Most Bible students want to have a clear answer to the meaning of every detail in the Bible. Many feel compelled to supply an answer, even when the Bible does not provide one. Let’s look at some examples.
- The burning bush. “So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn’” (Exodus 3:1-2). What is the significance of the burning bush that was not consumed? Many suggest that it is symbolic of Israel oppressed in Egypt, but not consumed. All I can say is “perhaps.” Perhaps this is a symbol of Israel. Or, perhaps it is simply God’s way of gaining the attention of Moses.
- Blood on the doorposts and on the lintel. “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the LORD… when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you” (Exodus 12:22-23). What is the significance of the lintel and the doorposts? A recent suggestion is that they were to cover their names, which were written on the lintel and on the doorposts, in blood. It seems that the Egyptians believed that the way to eternal life included: (a) Preserving the body (Therefore, they practiced mummification), and (b) Preserving the name [Therefore, they constructed the doorway in stone and etched their names into it. Israelites may have adopted the custom of etching their names in the lintel and doorposts of their houses. L.S. Baker Jr. suggests, “When God required the Israelites to paint the blood they collected from the Passover lamb on the doorposts and lintels, he was asking them to cover their names with the blood of the lamb. By doing this, they were taught the rudiments of salvation. Their names on stone did not ensure life in the hereafter. Only the blood of the lamb could do that” (Ministry International Journal for Pastors, Sept. 2009)]. All I can say is “perhaps.” Perhaps they had adopted this custom and God is teaching them a lesson. Or, perhaps this is simply God’s condition. Perhaps, the blood of the lintel and the doorposts simply covered the inhabitants of the house, all who were found within the entry of the house.
- Moses’ raised hands. “And so it was when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hand became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side…” (Exodus 17:11-12). What is the significance of raising the hands? Some Christians have suggested that this pictures Jesus’ hands later being stretched out on the cross. Is this reason? It seems more like eisegesis than exegesis. Some Jews have another explanation. The Talmud reads, “The text implies that whenever the Israelites looked up and dedicated their hearts to the Father in heaven, they prevailed, but otherwise they fell” (Dennis Prager, The Rational Bible: Exodus, p. 192 quoting Talmud Mishnah Rosh Hashana 3:8). Was this designed to teach a lesson about dedicated hearts? Such seems a stretch. Could this be teaching that victory is from above and not from Israelite might on the earth? I believe that this is the point.
- Boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 23:19). Why was this law given to Israel? Some suggest that it was given because of an idolatrous practice. Maybe, it is so. Some believe that it was given because the practice showed disrespect for the parent-child relationship. Many other explanations have been set forth. Someone wisely said, “The truth is that we do not know for sure why God commanded this. But it does not really matter, since the Israelites knew exactly what they were not to do, even if they did not fully understand why. So while there is a problem in understanding the purpose of this passage, there is no problem in understanding its meaning” (Exodus 23:19, defendinginerrancy.com).
- The use of spit and clay. “He spat and touched his tongue” (Mark 7:33). “And when He had spit on his eyes…” (Mark 8:23). “He spat on the ground and made saliva, and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay” (John 9:6). Why did Jesus use spit and clay to heal? It was not necessary. He healed in other ways, and sometimes from a distance (Matthew 8:8-13; 15:28; Mark 1:31; 2:11; 3:5; 5:41-42; 7:29-30; Luke 17:11-14; John 2:6-11; etc.). Some believe that the spit and clay are reminders of creation. God formed man out of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). He is the potter (cf. Jeremiah 18). Even so, Jesus’ works demonstrate that He is doing the works of God (cf. John 3:1-2). What about the spit without clay? Some suggest that saliva was thought to have healing properties. Therefore, Jesus takes something that they did, and did something far beyond what they had ever seen [much like the use of oil (Luke 10:34 cf. Mark 6:12-13)]. Others believe that this is teaching humility. Spitting on one was an insult (Numbers 12:14; Deuteronomy 29:5; Job 17:6; 30:10; Isaiah 50:6). He was teaching that one must be humble enough to accept His conditions to receiving the benefit. All that I can say to these suggestions is “perhaps.” It is true that man must be humble enough to submit to His conditions for the benefit (cf. 2 Kings 5:9-14; John 9:6-7; Acts 2:36-38).
- Jesus’ writing on the ground. “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear them” (John 8:6). What did Jesus write? The text does not say. Some have suggested that He wrote Jeremiah 17:13, which reads, “Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.” Jesus said merely a day earlier, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37 cf. 8:2). Some believe that He actually wrote their names on the ground. This is an interesting suggestion. Some have suggested that He wrote the words of Hosea 4:13-14, showing their hypocrisy. All I can say is “perhaps.” Or, perhaps He was simply doodling, ignoring them.
My point is this: we may not always know why things were done, in the Bible, as they were done. We may not always know why we are to do certain things, or why God chooses to do things a certain way. However, we should trust Him enough to do what He tells us. The blind man did not receive his sight until He complied with Jesus’ conditions for sight (John 9:1-7). Naaman was not cleansed of leprosy until he complied with the instructions of Elisha, a prophet of God (2 Kings 5:9- 14) . Consider the words of the familiar song, Trust and Obey, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey” (song: Trust and Obey by J.H. Sammis).