What do you want it to say?

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Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God
    and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! 10 For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you.
11 And they will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

12 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

13 When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

– Luke 4:1-13 [NLT]

Saguaro Cacti | Phoenix, AZ | January 2022

“I have just one question for you.” The statistical research firm was interviewing prospective researchers. “What is two plus two?”

“Four,” came the quick and confident answer.

“Thank you very much. We’ll be in touch.” And the first applicant was dismissed.

The second was like it. “What’s two plus two?”

“Four.”

Again, “Thank you very much. We’ll be in touch.”

The third comes in. Same question, “What’s two plus two?”

The third applicant responded, “What do you want it to be?”

“You’re hired!”

Someone once saw W.C. Fields reading the Bible. Fields was noted for many things. Being religious was decidedly not one of them. His friend asked, “What are you doing reading the Bible?”

“Looking for loopholes!” Fields relied.

Too often we – though much more subtle than the third applicant or the irreligious Fields – do much the same. We will ferret out verses that suit our personal bias, pre-conceived conclusions, and hobby horses, all the while ignoring the greater witness of the whole of Scripture. One of the basic rules of proper Bible interpretation is that Scripture interprets Scripture. In other words, if we don’t understand a particular passage, we look for other places in the Bible that speak to that same issue. It is also called the analogy of faith.

Here’s another way to consider it:

Does the Church interpret Scripture? In some traditions that is exactly what applies. The Church tells the people what to believe and urges the people to trust the teachings of the Church; or

Does the individual interpret Scripture? In reaction to obvious abuses in the Church, and a misguided effort to retain personal individualism people will say, “You have no right to tell me what to believe.” I’ll interpret the Bible for myself. Some even call this personal doctrinal autonomy. There is, however, a better way;

Scripture interprets Scripture. There are some difficult passages in the Bible. Some even appear to contradict one another. The rule that Scripture interprets Scripture helps us here, pointing us to the clear teachings of the Bible in place of the sensational or confusing passages.

Satan will have none of that. He will use Scripture for his own purposes. He quotes from the Old Testament Scriptures. He twists truth to his own agenda: deceive Jesus, taking him down, thwarting God’s plan. In every case – not just when Satan twists Scripture – Jesus appeals to the clear teachings of God’s word. 

Psalm 119:11 offers us great wisdom: I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Jesus’ example shows how this actually works. We do well to let God’s word speak to us so that we may resist temptation and thwart Satan’s efforts to deceive us. God’s word, after all, is a fountain of life-giving truth!

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