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The One Small Fact That Changed How I Read The Bible

December 1, 2021

What if I told you that people don’t really care what the Bible says? You might echo Jon Foreman of Switchfoot in your response and say “Welcome to the planet.” But what if I also told you that people didn’t care about the Bible as it was being written? What if I told you that the very people to whom the Bible was written were the very ones who didn’t care about what it said?

I want to invite you to view Scripture in a way that few people seem to realize, and yet is clear from the very words of Scripture and so easy to see in retrospect:

The Bible is a minority report.

I don’t take credit for this idea, I got it from a class called “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible” taught by BibleProject’s Tim Mackie (free for anyone who wants to watch). But I must say, when I first heard it, it blew my mind.

Think about it just for a second. If we read the prophets, especially folks like Isaiah and Ezekiel, we can clearly see that they are speaking condemnation to the nation of Israel, the majority of the people around them. When we read the judges and prophets like Elijah crying out to God how only he remains to stand against the wicked king (to which God replies “Oh please, you’re not that special,” my translation), it shows us that the followers of Yahweh were vastly outnumbered by those of their own people who had adopted pagan influence. Moses in the Torah is constantly dealing with people complaining and outright disobeying to the point where several plagues are unleashed just to get them to shut up and get their act together.

The authors of the Old Testament, more often than not, were part of a remnant of people who had chosen to remain faithful to their God in the face of a culture that had overwhelmingly rejected Him. Similar things can be said in the New Testament. The Church wasn’t the majority people group in the ancient Roman world. It was a small (albeit growing) religious sect cropping up out of that annoying backwater district of Judaea, like dandelions in a freshly mowed lawn.

What is the significance of this? I’m not here to make any sweeping interpretive claims or tell you that you’ve been reading the Bible wrong your whole life (I think God knows how to write a book that you can basically understand without me telling you how to read it), but I am here to invite you to view it as something different than a set of principles that was universally recognized and agreed upon the second it appeared.

I’m inviting you to see it as a template of how God works. Sure, God used some authoritative figures to get some parts down (Moses wasn’t exactly a sideliner), but it seems like for the most part, once Moses passed away a lot of people that came along with their contributions to Scripture were constantly trying to steer Israel back to their covenant with God, oftentimes failing miserably in the process (exile, anyone?). Yet through it all, God’s Word endured. Kings and gods all passed away until it was only the word of Yahweh that remained.

What do I think we should get from this? Let me be clear about this first, God is not beholden to predictability. He’s not a chemical in a test tube. What did the folks in Narnia say about Aslan? He’s not a tame lion, but he is good. Yet in His method of “mysterious ways,” God has set a precedent for working through the small things, through those pushed to the sideline, through those called to speak truth to power.

Up until the 4th century, one of the last things followers of Yahweh had ever been (for any extended period of time that is) is the majority, much less a people in much power. And once that majority and power was achieved, well, we see how checkered the Church’s past is.

It makes me wonder how Christians should be approaching power and authority.

Scripture is speaking to us, not from the vantage point of a powerful and successful people or some great social experiment where everyone obeyed God and all was well. It speaks to us from the view of the outcast, of the oppressed, of the rejected, of the minority. Scripture and the people of God thrive as outcasts, as (legitimately) oppressed, as rejected, as a minority. And though I don’t think this is grounds, for me at least, to say anything super definitive, it does make me wonder. Should we even be seeking power as Christians? As an American, should I be seeking to establish the entire Bible as law? If those mentioned above are the people that God worked through the most in the past, who is He working the most through now?

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