When Verses Fly

birdsbookFulfillment and application are two examples when verses can fly.  What I mean is that a saying can sometimes be tied down to a specific application.  It can only “walk” over to a very similar context.

One example is “You shall have no other gods before me.” it is pretty clear that the command prohibits the adding of gods to God.  To walk that to application you need to see an example when someone is trying to claim allegiance to the Lord but also adds another deity just to be safe.  A clear application is in the reforms of King Josiah where idols of all kinds were removed from the Temple in Israel – after the Bible was discovered and the King read to his dismay how far they had fallen from clear commands from God.  (Exodus 20:3 and 2 Kings 23).  However, the command seems to take some flight when in a list of sins the Apostle says that greed is idolatry.  Yet we can see where trusting in money as your first love and your sense of security is much like worshiping and idol.  Money has become a god.  (Colossians 3:5, perhaps take a side trip to Acts 19:21ff).

Other times fulfillment and application seem to fly over context and land appropriately in another situation.  The command or prophecy seems to have wings.

One example is fulfillment in the Gospel of Matthew – how can the prophecy about the nation Israel in Hosea 11:1 be applied to the return of Jesus’ family from Egypt in Matthew 2:15?  Many have accused Matthew of taking the prophecy out of context.  However in Matthew’s theology we see that Jesus came in fulfillment and completion of all that God was doing in the Old Covenant and that in ways Jesus recapitulates the life of Israel in his own ministry (40 years in the wilderness facing temptation for Israel, Jesus fasts and is tested in the wilderness for 40 days and cites scripture from Israel’s desert wanderings in his conflict with Satan – see Matthew 4 and its references to Deuteronomy).

Another example is the word from Moses to the nation in Deuteronomy 31:6:  Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.  These words are repeated in the Lord’s command to Joshua in Joshua 1 (v. 6,7,9).  Later the people turn and say to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:18).  So far those are all applications of the command to the same context.

However in Hebrews 13:5 we find this:  Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  This quote from Deuteronomy 31 is taken “out of context” from anything having to do with conquest, to a list of commands at the end of the book of Hebrews. It is applied to the love of money, not conquest. It is applied to all believers, not just to the leader. It is applied even without reference to the original setting.  In this case the affirmation “I will never leave you or forsake you.” is taken to be so solidly true that it can be taken anywhere and applied.  Love of money can be a substitute for trust in God – when we have funds in the bank, we don’t have to pray for our daily bread, or so we think.

Jesus took the prohibition of adultery and murder in the 10 commandments and applied them to our words and our thoughts.  (Matthew 5:21-30).

There is a thing in Greek grammar called a “gnomic aorist”.  A verb is nominally in a past tense (there are two past tenses in Greek), but the word is meant to denote a general truth. (A Greek Grammar, Goodwin, p.276)  It takes on the quality of a proverb – a general truth that can have many applications – in other words a verse that flies.


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