Blog Posts on Tough Texts

When the Bible Is Hard to Understand

John Knight
When the Bible Is Hard to Understand

Years ago Noel Piper recommended a way to read the Bible that helped her, and, as I eventually discovered, helped me as well. She introduced a strategy that turned Bible reading from duty to delight:

I became a hunter, and my blue highlighter was my weapon. The prey was God’s attributes. I set out to underline everything the Bible says about God (didn’t want to set my sights too narrow!). . .

This “hunt for God” was irresistible to me. It drew me like a magnet. And once I... Continue Reading

Sometimes the Lord Slays His Loved Ones

John Piper
Sometimes the Lord Slays His Loved Ones

Some people are by nature tough, blunt, matter-of-fact, unsentimental. Others are tender, warm, soft-spoken, emotionally sensitive. Some, amazingly, are a mixture. In general, what makes these different folks feel loved is very different.

Being assessed by these different people can be dismaying. Their responses to a sermon, or a comment in conversation, can be poles apart — one feeling firmly loved, another feeling put off by perceived harshness.

What should we do? I... Continue Reading

Why God Makes Understanding Difficult

Tyler Kenney
Why God Makes Understanding Difficult

Jonathan Edwards, from Miscellanies #139:

I am convinced that there are many things in religion and the Scriptures that are made difficult on purpose to try men, and to exercise their faith and scrutiny, and to hinder the proud and self-sufficient.

John Piper addresses this same issue, speaking particularly about difficulties we encounter in Scripture, in his sermon, "Why God Inspired Hard Texts." He says God has given us hard texts to prompt at least four things, which... Continue Reading

Let Them Be Like the Snail That Dissolves to Slime

John Piper

"Snail trail" by Mangiwau on Flickr

Psalm 58 is an imprecatory psalm. David asks God to tear out the fangs of his enemies, blunt their arrows, melt them like a snail in the sun.

We sometimes stumble at these psalms because Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

Can humble, obedient, loving Christians ever pray Psalm 58 and mean it the way the psalmist did?

Yes. Here is one possible scenario.

The wicked in view “deal out violence on the earth” (v. 2). They... Continue Reading

Unconditional Is the Ground of Conditional

John Piper

Some Bible passages make crystal clear what we must not assume when reading other Bible passages. For example, consider Exodus 33:13 where Moses prays to God,

If I have found favor in your sight,
please show me now your ways,
that I may know you,
in order to find favor in your sight.

What this verse prevents us from assuming is that, if God’s favor is conditional, it is therefore not unconditional.

Or to put it another way, the verse prevents us from assuming... Continue Reading

There Are No Surprise Sins

John Piper

One of the mercies of God that keeps me believing in him is that none of the events of history or of the news today, which seem to contradict God’s character, contradict God’s Word.

In other words, there are no surprise sins or surprise calamities in this world for those who know their Bibles.

The reason this sustains faith is that, if the very book that tells me about God’s wisdom and power and justice and love also tells me of the worst seeming contradictions of his character,... Continue Reading