Scripture is not like take-out at McDonalds

Published 2:30 am Saturday, November 10, 2018

They’re on high alert as they make their way to the river, fishing gear in tow. Only when they’ve moved far from shore do they feel safe enough to bring forth Bibles.  They must share their worn copies, not having nearly enough for everyone.

This is North Korea, where reading Scripture is punished severely by imprisonment.

Suddenly these Christians are terrified, according to Rachel Goodwin at World Help. She wrote last Sunday that a second boat has drawn near.

Have they been caught?

The man in the approaching boat extends a box to them. Inside are enough new Bibles for everyone. The Christians cheer and many weep.

Scripture means the world to them just as it did to King Josiah. Reigning in Judah roughly 600 years before Christ, the Bible says there was no king like Josiah, who gave everything to God. 2Kings 23:25, 22:2 

The day will come when Josiah will also weep when he’s given Scripture. But not like the North Korean Christians. His are not tears of joy, but sorrow.

It seems while Josiah’s men repair the temple, the Book of the Law is found, apparently hidden away during the evil reigns of earlier kings. When it’s read to Josiah, he rips his clothes and weeps.

I’m about to tell you why the king was so upset—you won’t believe the things God’s people were doing—but first Josiah sends the scrolls to Huldah, the highest prophet in the country. Huldah asks the Lord if they’re authentic or a fraud. Although we don’t know exactly what the Book of the Law contained, God certifies that it’s Scripture.

Josiah then calls his people together, reads the scrolls, and everyone agrees to follow the law. Here are the changes Josiah makes: all the vessels used to worship Baal and other idols in God’s temple are brought forth and burned; idolatrous priests are deposed or killed; religious prostitution ends; child sacrifice is abolished; the altars Solomon built to gods 300 years earlier are destroyed; and wizards and mediums are banned. 2Kings 23:1-24

It’s hard to believe, but those practices had become customary and acceptable for God’s people. 

And the prophet Huldah says the nation will pay for its evil, but not during the reign of Josiah. 2Kings 22:15ff.

Indeed, Judah is conquered by the Babylonians in 597 B.C. during the next king’s reign.

Huldah’s words from God had authority over everyone—the king, the men of the kingdom, Huldah’s spouse.

Yet Huldah was a woman. 2Kings 22:14

Some 600 years later, the Apostle Paul will say: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” 1Timothy 2:12

So who’s right?

Listen, everything in the Bible is meant to be there. God does not err. The answer is rooted in the early church’s decisions about circumcision. Jewish Christians still must be circumcised, but Gentiles are exempt. Instead, the apostles implement four obscure rules for the Gentiles. Acts 15:20

Paul will change his thinking on one of those rules. 1Corinthians 8, 10:25-33

He also changes his mind about Jewish Christians needing circumcision—we’re saved by the cross of Christ and that alone.

None of this is a secret; the early church struggled and the apostles disagreed.

Decades pass in the book of Acts, and Paul’s thinking on grace, circumcision, food, slavery, John Mark, and even women changes. He’ll ultimately say, “There is no Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

It’s an inconvenient truth for many that Paul is not perfect at the get-go. That his theology strengthens over 30 years.

Why? Because many want to open the Bible, point to Paul’s words, and that’s that. End of story.

Let me gently say that Scripture isn’t like take-out from the drive thru at McDonalds. “Pass me that verse through the window, and I’m good.” Care as much about God’s word as the North Koreans who cherished the Bibles they received. As much as Josiah, who treasured the Scripture found in the temple. 

Study your Bible to understand what God is saying. The Bible is never wrong. We’re only confused when we don’t learn what’s there.

© 2018 R.A. Mathews The Rev. R. A. Mathews is a freelance faith columnist and the author of “Reaching to God: Great Truths from the Bible.”