Monday, November 08, 2010

God's Intent and Purpose for His Word

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

In the context of Isaiah 55, the section quoted above has to do with God keeping His promises to those He invites to "Come" in verse 1, and "Seek" in verse 6. Verses 10-11 are given as an encouragement to heed the call to repentance that is being presented in the chapter.

The principle enunciated in this passage is that the words that come from God's mouth have a purpose and intent, and that purpose and intent will be achieved. It is on the basis of that principle that the hearers of Isaiah's day could have assurance that God would honor the promises given in the context of Isaiah 55.

Without doubt all of God's Word is given with an intent and purpose. It is our job in studying a particular passage of Scripture to discern what that intent and purpose was and is. The Word accomplishes what He intends and purposes, not what we may intend or purpose.

This means we need to be very careful how we handle and apply the Word of God. We need to make very sure that our intent and purpose in exegeting and applying a passage of Scripture lines up with God's intent and purpose for that passage. We do not have the option of bringing our own agenda into a text or passage of Scripture. This constraint points to several hermeneutic principles we dare not ignore.

A passage or text of Scripture can not be divorced from its immediate and broader context, specifically the place of that text or passage in the unfolding of redemptive history. This also means approaching the text from the perspective of Biblical theology in contrast to bringing our systematic theology into the text.1

The crux of the issue comes in the applications the preacher or teacher makes from the text in hand. We've all seen it done at one time or another. A pastor or teacher takes a passage or text of Scripture, and proceeds to squeeze out of that text or passage every possible application even remotely connected or possible, and that without regard to the original intent and context of the passage. Over time under such preaching and teaching, one begins to suspect the preacher or teacher is more interested in using scripture to promote their own particular agenda or fancy then discerning and focusing on God's intent and purpose.

Does God have more then one intent and purpose for a given text? The answer is a qualified yes... There is the intent and purpose for the original audience and the intent and purpose for those of us who are removed in time from that original audience. But it is my contention that the purpose for us today in the New Covenant is not that far removed from the purpose for the original audience, and that there is an organic connection between the two that should constrain how we make applications from said text or passage to our day and age.

The power of God's Word is realized in our preaching and teaching when our intent and purpose lines up with God's intent and purpose for His Word. We need stay out of the way and let the Word be the Word.


~ The Billy Goat ~

1 "Toward An Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching & Teaching" Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (Baker Books, 1981); pgs 161-162

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