During my seminary days, a question was asked that began to haunt me. “What is the truth, and just who is it that decides?” The Baptists disagreed with the Methodists who disagreed with the Presbyterians who disagreed with the Lutherans who disagreed with the Catholics. We all read the same Bible (give or take a few books). So, who has it right? What is the correct interpretation? What is the truth and who decides? That question has become even more poignant in our postmodern culture that dismisses absolute truth in favor of many truths holding equal credibility.
Our readings for today help us answer this question. Read on…
Read Deuteronomy 26:16-19 – The Truth is Presented
In this passage, God is calling Israel into a covenant relationship. If they will keep His statutes and be faithful to observe His commands with all their hearts and souls, then He will be their God and they will be His covenant people. God doesn’t say this one time. He doesn’t say it two times. He reiterates the proposal three times. If they will follow God’s Law faithfully, God will establish them as His sacred nation, esteemed among all the nations He has made. This was God’s promise all along.
God’s promise, made initially to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3, established that God would make of Abraham a great nation, that he would have a great name, and that his progeny would be blessed and be a blessing to all nations. “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” In Genesis 22:18, (an event called the Aqedah), when Abraham offered obediently to sacrifice his son of promise, Isaac, God’s promise was updated to covenant status. The Word came to Abraham, “…in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” In Exodus 4:22, God says, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son…” Israel was to be the first born among the brotherhood of the nations. Through Israel, God’s son, he wanted all of the “younger brothers” to be invited to worship Him in Jerusalem. God said of Israel, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
How did Israel interpret God’s promise to them that they were His firstborn son, a holy nation and God’s ambassadors to the nations? Rather than see themselves as missionaries, they relished their exclusivity with God. They viewed those outside the covenant (the Gentiles), as dogs. Clearly, there is a disagreement here in interpretation. Israel had their version of the truth. The nations had their version of the truth. Truth be told, they needed an authoritative interpreter to come and set the record straight! Read on…
Read Matthew 5:43-48 – The Truth is Interpreted!
In these verses from the Sermon on the Mount, we encounter the last of Jesus’ “antithetical statements.” He declares, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'” This is the way God’s Word was interpreted in the Old Covenant. It interesting to note that nowhere in the Old Covenant Law do we find the command to “hate your enemy.” God’s Word did teach them to love their neighbors. But, to that, the people had added their own spin. This interpretation was a substitute for what God intended. Now, Jesus offers a corrective. He says, “You have heard it said…but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Those who do this, Jesus adds, are truly the children of the Heavenly Father. Loving those who love us is expected behavior. Even the tax collectors and pagans do that. What God expects from His family, his holy nation, is that they will be “perfect”. What does that mean? It means that we will love others, even our enemies, as the Lord loves. Romans 5:11 states, “…while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…” What Israel, God’s “first born son” failed to do, Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, accomplished perfectly. This self-sacrificial love is the perfection into which we are called.
If we are to discover the truth, we need to look to the One who is the Truth. Jesus offers us the definitive, authoritative interpretation of God’s Word – because He is God’s Word. During these days of journeying to Jerusalem, may we “fix our eyes on Jesus.” In a world of relative truth – Jesus declares, “I am the Truth.” On that and every subject, He is the final Word!