The odd pictures that language can conjure up in one's mind reminds me that language of necessity needs to be clear if we are actually going to successfully communicate. How hard recent immigrants must find our language. We tell someone to turn left right after the light. How does one read that if they take things a bit too
literally? God has given us a timeless message. Yes, there is figurative language in the Bible but it generally means what it says and says what it means. It is intended to be understood. The Bible is the "sword of the Spirit." Through it the Spirit of God speaks to the hearts of people. Its message is spiritually discerned. If one is saved, they have
the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they read and study His word. Pastors can make biblical interpretation sound a bit exotic and difficult. It tends to keep folks in awe of their skills as a preacher. It also makes understanding the Scriptures seem the exclusive domaine of the specialist. This is not good and, does in fact, do harm. I have
heard over the years many people state that they depend on the "pros" to understand the Word. That's a good way to be led by the nose into serious error. Read, dig, and ask questions. You have the Holy Spirit to guide you. God has a message for you and He intended you to read, understand and apply it. Those who depend on others to tell them the meaning of the Word would do well to get into it themselves. And if while reading you find some "dog chunks" or "cat mix", remember that just as we read our native language and automatically sift the literal from the figurative, learn to do it here. It is not difficult. Remember three main things and you cannot go far wrong:
1. First, much figurative language is explained by the immediate context (e.g, Matt 13 -
Jesus first gives the parable of the soils and then explains its meaning.)
2. Second, figurative language is frequently explained in the wider context of Scripture.
For example, Jesus warns one of the seven churches that they needed to repent or else
He would come and fight against them "with the sword of His mouth." It isn't explained
right there but all through Scripture God describes His word as a sword (e.g., Eph 6:17,
3. Third, language can be safely taken as figurative when it would be silly or
nonsensical to take it literally (e.g., "You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow
a camel." Try taking that literally!).
So don't be afraid, open up your Bible and dive in.