God’s message expressed by human writers

Posted Jan 18, 2021

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Daily Scripture

Jeremiah 1:1-3

1 These are the words of Jeremiah, Hilkiah’s son, who was one of the priests from Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. 2 The LORD’s word came to Jeremiah in the thirteenth year of Judah’s King Josiah, Amon’s son, 3 and throughout the rule of Judah’s King Jehoiakim, Josiah’s son, until the fifth month of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah, Josiah’s son, when the people of Jerusalem were taken into exile.

2 Peter 1:16-21

16 We didn’t repeat crafty myths when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary, we witnessed his majesty with our own eyes. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when a voice came to him from the magnificent glory, saying, “This is my dearly loved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 In addition, we have a most reliable prophetic word, and you would do well to pay attention to it, just as you would to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Most important, you must know that no prophecy of scripture represents the prophet’s own understanding of things, 21 because no prophecy ever came by human will. Instead, men and women led by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Reflection Questions

Many who doubt the Bible hold the same idea as some Christians. Pastor Hamilton described it this way: “Many Christians assume that inspiration means that God composed the Bible, word for word. But the word ‘inspiration,’ at least in English, is quite different in meaning from the word ‘composition’ or ‘dictation.’”* Bible writers seemed to agree. The prophet Jeremiah said it was his words bearing God’s word, God’s message. The apostle Peter said that while the Holy Spirit led them, men and women did the actual speaking.

  • Scholar Craig Keener wrote, “Ancient thinkers often viewed prophetic inspiration as a divine possession that temporarily displaced the prophet’s own mind. The distinctive styles of different Biblical prophets show that this view oversimplifies the matter; inspiration still used human faculties and vocabulary.”** Since people wrote, finding ideas from their culture or occasional errors of fact in the Bible shouldn’t trouble us. How can seeking the overarching message rather than the details deepen and enrich your Bible study?
  • Peter compared the prophetic writing to “a lamp shining in a dark place.” He drew on images from his “Bible”—the Hebrew Scriptures we call the Old Testament (cf. Psalm 84:11, 119:105, Malachi 4:2). As you have read the Bible with God’s help, when have you had this sense of a lamp shining on some dark challenge you faced?


God, thank you for being with the Bible writers as they used their words to deliver the messages you inspired them with. Thank you for being with me as I read the Bible. Amen.

* Hamilton, Adam. Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today (pp. 129-130). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. As mentioned in last weekend’s sermon, this book is an excellent resource to help you reflect in more detail on the issues raised about the Bible’s trustworthiness.

** NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 283179-283181). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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Whether you’re just starting to explore the Christian faith, or you’re a long-time Christian, we want to do everything we can to help you on your journey to know, love and serve God. The GPS (Grow, Pray, Study) Guide provides Scripture and insights to enhance your journey. If you have a question or comment about the GPS Guide, please send it to GPS@cor.org.

Chris Holliday

Chris Holliday

Rev. Chris Holliday serves as the Minister of Care and Missions at Resurrection West. Chris has been in vocational ministry for over 20 years and has served in many other roles including youth pastor, associate pastor, co-pastor, pastor of music and worship, and minister to single adults.

Pastor Chris originally wrote this blog post in August, 2012 (long before we adjusted our travel habits due to the pandemic). It's still worth our attention.

My family and I recently vacationed in California. We visited relatives in Santa Barbara for several days; then made our way up the coast to San Francisco. The night we arrived, we walked around Fisherman’s wharf soaking in the sights and sounds of street performers, musicians, artists, shops, and restaurants. We ate clam chowder in tasty sourdough bread bowls, bought a few San Francisco souvenirs, and watched seals and sea lions sleeping and playing on a floating dock. The next morning, we boarded a boat for Alcatraz Island to visit the infamous former Federal Penitentiary. The sky was blue and clear, and we took many pictures of the San Francisco skyline, Alcatraz, and (of course) the Golden Gate Bridge. Later that day we headed north and drove across the Golden Gate marveling at that modern world wonder’s majesty, beauty, and stability.

After a few days in the Mendocino area, we drove back to San Francisco, where we would stay overnight before flying home. We decided to stop on the north side of the Golden Gate to take some more pictures and enjoy the view, but when we got there it was as if the bridge had vanished. An ample fog was in the bay and more was rolling in. Every so often we caught a glimpse of the top of one the towers, but that was it. We sat at the visitor’s center and watched as cars drove into the seemingly gray void.

Of course we knew the bridge was still there, and we decided to cross a portion on foot. As we began to walk into the fog, it was more than a bit unsettling and even scary for some in our group, but forward we went. By faith, we took one step, then another, then another. We found that the deeper we went into the gray, the more of the bridge we could clearly see. When we reached the first tower, I looked up and I could see all the way to the top.

Sometimes I think reading and studying the Bible is a lot like viewing and walking across a bridge like the Golden Gate. Some stories and passages are as clear as a bell, and we feel God's truth and majesty resonating within us as we view them. Other Scriptures may seem dark, murky, unsettling, and even scary. But when we journey deeper into studying the passage, its human author, and its context within the writing and culture; realize the Bible is God’s message in human words; and filter everything through the commandments of love on which Jesus said “all the Laws and the Prophets depend” (Matthew 22:37-40), we can begin to see the Word more clearly and better understand God’s timeless message of love, hope, and grace.

As we read and study the Bible, may we be willing to accept the gray and journey faithfully through it.

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