One of the rewards of Bible study is those “oh, now I get it” moments, when you finally understand a passage that had puzzled or troubled you. I’ve had more than a few of those moments over the years.
For example, in 2 Samuel 6:1-7, the ark of the covenant is being transported on an ox cart when the oxen stumble, shaking the ark and causing one of them men on the cart, Uzzah, to reach out and steady the ark. God strikes Uzzah dead on the spot for breaking God’s command not to touch the ark. And we think: Wow, God, that’s harsh. What else was he supposed to do? Let it fall?
But there’s more to it. The ark wasn’t supposed to be carried on an ox cart to begin with: God had provided detailed instructions for its care, telling the Israelites to carry it on their shoulders, using poles that went through ringlets on its sides. Thus, what strikes us as a story of God punishing an understandable instinctive reaction takes on a new meaning. The Israelites had grown careless about keeping God’s very specific commands: They wanted to do things their own way (perhaps because using a cart was easier than carrying it themselves). The offense of touching the ark was the culmination of those attitudes.
For another example, look at 1 Corinthians 11, which discusses the shame of a woman having her head uncovered. What, we wonder, was wrong with that? Well, as a footnote in my study Bible puts it:
In Roman culture, both men and women conveyed their status, including their marital situation, by their appearance. A head covering, basically a shawl draped over the head, conveyed that a woman was married and intended to remain in that situation. Some Roman women, however, sought to live a “new women” who did not intend to remain faithful to their husbands. Women who uncovered their head immodestly drew attention to themselves by signaling that they were available to other men. In the name of “Gospel freedom” and “rights,” this thinking and behavior began to influence Christians in Corinth. Paul’s instruction, as in chapters 8-10, reminds the Corinthians that their actions always communicate something to others. They are to refrain from behavior that communicates something at odds with the Christian life.
Those are just a couple examples: I could list more, and many of you can, too. (We’ll get to that in a moment.) But here’s a caution: As rewarding as it can be to make biblical discoveries, be careful not to fall in love with the feeling of discovery at the expense of discernment. Not every fascinating discovery — or dynamic teacher — can be trusted. Watch out, especially, for those who tell you that everything biblical which conflicts with our modern sensibilities is merely an artifact of the culture of the time. The purpose of Bible study is to understand the Word of the Lord, not to confirm our preferences or to make us feel more at home in this world.
That said, it’s your turn. Let’s hear some of the things you’ve learned in Bible studies and the “now I get it” moments you’ve had.