Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth Part 1

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Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
April 9, 1998

Last Updated :
September 5, 2012

NOTE: This article or series has not been updated recently. As such, it may possibly contain some outdated information, and/or ideas and beliefs which I no longer embrace, or which have changed to some degree.

An Alleged Contradiction In The Old Testament, King David Angers The Lord By Taking A Census Of Israel, Contradictions Often Result From Our Own Lack Of Understanding Of The Bible, God Is Not The Author Of Confusion, God Designed Everything In Harmony And Order, Don't Lean To Your Own Understanding, Atheists And Bible Haters, Ask God For Wisdom Of His Spirit, Why Some Nonbelievers Look For Alleged Errors In The Bible, God Will Choose Their Delusions, Kings Ahab And Jehoshaphat Lying Spirit And Micaiah, Jezebel Is Eaten By Dogs, Strong Delusion, Minor Numerical Errors, Bible Interprets Itself, Diligently Read And Study God's Word In Order To Understand It, Hidden Treasures Of God's Word, Rightly Divide The Word Of Truth, Compare Scripture With Scripture, Anointing Of The Holy Spirit, Blindness Of The Jews, Don't Try To Force God's Word To Fit What You Want To Believe, A False Balance Is An Abomination To The Lord, Begin By Looking For Interpretive Clues In The Same Chapter Or Book First, Babylon The Great And Many Waters, Seeing What We Want To See, Many Years Of Diligently Reading God's Word, Holy Spirit Will Bring God's Word To Our Remembrance, Value Of Hebrew And Greek Lexicons, King David Angers God By Being Self-Confident And Trusting In His Military Might, Jealous God Of Israelites, Israelites Repeatedly Backslid And Worshipped False Gods, Foolishness Of Trusting In The Arm Of Flesh, Walk Humbly Before The Lord

Some time ago I received a question via an email message from a certain woman who was apparently having a difficult time with understanding a few Scriptures from a particular story that is found in the Old Testament. Following is the brief message that she sent to me at that time:

----- Begin Quote -----

How do you interpret the following scriptures written by two different authors but speaking of the same event?

2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1

----- End Of Quote -----

Upon examining the actual text of the two verses which this woman mentions in her message, it is easy to see why she may have become confused. For a novice reader of God's Word, at first glance, it would appear that there is a contradiction in the verses. But is there really? Consider the following:

"And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah."
2 Samuel 24:1, KJV

"And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel."
1 Chronicles 21:1, KJV

On the surface, it might appear to some people that these verses are speaking of the very same incident, yet saying something quite different. However, this is definitely not the case. As I point out in a few of my articles, whenever there seems to be any contradiction, it is usually not in the Word of God itself, but rather in our understanding of it. The Lord does not contradict Himself. Neither does He purposely confuse us. In fact, we are specifically told by the Apostle Paul in his discussion concerning the Gift of Tongues, that God is not the author of confusion, as we see here:

"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."
1 Corinthians 14:33, KJV

We can apply this principle, not only to the Gifts of the Spirit, but to everything that God says and does. The Grand Design of the Universe clearly demonstrates that the Lord is the Author of harmony and order, and not the author of chaos and confusion. This harmony and order is found in the story of Creation in the Book of Genesis, and it is also found in other parts of the Bible as well. For example, consider how the Lord meticulously designed the orbits of the Sun, stars and planets:

"[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.] The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof."
Psalm 19:1-6, KJV

At the end of his discourse regarding the Gifts of the Spirit, the Apostle Paul again tells us the following:

"Let all things be done decently and in order."
1 Corinthians 14:40, KJV

This then should be the approach which we use whenever we engage in a study of God's Word. As I often state throughout my articles, whenever there is something that we don't quite understand in the Bible, the worst thing that we can do is to lean to our own understanding, and to jump to what may be hasty and erroneous conclusions. In the Book of Proverbs we read the following:

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV

"He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him."
Proverbs 18:13, KJV

This is what a lot of atheists and Bible haters do. Because they don't have the Spirit and Wisdom of the Lord, they find certain verses of Scripture which they foolishly claim are blatant contradictions in the Bible. If these people would seek the Lord with a sincere heart, and an honest desire for the Truth, He would be more than happy to reveal it to them. After all, as Jesus teaches us in the Gospels:

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
Matthew 7:7-11, KJV

"And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"
Luke 11:9-13, KJV

In his Epistle, the Apostle James also advises us to ask the Lord for His Wisdom, as we see by this verse:

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
James 1:5, KJV

Sadly, atheists and Bible haters don't do this, because they are not really interested in the Truth. Instead, they read the Bible with a critical eye just looking for errors of one sort or another. Because they reject the Bible as being God's inspired Word, they intentionally want to be convinced that it is full of mistakes, contradictions and inaccuracies. One of the reasons why they do this, is because it is the only way in which they can seemingly justify their sin of unbelief and their ungodly lifestyle. While these foolish people may think that they are outsmarting God through this approach, what they apparently don't realize is that God is the one who is really pulling the wool over their eyes. In other words, if they really want to be deceived, the Lord will allow them to be deceived. Furthermore, we are told that He will choose their delusions for them, as we see here:

"I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not."
Isaiah 66:4, KJV

One good example which demonstrates this lesson can be found in 1 Kings 22, which concerns the defeat of evil King Ahab. The gist of this story is that King Jehoshaphat -- who ruled the southern kingdom of Judah from Jerusalem -- went to see King Ahab -- who ruled the northern kingdom of Israel from Samaria.

This is the same King Ahab and Queen Jezebel who persecuted the Lord's Prophet Elijah, and all of the other Prophets of the Lord. God was very upset with Ahab and Jezebel because of their many evil doings, all of which are recorded in 1 Kings chapters sixteen through twenty-two. In this particular story, Ahab reveals his plans to attack Ben-hadad, who is the king of Syria. Being a righteous man in some regards, King Jehoshaphat asks Ahab if he has first sought the Lord's Will regarding the matter.

Of course, being as evil as he was, King Ahab really couldn't have cared less what the Lord thought. However, because Ahab wanted Jehoshaphat to join him in battle at Ramoth-gilead, he decided to appease him by calling for his prophets. It is at this point in the story that we are given a behind-the-scenes view of what was really going on in the Spirit World in the Realm of the Heavenly Courts. Consider these verses:

"And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee."
1 Kings 22:19-23, KJV

The previous words were spoken to these two kings by a true Prophet of God by the name of Micaiah. Because he faithfully obeyed the Lord, Micaiah was cast into prison by evil King Ahab. As the story continues, Ahab and Jehoshaphat engage in battle against King Ben-hadad of Syria. During the course of the battle, one of King Beh-hadad's archers shoots an arrow up into the air by chance. Because of the Lord's Will, this arrow finds its mark. Thus, King Ahab is mortally wounded and dies that same day. As had been prophesied, Ahab's blood was licked up by the dogs when it was washed out of his chariot. Later, his evil wife -- Queen Jezebel -- was also eaten by dogs.

The main lesson to consider here is that because King Ahab leaned upon his own strength and wisdom -- because he did not care what the Lord thought -- God purposely allowed him to be deceived by permitting one of His many Ministering Spirits to go and speak lies through the mouths of Ahab's prophets. That spirit told King Ahab exactly what he wanted to hear. A few other excellent verses regarding the topic of delusion are the following:

". . . because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:"
2 Thessalonians 2:10b-11, KJV

Before continuing, allow me to mention that there is in fact one exception to the rule regarding Biblical contradictions. The truth of the matter is that it is indefensible to claim that there are no errors when it involves numbers and totals that are found in some of the Old Testament stories. While the original autographs may have been precise, over the years as manuscripts were duplicated and distributed by copyists, some minor errors did creep into the text. Perhaps a certain number was smudged and unreadable, so the copyist simply made an educated guess. However, in my opinion, these are really minor discrepancies which do not affect the core doctrines of our faith in any significant way.

As I have often said, it is my personal belief that the Bible is for the most part self-interpreting. In other words, if we approach it in the right way, it explains itself. However, in order to know and understand this, it is imperative that we undertake a lot of reading. Otherwise, we will never make the right connections, and the Truth will evade us at every turn. As I point out in "Study, Work and Don't Be Ashamed", we must read, read, read, and study, study study. If we do this, if we take the time to diligently study God's Word, then He will most certainly reward us with pearls of great price; that is with the Truths of His Word. Consider what Jesus had to say in the Gospel of Matthew:

"Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old."
Matthew 13:52, KJV

I can tell you from many years of personal experience that the Word of God is full of many wonderful, hidden treasures which will awe and inspire you; but you won't find a single one if you do not become a gold miner and search for God's Good Gold. In his Epistle to Timothy, the Apostle Paul also admonishes us with the following:

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
2 Timothy 2:15, KJV

We cannot possibly rightly divide -- or correctly understand and teach -- God's Word, unless we take the time to read and study it and diligently compare Scripture with Scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Gift of the Holy Spirit is actually the key. Without God's anointing of the Holy Spirit, we will simply read the Bible with a darkened mind, as a lot of people tend to do. We will gain very little understanding whatsoever. We will be similar to the unbelieving Jews who have studied the Scriptures for millennia, and yet who still cannot see their Messiah in the pages of the New Testament. This sad tragedy is revealed in verses such as the following:

"(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day . . . For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in."
Romans 11:8, 25, KJV

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
1 Corinthians 2:14, KJV

"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:"
Ephesians 4:18, KJV

"And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear."
Matthew 13:10-16, KJV

"Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch."
Matthew 15:14, KJV

"Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! . . . Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel."
Matthew 23:16, 24, KJV

"And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other."
Mark 3:5, KJV

"And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth."
John 9:39-41, KJV

However, once we do receive the precious Gift of the Spirit, and begin to become familiar with God's Word, He will then be able to speak to us through it. He will show us where the different pieces of His Word puzzle are which fit together. The last thing we want to do is to try to force the pieces together. Just like a jigsaw puzzle, if we try to force the Word of God to fit what we want to believe, it simply won't work. Not only will it look ugly and confusing, but it will also be a false, unbalanced understanding and interpretation of the Scriptures. I am reminded of this verse:

"A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight."
Proverbs 11:1, KJV

In solving the Scriptural puzzle -- which I personally like to view as a CrossWord puzzle, being as it is God's Word and we are saved by the Cross of Christ -- we should first begin by looking in the same chapter for verses which may help to explain those verses with which we are having some trouble. If we are unable to find an immediate answer there, perhaps the answer will be found somewhere in the same Book. If not, then we should expand our search to include other Books of the Bible as well. Let me give you a small, easy example. In the Book of Revelation we find the following verse regarding the mystery woman, Babylon the Great:

"And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:"
Revelation 17:1, KJV

Exactly what is meant by "many waters"? In this case, John has made the answer very easy for us to find, because it is contained in the very same chapter. Only fourteen verses later we read the following in verse fifteen:

"And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues."
Revelation 17:15, KJV

Thus we see that by simply reading this entire chapter, we now know exactly what is meant by the phrase "many waters". If you are interested in acquiring a deeper understanding regarding my personal views regarding the possible identity of Babylon the Great, please refer to the series entitled "Who is Babylon the Great?".

Amazingly, I have come across certain writers who -- despite the fact that John clearly informs us what the "many waters" represent -- offer other explanations. As I stated a moment ago, it is foolish -- and in fact, dangerous -- to try to force an interpretation, simply because that is what we want to believe. If we begin our study of God's Word with notions of what we already want to believe, then we are really just wasting our time, because we will only see what we want to see and nothing else. We will see and understand God's Word through interpretive filters of our own devising.

Of course, for this study approach to successfully work for us, as I mentioned earlier, we must be rather familiar with the Bible, so that the Lord can quicken things to us by His Spirit. This is not something that happens overnight. I can tell you from personal experience that many years of study are required; and even one reading of the Bible will not be sufficient. However, with time, as we become familiar with the Scriptures, the Lord will begin to link verses together for us, and bring them to our minds. That God can and will do this for us, is promised to us by Jesus Himself, who says the following in the Gospel of John:

"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
John 14:26, KJV

"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."
John 16:13, KJV

In addition to the previous pointers, I also highly encourage you to acquire a computer Bible program for your particular operating system -- Macintosh, Windows, Linux, etc., -- which includes both Hebrew and Greek lexicons. There are a lot of different Bible programs now available -- both commercial and free programs -- which include these lexicons. Personally, I have been using the free variety of the Macintosh version of a Bible program called Online Bible for many years now. Years ago, I purchased the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew Aramaic English Lexicon and Thayer's Greek English Lexicon as add-on modules for about ten dollars each. Trust me when I say that you will discover Hebrew and Greek lexicons to be invaluable tools when you begin your own serious studies of the Holy Scriptures. Please bear in mind, however, that they may contain a certain amount of doctrinal teaching.

Having now explained to you the basic method we should employ in our endeavor to understand God's Word, and without further ado, let us begin to more closely examine what is occurring in these verses from the Books of 1 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. Allow me to quote them one more time to refresh your memory:

"And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah."
2 Samuel 24:1, KJV

"And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel."
1 Chronicles 21:1, KJV

If you read these chapters in their entirety, you will see that the Lord is upset with King David. The reason why He is upset, is because David appears to have become a bit cocky and self-confident, and he has begun to trust in the arm of flesh; that is, in his military might. If there is one thing that the Lord was constantly endeavoring to teach the ancient Israelites, it was to trust in Him as their sole King, Lord, Divine Protector and Provider. We are told a number of times in the Old Testament that the Lord is a jealous God. Please consider the following verses:

"Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;"
Exodus 20:5, KJV

"For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:"
Exodus 34:14, KJV

"For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God."
Deuteronomy 4:24, KJV

"Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,"
Deuteronomy 5:9, KJV

"(For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth."
Deuteronomy 6:15, KJV

However, time and time again, the kings of Israel and Judah would rebel and try to do things their own way, just as the above example with evil King Ahab demonstrates. They would try to form their own counsel, wage their own battles, make alliances with Assyria or Egypt, etc. Each time that they did this, the Lord would let them fall flat on their faces. This was in addition to the fact that they would backslide from the Lord, and worship the false gods of the nations which surrounded them. This latter sin repeatedly resulted in the Israelites being invaded, conquered, and sometimes enslaved by their enemies. I discuss these subjects more at length in such series as "The Children of God and Politics" and "The Fruits of Disobedience".

The main point to consider is that whether it was thousands of years ago or today, the Lord desires that we trust solely in Him, and that we don't lean on the arm of flesh, just as the previous verse from the Book of Proverbs advises us to do. Following are some additional verses which deal with this very same topic:

"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God."
Psalm 20:7, KJV

"With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah."
2 Chronicles 32:8, KJV

"Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD."
Jeremiah 17:5, KJV

The minute that we become haughty and self-confident, we are headed for serious trouble with the Lord. The minute that we become lifted up in our foolish pride, watch out! God will not tolerate this kind of behavior, and He will not hesitate to smack us down, because He wants us to walk humbly before Him. Consider the following verses:

"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."
Proverbs 16:18, KJV

"So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."
Luke 17:10, KJV

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30, KJV

"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18:1-4, KJV

"Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
Matthew 23:10-12, KJV

Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.

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