Summary—Making the Journey

All of the material above will help us as we make the Interpretive Journey. Let’s review the steps of this journey for Old Testament narrative, summarizing the issues from this chapter as we move through each step. We will use the Rahab and Achan story (Josh. 2:1–24; 7:1–26) as an example.

Step 1: Grasp the text in their town. What did the text mean to the biblical audience?

Use all of your observation skills to read the text carefully. Note all of the details. Search for connections. Analyze the literary and historical contexts. Be sure that you identify the overall story line for the book you are in and try to fit your narrative into the larger story. Write out a statement of what the text meant to the biblical audience.

For the Rahab and Achan story: Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, is contrasted with Achan, the Israelite. She believes in the God of Israel and trusts him with her life, resulting in the deliverance of her and her family from the destruction of Jericho. Achan, however, trivializes God and ignores his strict commands, resulting in his death and that of his family. The two trade places.

Step 2: Measure the width of the river to cross. What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?

Identify the differences between the biblical audience and us. Be sure to remember the change in covenants (we are no longer under the law). Other significant differences that you may encounter may relate to the land, the monarchy, the conquest of Canaan, sacrifices, and direct conversation with God.

For the Rahab and Achan story: We are under a different covenant than Achan. Our situation is different. We are not in the conquest and we are not involved in any type of literal holy war. Nor are we Canaanites (or prostitutes) living in a city about to be conquered. God has not given us the same specific commands as he gave Achan.

Step 3: Cross the principlizing bridge. What is the theological principle in this text?

Identify possible similarities between the situation of the biblical audience and us. Search for theological principles that relate to both but that are derived from the text. Do not allegorize! Do not ignore the Old Testament meaning and simply zoom off into the New Testament. Remember the guidelines for developing theological principles we discussed earlier:

  • The principles should be reflected in the text.
  • The principles should be timeless, not tied to a specific situation.
  • The principles should not be culturally bound.
  • The principles should correspond to the teaching of the rest of Scripture.
  • The principles should correspond to the teaching of the rest of Scripture.
  • The principles should be relevant to both the biblical and the contemporary audiences.

For the Rahab and Achan story: God sees past superficial externals and saves unusual people who place their faith in him. This is because deliverance is based on true faith (demonstrated by action) and not mere externals, such as ethnicity or religious tradition. God is a God of grace. But judgment comes on those who trivialize God and treat him as if he does not exist.

Step 4: Consult the biblical map. How does our principle fit with the rest of the Bible? Does the New Testament teaching modify or qualify this principle, and if so, how?

Try to determine whether or not the New Testament addresses the issues raised by the text. Does the New Testament modify the theological principle in any way or does it make the principle more specific? Do not abandon the Old Testament in this step. We are still striving to grasp the meaning in the Old Testament text that was intended by the author. We are seeking to determine how that meaning plays out in the New Testament context. The meaning we determine in this step should be applicable to any New Testament believer.

For the Rahab and Achan story: The New Testament reaffirms that God looks beyond superficial externals and saves people based on faith in Jesus Christ. That God chooses some unusual people is likewise reaffirmed in the New Testament. Mere association with the church, rather than true faith, will not result in salvation.

Step 5: Grasp the text in our town. How should individual Christians today live out this modified theological principle?

Be as specific as possible. Remember that there can be numerous individual applications of the theological principles.

For the Rahab and Achan story: We tend to judge people based on externals. We meet a clean-cut, middle-class American and think what a great Christian he or she would make. Likewise, when we see people involved in open sinful activity (drugs, prostitution, gambling, stealing), we tend to write them off and assume they could never become Christians. This attitude is wrong, because God delights in saving the most unusual people. He wants us to have the same attitude toward these people as he does. There are no unlikely candidates for coming to salvation in Christ.

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