As I write, my wife and daughter are in their usual Sunday evening places on the family room couch working together on crosswords. On other occasions these two have toiled together on difficult 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles; it is usually easy to place and understand how the edge pieces fit together, but the deeper parts of the picture require more searching and more effort. There is excitement when a particularly difficult small piece fits into the overall scene. Putting that last piece into place gives them a great feeling of satisfaction and the completed puzzle is often proudly displayed in the family room for weeks.
Discovering Biblical truths seems in some ways much like that to me. No matter the subject, God has revealed pieces of the complete picture here and there throughout the pages of Scripture. Whether the topic is our identity as Israel, Biblical laws today, death and the afterlife, or a host of other subjects, the Lord requires us to do more than read a single sentence of Scripture and close the book. It requires us to become familiar with all of God’s Word, take things in context and put all of the pieces together. However, the more we labor on the Word, the better we understand it and the more satisfying it is when the Biblical picture finally becomes clear on any subject. It can be very profitable. Why don’t more people have a desire to do that? And why don’t more people understand the resulting picture they see?
J.W. Macdonald, a British-Israel lecturer and writer of the past, told an interesting story that took place at an art auction in France. “Among the objects for sale, a far-sighted man found the fragments of a statue, a great many of them kept about on the tables there, all belonging, doubtless, it was said, to the same piece of sculpture. He bought them all for 2 British pounds, and put them together. He then sold the statue for 3,000 pounds, because it was so valuable as an ancient masterpiece.” (Banner of Israel XL:32)
Macdonald commented, “Which is an allegory. For the fragments of a much greater Masterpiece are found lying about in the prophetic Scriptures, which, pieced together, fit into the British Empire and Anglo-Saxon race so as to exhibit the complete identity of that empire and race with the Israel of the Scriptures, whose destiny and dominion are foreshadowed by all the prophets, here a little and there a little. Like the Jews of old, the average Bible reader and student is immersed in routine thinking a learned ignorance, and although he sees the pieces lying about, yet he cannot put them together and make the masterpiece of the ages; in fact, he often goes to the other extreme, and uses what is intended for his encouragement and soul enlargement as a matter of ridicule and soul ignorance.” True enough, but there is often a reason why some cannot even begin to correctly put the pieces together.
Coming to a comprehensive Biblical understanding, similar to completing a large jigsaw puzzle, requires a considerable amount of close work. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, however, God’s truth also requires the aid of the Holy Spirit for a correct understanding. If the Holy Spirit is not in the effort to convert, any conversion is apt to be superficial. Often the lack of the Holy Spirit is due to sin or hardness of heart. We need both a desire to study the Scriptures and the aid of the Spirit in order to see the true picture.
From early times the Hebrew people were fond of searching the Scriptures to try and complete the Biblical puzzle. Jesus confronted the Jews, “You search the Scriptures, because you imagine in them to have eternal life; and they are the witnesses about Me; yet you do not desire to come to Me, so that you might have life.” (John 5:39-40, Ferrar Fenton) Why do they not come? We hear all sorts of excuses for Jewish unbelief such as past hatred, modern “anti-Semitism” or the trinity. Yet Christ instead revealed that because of a lack of a Spirit-filled heart attitude, an understanding of the Scriptures was not allowed them, and so He spoke to them in parables, a riddle in story form. In Luke 8:10 we read, “And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” That is a difficult concept for many, but important so that we do not become discouraged in our witnessing.
In Mark chapter four, Christ gave the parable of the sower, in which proclaiming the Gospel is compared with sowing good seed. We are told that the soil (that is, the heart) must be healthy, prepared, receptive earth. “And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” (Mark 4:2-12)
How often have you witnessed to someone and saw the conversation turn into an argument, like walking in a thorn-field? How often when quoting Scripture to Christians (!) they rebuff with a frivolous remark that “my minister does not teach that” or “the Bible says the opposite somewhere else.” Rather than blaming ourselves or our message when rebuffed in our evangelism, the Holy Spirit often blinds the minds of people whose hearts are either sinful or not prepared to receive the good seed.
Years ago, a good elderly lady in our church expressed her frustration to me that she had been unable to convert her Christian nephews to our belief. She had given them a steady stream of B.I. books and literature over several years that would amount to a pile three feet tall! I replied that all I needed to be converted to B.I. was a single tract that I helped myself to and read. If the Holy Spirit is in it, it does not take a whole lot of our effort to accomplish! If not, no amount of talking and no amount of expensive books will give success.
This should not mean that we give up on evangelism or leave it all up to God. Many years ago, a friend gave me a booklet by a Christian minister that was filled with the usual worldly-wise misunderstanding about Israel in prophecy. I contemplated writing to elucidate him on his errors, but figured that it would be a waste of my time. A few years later, I learned that he had come to accept B.I. and was so thankful for the person who took the time to convert his thinking. There are surely a multitude of people whose hearts are prepared and ready that have never been given the B.I. truth. Our personal evangelism is often lacking. Never miss an opportunity to spread the Word, for ultimate success is up to the Holy Spirit, not to you.
This will also go far to explain why we find ministers and theologians who have spent years in close study of the Scriptures yet cannot see the wonderfully revealed picture in the Divine puzzle and remain bitter opponents of our truths. As J.W. Macdonald said long ago of those without a heart prepared by the Holy Spirit, instead of gaining faith and assurance from the fulfillment of prophecy, the B.I. critic “goes to the other extreme, and uses what is intended for his encouragement and soul enlargement as a matter of ridicule and soul ignorance.”