Why did God Write Down His Word?
I once was friends with a therapist who told his patients that a person’s dreams are a message from one’s mind to oneself. He said that every character in your dream is, in some part, a part of you.
The Word of God is a message, a guide book, and a contract. Nearly every verse is written, by God, to His people. But to truly understand what it means to be one of His people, I need to assume that the verses are written only to me.
I wanted to share a way that I sometimes analyze a Scripture, to reflect on its meaning for me, personally, as if a love letter written from the Almighty and deposited into my mailbox.
Today’s Reading: John 8: 2-11
The study uses question words to analyze and summarize the key points of the passage, and to go beyond them to application in the reader’s life. I will show you how I analyze this passage, but remember that God wrote the love letter to you, too, and the message you receive will be personal, and applicable only to you.
First Step: Read the passage.
When you read, notice the words that are used, and the words that aren’t used. People are picky about their versions (I use KJV – here’s a link to the passage on Bible Gateway), but I think you could do this process with whatever version you choose, so long as you are consistent with the version. You’ll see why as we go on.
And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them.
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto Him, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him.
But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” She said, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus said unto her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Second Step: Who is the passage (mostly) about?
To do this, I simply write down the characters (implied or stated directly), and tally them up (you can often do this in your head – but do it on paper because you might be surprised, and it makes a difference in the interpretation):
- Jesus – 23 references
- The People – 15
- The Woman – 13
- The Scribes & Pharisees – 7
- Moses – 1
Interestingly, if you go with your gut, you might think that, because the dialog is between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees, they are the most significant character in the story. But remember: the Word is written to God’s People. Were the Scribes and Pharisees God’s People? Hmmm…
So, the major players in this tale are Jesus, the people, and the accused woman.
Third Step: What is the passage mostly about?
Okay, here I’m just going to tell you. The answer is always the same. Assume that everything you read in the Bible is about your relationship with God. The trick is, through the rest of the study, to figure out what part of our relationship this is addressing for us at just this moment.
So we’ll go on, then come back to this one at the end, when we have more clarification.
Of course, perhaps there’s something that you and God have been working out together: forgiveness, envy, holding your tongue, whatever. You could plug that in here, too, because God will speak to your circumstances in whatever reading you choose.
Fourth Step: Where did the story take place?
Fifth Step: When did the story take place?
As this is part of the Gospel, we can determine that it happened during the three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry. (So… Now I’m thinking this is a message about things that happen during ministry work: teaching, preaching, music, community service…)…
Sixth Step: Why was it included in God’s message to me?
This is where I make an analogy to my therapist friend’s dream interpretation statement.
- Everything that God or Jesus does is how God feels toward me.
- Everything that the other folks do represents different ways that God expects I might act toward others.
So let’s look at the major players again, to decide what God is telling me in this passage:
Jesus’ actions represent how God feels toward me (remember, it’s always about God and me):
- He wants to teach me.
- He knows everything bad that I’ve ever done and yet…
- He doesn’t condemn me for it.
- He stays with me when everyone else accuses and leaves me.
Wow. That’s cutting to the chase, isn’t it?
So what do the actions of the other major players, the woman and the crowd of people say about me?
The woman’s actions first:
- She is accused of wrongdoing by others.
- She is humiliated by others in public.
- She is powerless over her situation.
- She is left alone with Jesus.
- When Jesus steps in, her accusers leave her, and do nothing to her.
- She only talks to Jesus about her troubles.
- She is not condemned by Jesus.
Hmmm… I might have a situation where I am being accused by church folks, and maybe even humiliated publicly at church. Whatever the issue, I might feel I have no voice, no power in the situation.
So I turn to Jesus, and tell Him (and only Him) about my troubles. When He is near, I realize that what I thought was an insurmountable, death-dealing situation has suddenly vanished without a trace.
The end result? If God doesn’t condemn me, there’s no one else left who can.
The people’s actions, next:
- They came to hear the Word of God.
- They stood by and watched another person be accused, and waited around to see what would happen.
- They had all done wrong things in secret.
- They felt guilty when confronted by Jesus.
- Instead of dealing with their wrong deeds, they fled from Jesus.
Wow, again! Here’s one possible scenario, as a way of interpreting this in my life:
I show up for choir practice, and stand by to listen to another person’s character be executed, and she is not even there to defend herself. I (of course) have not been entirely angelic lately, but I don’t let those folks know, because I might be the next one they attack. Besides, they don’t know, right? If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, it doesn’t make a sound, correct? After all, I have my good reputation to keep up. And listening to the conversation is kind of fun. Then, another choir member says the right thing, or quotes a scripture, which convicts me. Instead of repenting of my actions and thoughts, I excuse myself and avoid thinking about it, pretending I was never there listening.
How many times has that happened to you? Sadly, I know it happens to me all the time — standing by while people gossip about others, enjoying the drama (unless, of course, I am the topic of the gossip, then I have the nerve to be offended!). By doing nothing, I allow another person to be murdered with the power of the tongue, because I am looking out for my own best interests.
Seventh Step: How will I change my actions as a result of my new understanding of God’s desires for me?
Jesus’ actions tell me what God wants me to be like. The actions of the woman tell me about God’s love for me. The actions of the people are a warning to me about areas I need to work on.
After studying this passage, it seemed to me to be about participating in gossip as a listener, about repentance for my own errors, and about God’s mercy toward me when I seek His face when I’ve done wrong.
- When I have trouble, no matter how difficult, I will go to God first, because Jesus has already provided a way out for me. Take it to the throne, not the phone!
- I will not be a spectator to wrong-doing, including gossip and abusive speech about others. Other people’s troubles are not entertainment!
- If I learn something that convicts me in an area of my life, I will let God deal with me about it, and not try to excuse myself or hide. Repent! No excuses!
Now Try it With Your Own Study…
The important thing for YOU is not what the Scripture says about MY life, but what the Scripture tells you about YOURS. After all, it’s always about you and God…
Peace to all!