The Inspiration of Scripture – What Is It? How Does It Work?

TODAY’S READING: JUDGES 4-5

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” – 2 Timothy 3:16

What does it mean that scripture is inspired, or breathed out, by God?

TYPICAL BELIEFS ABOUT THE INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE

Some Christians take the inspiration of scripture to mean that God literally told word for word the people who wrote the Bible exactly what to write.

Some Christians take the inspiration of scripture to mean that God literally caused all of the events in the Bible to happen exactly as they are recorded.

These Christians believe that this type of inspiration of scripture is necessary in order for us to be taught, reproved, corrected, and trained by it. They also believe this is the method of inspiration because “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20) Therefore, if the inspiration is not literal and exactly as God wanted, then we are interpreting the scripture according to our own interpretation.

“INSPIRATION” BY THE LETTER IS DEAD

If we take the inspiration of scripture to be literal and exact, then we will learn that God commits genocide, rapes women, mass murders children, causes the earth to swallow people, etc. If we take the inspiration of scripture to be literal and exact, then in today’s reading we would be taught that it was is a noble act to drive a tent peg through the temple of our enemy in order to kill him.

The problem with the literal inspiration of scripture is that it creates numerous conflicts with Jesus in the gospels. But, John 1:17-18 says, “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” As the only one who has seen the Father, Jesus was able to do and say only and exactly what the Father does and says.

So, if the literal inspiration of scripture leads to numerous conflicts with the character of the Father as revealed by Jesus, then we know that believe in the literal inspiration of scripture is wrong.

In 2 Corinthians 3, when Paul speaks of the Old Testament he says that it was a letter written “with ink” and “on tablets of stone.” But, “the letter kills.” Paul says that the ministry of the letter was a “ministry of death, carved in letters on stone.” Not only was the ministry of the letter in the Old Testament one of death, Paul also called it a “ministry of condemnation.”

So, Paul says that the literal inspiration of scripture kills you. Believing in the literal inspiration of scripture by the letter kills you. The literal inspiration of scripture will condemn you.

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul says that the literal inspiration of scripture is the result of a veil. The veil keeps us blinded to what the inspiration of scripture truly is and what we are to truly learn from it.

WHAT IS INSPIRATION?

Perhaps we need to look at the meaning of inspiration.

  1. a divine influence or action on a person believe to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
  2. the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
  3. the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

The literal, dead letter inspiration of scripture kills, condemns, and commands. But, this is not inspiration. Instead of commanding, true inspiration influences someone to received revelation.

Revelation is not something readily apparent. Rather, revelation is something that beneath the surface that an agent of inspiration brings to light.

The literal, dead letter inspiration of scripture kills. In other words, it stops movement. But, true inspiration moves the intellect and emotions. True inspiration causes the mind and heart to move to a higher place.

The literal, dead letter inspiration of scripture says there is one exact way to interpret scripture. But, true inspiration influences and suggests. True inspiration creates possibilities, many possibilities instead of one and only one possibility

INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

In the same passage of scripture where Paul tells us that the literal, dead letter inspiration of scripture kills and is a ministry of death and condemnation, Paul reveals what the true inspiration of scripture is.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says that we are a letter. Instead of dead letters in a book written with ink, we are a letter written “with the Spirit of the living God…on tablets of human hearts.” This is the ministry of the new covenant, a ministry “of the Spirit” and “the Spirit gives life.” This ministry is a “ministry of righteousness.”

The scripture is truly inspired by the Spirit because he brings life to it. The Spirit inspires the creative possibilities of scripture to communicate sacred revelation, to move our minds and hearts toward God, and to influence us and suggest to us with majesty and splendor of the Father.

This type of inspiration is absolutely necessary because God is infinite. There is no way to pin down an infinite God with one literal, dead letter inspiration of scripture.

True inspiration of scripture comes through Jesus Christ because his death and resurrection removes the veil that causes us to read the scriptures with a literal, dead letter interpretation.

True inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit enlivening the scripture with truth, meaning, and possibilities we would never see on our own. This is the very meaning of revelation. I can understand dead letters with my own intellect. But, I need the Holy Spirit to reveal truth in my heart.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, “But when on turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

THE INSPIRATION OF JUDGES 4

If you haven’t read it today, then get out a Bible and read Judges 4. I want the literal story to be fresh in your mind. Then with the literal, dead letter story in your mind, I want to show you the story with the inspiration of the Spirit. I won’t necessarily come to any conclusions along the way or at the end. My goals is to breathe in possibilities to the scripture. You can use those possibilities as inspiration “for profitable teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

THE INSPIRATION OF JABIN

The name Jabin comes from two Hebrew words. One means to understand or see, to pay attention, consider, teach, or examine. The other means to build, to develop buildings, or to rebuild. The name means something like he perceives or he will understand.

The name Canaanite comes from the Hebrew word kana. Kana means to have to submit, to be humbled, to humble oneself, to humble somebody. The Canaanites eventually came to be known as merchants and traders. Merchants are not viewed favorably in scripture as they oppress and get rich off of people.

The name Hazor means fence or enclosure.

Kings are powers that vying with God for the throne of our hearts. Therefore, Jabin represents the power that tries to fence or enclose our hearts with that we can understand and build ourselves as merchants and traders. In this way we humble ourselves to the material things of this world instead of God.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

An inspiration of Jabin is that this is our attempt to serve God and money. Another inspiration of Jabin is our attempt to rule through economic power.

THE INSPIRATION OF SISERA

The name Sisera is likely the combination of two Hebrew words. One is the word for horse. The other is the word meaning to see or look.

Horses speak to military power in the Bible. Therefore, the inspiration of Sisera is the looking to military power for strength and protection.

Sisera was the commander of Jabin’s army. Every economic power throughout history shows that economic power uses military power to maintain its empire, its fence or enclosure.

The name Harosheth-hagoyim means “carving of the nations” of “silencing of the Gentiles.” This is where Sisera lived, where he abided.

An inspiration here is that economic power and military seek to divide that nations of the world for their own personal benefit.

Sisera oppressed Israel with 900 chariots of iron for 20 years. What is an inspiration of this?

The number speaks to finality. It also is linked judgment in the prophets. The number 100 symbolizes the child of promise. Like horses, chariots represented military strength. Iron represents hardness, strength, affliction, severity, captivity, bondage, and destruction power. Daniel 2:20 says that iron breaks to pieces everything. The number 20 represents a period of judgment. In fact, there are a couple of times in scripture where the number nine is connected with the number with the theme of judgment.

An inspiration here is the people of God are oppressed military and economic power that attempts to carve up the nations by bringing a final judgment on the child promise the affliction of sever military strength and destructive power.

Psalm 2:1-3 says, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.'”

THE INSPIRATION OF DEBORAH

But, Deborah is judging Israel during the oppression.

The name Deborah is the Hebrew word for bee or wasp. The name Deborah likely comes from the Hebrew word for speak.

Bees produce honey, which was the sweetener in the ancient near east. A number of scriptures (including Psalm 19:10, Psalm 119:103, and Ezekiel 3:3) says that God’s words are sweeter than honey.

The name Lappidoth comes from the Hebrew word meaning flame or torch. Deborah was the wife of the Lappidoth. Alternatively, the translation could say that Deborah was a woman of Lappidoth. Deborah was the wife of woman of flames.

Deborah sat under a palm tree. Palm trees were all over the tabernacle and temple between the cherubims. The palm tree could be a symbol of the tree of life.

This palm tree was between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim. Ramah means a high place. Bethel means the house of God. Eprhaim means fruitfulness.

An inspiration of Deborah is God’s people being ruled by the word of life, Jesus Christ, that sets them on fire. The lives of God’s people are hidden in Jesus as we are seated with him in high heavenly places. In this sense, perhaps we could think of Deborah as the church.

THE INSPIRATION OF BARAK

Barak means lightning.

Abinoam means “the father is pleasantness” or “my father is delight.”

Kedesh-naphtali means something like the sacred place of my wrestling.

Tabor means purifying or declaring.

There are many instances in the scripture were lightning is used in a reference to Jesus. And, Barak, who’s name means lightning, is the son of the father who is pleasantness or the father who is delight. This son who is named lightning dwells in the sacred place of wrestling, which could be thought of as God’s presence, his holy temple.

An inspiration of Barak is that he is a picture of Jesus. As a picture of Jesus, he gathers men from Mount Tabor. He comes from the mountain, or kingdom, of cleansing.

Barak brings 10,000 men from Naphtali and Zebulun. The number 10 represents the completeness of order. The number 1,000 speaks to the bridal price or the price of innocence for a woman. Naphtali means my wrestling and Zebulun means lofty place, dwelling, wished-for habitation.

So, an inspiration for Barak is that he is a picture of Jesus, who has a father that is pleasant and a delight, that comes the kingdom of cleansing, our wished-for habitation, with the price for his bride to make her innocent.

THE INSPIRATION OF JAEL

Jael means mountain goat. It comes from the root word meaning to profit or benefit. It also comes from the root word meaning to ascend, to lead up, to lead out, to bring up, to cause to rise.

Jael was the wife of Heber the Kenite. Heber means to ally oneself, to couple together. And, Kenite derives from the name Cain, which means to get, acquire, or create. Kenite means buyers, and the Kenites were part of the Canaanites. But, Heber, and hence Jael, had separated from the Kenites and the Canaanites.

An inspiration for Jael is the person who was once part of the world of Jabin and Sisera, involved in the economic of military powers and ways of the world, but has separated from them.

AN INSPIRATION OF THE STORY

How do these characters all fit together? What is the inspiration of their story?

Notice that Barak routed Sisera with the edge of the sword. This is another allusion to Barak as Jesus since Jesus is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. Barak destroyed the chariots, the military power of Jabin, the economic power. He also destroyed carving up of the nations done by this army. Therefore, like Jesus, he created a people from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

While Barak routed the powers, Sisera fled away on foot. Jael met Sisera and told him to turn aside into her tent. He asks for water, but Jael feeds him milk. Milk is often associated with basics of the word of God, the gospel.

Jael ends up driving a tent peg through his temple into the ground. There are several instances where we see Jesus as the tent peg in scripture. Also, there are numerous instances where we see that violence of the wicked, Sisera in this case, comes back on their own head.

The tent peg could be though of as the cross. It was put through Sisera’s head. This is interesting because had to go into the ground at Golgatha, the place of the skull, in order for Jesus to be crucified on it. But, since it is Jael, and not Barak, that applies the figurative cross, I think this speaks to the idea we have to crucify ourselves daily, crucify our flesh and its desires, and crucify ourselves to the world and the world to us. Remember, Jael had separated from the Kenites and the Canaanites as well as their economic and military power. It was after Jael applied the cross to Sisera that Jabin was subdued and ultimately destroyed.

We have to remember that our enemies are spiritual, not carnal and internal, not external. In this sense, the inspiration of Judges four seems to be picking up our own cross and denying ourselves so that we crucify the lust for money and power within ourselves. Then we can love as Jesus loves.

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