is expositional preaching important?
14. What are some ways, after listening to these women, to become adept at handling the Word of God?
15. With what did you agree from these women? Disagree? Why?
16. What is your take-a-way and why?
4. What did God call priests to do and how did these priests failed? (Malachi 2:7-9). – He told them to guard their knowledge and people should get instruction from them because they are messengers of the Word of God, but they turned from Gods instruction and started to turn away from teaching the truth and started putting their own thoughts into their teaching and made the followers to stumble.
5. These priests of Judah were married to Israelite women. But they have divorced their wives. Why, according to Malachi 2:11? – They acted treacherously and profaned the Lords sanctuary that he loves and married a foreigner.
Ladies to be honest I probably will not have the time to listen to the whole Women’s Gospel Coalition. I have listened to some and will attempt to more while my youngest is napping. I so appreciate the different perspectives you have given on it. I love reading them and I am encouraged by your words. I’m so glad I was about to participate more this week. 🙂
Curious… do you see much church discipline related to any situations leading to divorce? (or any other reason?) I’ve seen stigma, but not as much as in the past (and I know it varies by congregation). The stigma I see (whenever someone doesn’t fit the mold) usually comes from one or two people. But I know that stigma is more institutionalized (or at least, used to be) in some churches.
I’m wondering if church discipline doesn’t happen much anymore — for any reason, partly because people tend to not attend as regularly when they are involved in an ongoing sin that has been made public?
My suspicions aren’t based on a scientific study! I avoid places where moralism and legalist are dominant themes and don’t have a good sense of what is going on elsewhere.
I could only give you a few examples of women I know who were disciplined, though I felt they had strong scriptural grounds. They were both celebrities, and that might have made their churches more nervous. I don’t know.
I also know a church that repented after mistreating one of their women.
I imagine these are rare stories. But so often that Malachi verse is used out of context as a bludgeon.
I hear the Malachi verse being used that way too, but more by individuals in contexts outside of church (e.g., on radio) than in churches in recent years (I avoid bludgeoning churches as much as possible— maybe too much). Glad to hear that a church repented after mistreating someone — WOW! Haven’t heard of that before.
I read the CT article a long time ago and remember thinking that I needed to get the book in order to fill in a couple gaps (can’t remember what the gaps were at the time). But I personally struggle more with questions related to remarriage (and dating, not wanting to be in the way if a couple still has a slight possibility of getting back together, etc.) than questions related to divorce. I suspect that’s where I found gaps in logic in the article.
I have a hard time removing personal experiences enough to think clearly about divorce and remarriage. I know of so many difficult marriages that God has transformed into something beautiful; I know of Christians who seemed to stick with the marriage too long, but I also know of Christians who were determined to get a divorce and looked hard to find something in Scripture to justify it (and one used info by the guy who wrote the CT article).
I am SO thankful that I don’t know all the details and don’t need to come to a conclusion about the rightness/wrongness of (most) specific situations. People come from such different backgrounds that what one person terms “emotional abuse,” another might refer to as “normal.” Those are the situations in which I have had difficulty giving a friend a “stamp of approval” when she asks. I’m sometimes so “anti-bludgeoning” that I’d rather just not say anything, even when friends ask. It’s so much easier just to be supportive.
Dating is the area in which I’ve experienced the most turmoil re: divorce/remarriage, mostly because of NT passages. There seems to be a tension between honoring God’s design for marriage and supporting victims of abuse and divorce; I’ve never found the point on that continuum at which I have peace when dating someone who is divorced (but didn’t need to be at peace due to other challenges with the relationship). I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall when I study it in Scripture. Among some Christians (all of which show grace and commitment to Scripture), one end of the continuum is right; among others, the other end is right. I’ve most seriously explored the issue with those who honestly preface their beliefs with “I may be wrong.” Unfortunately, I tend to side with those I like best/trust most rather than allow God to give me the courage of conviction (Ok, that was the ‘wrong’ answer, so I’ll STOP)
Will be out of town next week. May not have a chance to post — it’s not a sign that I am running in fear after spilling my guts.
“it’s not a sign that I am running in fear after spilling my guts.” oh, love your spirit renee–we will sure miss you!
I think remarriage is probably the sticky issue. I appreciate Craig Keener’s book on that “And Marries Another”
Blessing sto you Renee as you travel!
Thanks Elizabeth and Dee! (will look at Keener’s book)
Renee, you make such a good point about one looking for validation for what they want. The writer of that article made a great deal of sense but I can see how it might be twisted when someone has already decided what to do. There is just no substitute listening to the Holy Spirit and being willing to submit to Him.
so well put
I’m back after we visited my husband’s daughter and son-in-law and their 18 mo old boy, Tucker! Was so glad to visit, but was so thankful I don’t have daycare anymore! I can’t keep up with them anymore!
I’m amazed at myself (and my kids) I actually was able to listen to the whole thing! I know there are questions, but I’m just going to share my thoughts on it, I hope that’s okay.
I love the thought about Scripture being about HIM not us, not about ME. I do believe the Bible was written to help us in our walk with Christ, and bring others to Him. But when reading the Scriptures we should look to what God is trying to teach, not what we can get out of it.
Listening to those women got me thinking, again, how much I’d LOVE to go back to school. Yet, I don’t truly know where God is calling me. I was thinking Early Childhood Education, but I’m still not totally sure what is what I’m meant to do. Plus of course just deciding I want to go back to school is not that simple. We can’t afford it. I know there is student loans, but I’m still in debt a lot from the 2 years I did go to university. My dream in life was to get married young (which happened, I was barely 20) and become a mom and stay home with my kids. Done and doing. Yet, I can’t help but feel God wants more from me. I truly miss school. I miss learning. I even miss writing essays! I’d love to get a degree…in what I don’t know. This is one of these things I wish I could clearly hear God’s voice telling me what He wants me to do!
Also, back to the topic of divorce, I have a question. If someone is separated from their husband or wife, with no hope of reconciling, definitely going to get divorced, are they still bound to their spouse? Are they allowed to date before they are legally divorced?
Glad you got to listen, Krista. May the Lord make it clear on schooling.
If they are still married, they are still bound. I can’t see another possibiity, even though it may be hard.
Thank you Dee, that is what I thought.
My takeaway from this week is the reminder of how important it is to divide the word accurately and look at it in context of the whole. I have seen how it can really lead us in the wrong direction when we don’t and our study in Malachi was a great example of this. When we twist the heart of a passage we end up hurting ourselves and others as a result.
My take away has evolved over the last few days–it sounds strange-but what has struck me most is the desire in us women to grow–to have a richer, deeper intimacy with Him than what we typically find on bookstore shelves. He has put the desire for something richer in us. What I loved from the talk was the reminder that we are not the center–the Bible is God’s Word, His Plan. It’s about Him. I’m weary from topical searches and studies–I want Him. I want to go to His Word to be taught of Him , not looking through my own lens, not with an agenda.
I was also reminded of the importance of Church discipline in our discussions this week. I have been a part of 2 churches, who have Biblically modeled this for me and I have been blessed. The first was our EV Free church years ago–the issue was huge, including marital infidelity of a very high officer in the denomination. The beauty of that example was that we saw the entire cycle–from discipline, to repentance and finally restoration. It was beautiful. I share that to encourage that it does still happen, and I’ve been strengthened by watching it.