Working at a law firm help desk, every now and then we come across someone who “knows enough to be dangerous.” For example, one day someone called the help line because the person made changes to an e-mail attachment, saved the changes, but now can’t locate the document. This is something we can easily recover for the person by going to a hidden temporary folder on their computer. However, just before calling us, the person had run a “clean disk” on their computer which wipes out all temporary files. So we couldn’t recover the document. That person knew enough to be dangerous.
It can be the same way with people armed with a bit of “bible knowledge.” They rarely acquire this knowledge from studying the scriptures directly. Instead they simply repeat some trivia or tidbits they overheard or read. This seems especially true with folks who have a disdain for Christianity, often insisting the Bible is full of inconsistencies. So I appreciated the below snippet from a sermon at church a few months ago. This snippet (transcribed below) was shared by Pastor Aaron, with the 9 am service only, on February 26, 2012.
Contradictions that appear to be that way really aren’t. Read below.
We just read [in the Book of Acts] that Peter saying that Judas took the 30 pieces of silver and went and bought a field with it, right? However, if we look at Matthew 27:5-8, it says Judas went and said, “I went and betrayed innocent blood,” and went back to the priests and threw the money on the floor when they wouldn’t take it and walked out and hung himself. So according to Matthew’s Gospel, Judas did not buy a field. It was the priests who picked the money up. They went and bought a field with the money because they said, “Oh, we can’t use this money. It’s not clean.” They went and bought a field with it. So why here [in Acts] do we see it being said that Judas bought the field? Do you see what’s going on here?
This is a way that you will see the scriptures speak in terms of a sovereignty or an ownership even when that person is not the one doing it. Let me go into this a little more and please give me your ears. Whose money was it? Judas’ money. He threw the money down. Matthew 27 tells us, who went and bough the field? The priests. Whose money was it? Judas’. So it’s just a way the scriptures are written that says “because it was Judas’ money, Judas bought the field.” Though it was the priests that bought the field with Judas’ money. Do you see that? Guess what, you see it some other places in scripture too.
What about in Exodus when it says the Lord hardens Pharoah’s heart? Is the Lord the author of sin? Would the Lord harden Pharoah’s heart and then turn around and say to Pharoah, “You’re guilty of hardening your heart and resisting and not submitting to me”? Would the Lord do that? No. The Lord does not tempt, James says. Nor is He the author of Evil. What does that mean? It means that God just allowed Pharoah’s heart to go its natural course of hardening without mercifully tenderizing it and keeping it from going hardened. But because the Lord is soverign and because not a bird can fall to the ground without His permission, the Lord just permitting that to happen, the scripture just says, “The Lord did that.” But the Lord did not do that. Pharaoah did that.
You see the same thing in the Book of Job. Who asked permission to flip Job’s world upside down? Satan. Who afflicted Job’s body with nasty sores and infection? Satan, right? God in His infinite wisdom permitted it to happen. In Job 1 and 2, it says [repeatedly] that Satan did this to Job. But then because the Lord is sovereign and a bird can not fall to the ground without His permission and He reigns in his infinite wisdom that we’ll never be able to wrap our minds around. He is God, and He is God alone. Job 42:11 says, “The LORD afflicted Job.” Do you see the way it’s written?
And it’s the same thing here [ in Acts]. It was Judas’ money, his loot. Because it was his loot that bought the field, here it’s saying Judas bought the field. But really it was the priests that did it. It is a biblical construction of words that you’ll actually see occur [throughout the Bible]. But it gives you understanding to say, “Okay, I see this now,” right? Maybe many of you always wondered, you know, God hardened Pharoah’s heart would always make you scratch your head.
Here’s the thing. Whenever you’re reading the Bible, always use scripture to interpret scripture. Only diamond can cut diamond. Use the Word of God to amplify other portions of the Word of God. So if you see a part that is confusing. You can at least rule out what it’s not saying. God hardened Pharoah’s heart? I don’t understand that. But wait a minute, the scripture says God is not the author of Evil. Hardening one’s heart is Evil. God wouldn’t do that. The scriptures say that God will never tempt anyone. A person is tempted by their own wicked heart. Okay, I don’t understand all that it’s saying, but I at least know what it’s not saying. Always use the Bible to interpret the Bible.
Good stuff. This was not even what the sermon was about that day. But a little snippet I wanted to share. In hopes it will bless someone out there who may be struggling with reading seeming “glitches” in the Bible. Or for Christians in the midst of being “confronted” by a non-believer challenging the Bible.
I actually had the question about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart early on my Christian walk. I recall the “relief” I felt when I learned why the Bible puts it that way, due to God’s sovereignty. If it happened, even something like Pharaoh’s heart getting hard, God gets the credit. Shout out to Dr. Steven Fettke, my Old Testament professor at Southeastern University. I sure wish I had blogged back then!
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What are some contradictions you’ve heard about the Bible? What does “study to show yourself approved mean?” (That’s a scripture in 2 Timothy.) What do you do when you run across what seems to be an inconsistentcy in scripture?