Encountering Difficult Bible Passages
Text: Matthew 27 : 1 - 31
From time to time, we will come across difficult Bible passages. The passage when Matthew mentioned Jeremiah and then went on to cite Zechariah is one of the more difficult texts in the Gospel of Matthew to interpret (Cf. Matthew 27:9-10). We must guard ourselves against the problem of unbelief afflicting us. Let us learn how we can approach the study of the Scriptures in the most dynamic way possible.
1. Rejecting the way of unbelief
Right from the start, we must reject doubts and unbelief. There are many who end up being skeptical about the worth of the Scriptures.
a) Casting aspersions
There are some who are stumbled when they read difficult passages. They end up doubting the inspiration of the Scriptures. They begin to cast aspersions on the Biblical writers as well as the Bible.
b) Rejection of the Scriptures
The end result for some is rejection of the Scriptures as trustworthy. This is an unfortunate and unnecessary conclusion.
2. Approaching the Scriptures with Faith
Let us never be afraid of reading the Scriptures with great faith in our hearts. Let us be deeply challenged and inspired by the way Jesus Himself had utmost faith in the Word of God. He believed in the Scriptures. He cited them. He honoured the Word of God. He sought always to fulfil them because they were the living words of His Father to Him.
On the practical side, we need to fathom the Scriptures with even greater knowledge and skill.
a) The inspiration of the Holy Spirit
Let us be aware that the Spirit of God was deeply involved in the writing of the Scriptures. Two outstanding apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ wrote significantly on the subject of inspiration from the Holy Spirit.
i) Peter’s understanding concerning the inspiration of the Scriptures
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any
private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man,
but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by
the Holy Spirit.”
2 PETER 1:20-21
ii) Paul’s understanding concerning the inspiration of the Scriptures
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God
may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17
b) The resources of the Biblical writers
The Biblical writers had more sources for their writing than most comprehend. The synoptist Luke mentioned in the prologue of his Gospel that he had thoroughly examined all materials available to him, and thus he was able to write competently and with great assurance of the facts (Cf. Luke 1:1-4).
i) The written Scriptures were seen as an invaluable source of information.
Thus they were quoted extensively.
ii) The personal experiences of the author must be seen as of significance too.
iii) There were other sources available to the Biblical authors not known to us. One such example would be what the Spirit of God would reveal to the writers. The Biblical writer is of course at an advantage because he is given spiritual insight of things that are not available to us.
c) Appreciation of good literary skills
We need to have a good sense of appreciation of Matthew’s literary skills. We must not think that Mathew was nothing but an unpolished and unskilled writer. A careful study of his Gospel would reveal that he was a rather accomplished writer. Let us take time to consider this literary skill known as “parenthetical interjection”. Let us return once again to the text that he wrote.
“Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet,
saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him
who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced,
and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.'”
i) Both Jeremiah and Zechariah were being cited.
ii) A saying of Jeremiah was cited. However, this saying may be called “agrapha”, that is an “unwritten word”.
iii) The written words of Zechariah were cited, notwithstanding the fact that the original context of the text cited did not have in mind the blood money that Judas earned when he betrayed Jesus.
iv) We have a number of other examples of how Matthew borrowed the Scriptures in his Gospel and applied them in his Gospel (Cf. Matthew 1:18, 23). The original texts had different contexts, yet they were capable of being applied in the way Matthew employed them.
v) The name of Jeremiah may be seen as a parenthetical interjection, while Matthew was focused on recalling the written words of Zechariah.
d) Humility and prayerfulness needed
Let us always study the Scriptures with deep humility and a word of prayer.