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Keys To The Kingdom

Keys To The Kingdom

APRIL 2, 2024

/ Articles / Keys To The Kingdom

Read the Bible like Jesus.

We’re trying to make sense of some of the tension between the Old Testament and the New Testament. There is both continuity and discontinuity, I mentioned in my first post; and last time I introduced the concept of biblical interpretation known as hermeneutics.

I literally have dozens of books on hermeneutics. I’ve read a good chunk of ‘em too. And every author has a sort of “system” they utilize. Basically they’ll tell you there are certain themes that will make the whole Bible easier to understand. And to a certain extent, they’re right.

For example: some will say the “covenants” (or “promises”) God makes are the interpretive key to Scripture. Others will say the relationship between Israel and the Church is the interpretive key. Neither of these are bad things to look for. But what if Scripture itself told us the “secret” to interpretation?

We’d want to pay close attention to that, right?

Read these words from Luke’s Gospel:

Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures. (24:27)

Did you catch that?

Jesus’s way of interpreting the Bible was to show how it concerned him. That’s a pretty helpful key for understanding Scripture.

When it comes to looking for “keys” to interpretation, this is the best one. Jesus has given us the metaphorical “keys to the kingdom” when it comes to interpretation. When in doubt, look for Jesus. He is the King, after all.

Not surprisingly the kingdom is pretty focused on its King. So use the keys and ask as you read, particularly confusing sections of Scripture, “how does this point me to the King?”

This isn’t going to solve all the problems of making sense of the Old and New Testaments, but it’s a really important starting place. We’ll add some more tools to our tool belt later, but for now, let’s give it a little test drive.

Take a minute and read Numbers 21:4-9. It’s a short passage. It’s also not a boring passage.

Now, what’s going on in this text? The people of God are grumbling against God and the result is venomous snakes. They quickly realize the folly of biting the hand that feeds them (literally!) and ask for mercy (I’m tempted to write “they repented,” but one wonders whether they regret their lack of gratitude or simply dislike the consequences, I have four children and I lean toward the latter…).

We then read something remarkable. Something that could be mistaken as superstition.

Moses is instructed to craft a “snake icon” out of bronze and lift it up where those dying of snake bites can gaze upon it. Any who look upon it will miraculously recover from the deadly poison seething through their veins.

All of this is odd enough. But here’s where it goes from nutty superstition to Jesus-centered faith.

Jesus applies this incident to himself in the New Testament. Here it is in John’s gospel:

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)

See that?

I could spill a lot of ink and really elaborate on the implications of this. But let’s keep it brief:

First off, you can pretty easily see how an event that is mostly perplexing in the Old Testament becomes crystal clear in the New Testament. We now know what likely confused the daylights out of ancient Israelites. We are saved not by our rule-keeping or rituals, but by sheer grace. And that grace is dispensed through the act of faith. Those dying of snakebites had to simply gaze in faith upon their savior. In this case, a snake on a pole. What seemed like superstition was a divine object lesson to teach that we cannot save ourselves.

Secondly, let’s ask a question: when are snakes in Scripture ever a considered a good thing?

That’s right, they’re not.

So here Jesus is surprising us (He loves to do this, by the way, otherwise we yawn at the depth of grace). He’s comparing himself to the snake. That’s a wildly perplexing thing for him to do.

Why does he do this? Well, it takes shape when we ponder the reality that He came as a substitute. To become the curse (Gal. 3:13) so that we could inherit the blessing that only He deserves (2 Cor. 5:21).

When He says he will be lifted up, He has the cross in mind. How amazing!

There’s more you can squeeze out of this text though. Why not spend some time doing that today?

I’ll be back soon!

Sean Nolan

Sean Nolan

Sean was an atheist until Jesus used his wife, Hannah, to preach the gospel to him. They have four children: Knox, Hazel, Ransom, and JET. He used to play in […]

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