Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Church uses of biblical expressions, part 1

I have noticed that in the church we have a habit of using biblical expressions in a way different than how they are used in the Bible itself. This is harmless for the most part, unless we think that the biblical expression itself carries the meaning we give to it. In the next few posts, I am going to examine some of these expressions and sort out what the Bible means when the expression is used and what we usually mean when we say it.

The first expression I will tackle is one which Christians use on a regular basis, but it is one where the biblical meaning has almost been entirely lost. The expression is "The Lord (God) is with us (them)(him)(her)".

Now what do most people mean when they use this expression. Generally, they mean that they hope or knew that God was by their side and helping them in some way. It is often used as a blessing as in "The Lord be with you." This is how it is used in the book of Ruth by Boaz. "Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.” (Ruth 2:4) We use this expression as a blessing as well and it certainly is a biblical use of the expression.

But we need to see how else the Bible uses this expression to see how we might fully understand what it means. "The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand." (Genesis 39:2-3) Notice how the Lord was with Joseph. He blessed the work of his hands.

In another passage: "So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail. But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper." (Genesis 39:20-23) In this passage, Joseph, being wrongfully accused, is thrown into jail. However, God is "with Joseph" and gives him favor with his jailor.

Joshua 6:27 "So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land." This speaks of Joshua's conquests.

In Judges 1: "Now the Lord was with Judah, and they took possession of the hill country ... Likewise the house of Joseph went up against Bethel, and the Lord was with them."

God blessed the prophetic ministry of Samuel. "Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail." (1 Samuel 3:19)

1 Samuel 18:14 "David was prospering in all his ways for the Lord was with him." God gave David victory on the battlefield. I could go on and on with similar passages.

If God was ever with anyone, He was with His Son, Jesus. "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." (Acts 10:38) Jesus healed the sick because God was with Him.

Acts 11:20-21 "There were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord." People are being saved because God was with them in their preaching.

There is a lot more, but you get the idea. When the Bible says that God was with someone it means that God gave them supernatural success, victory, favor or blessing on their task or ministry. Is that what you mean by "the Lord be with you"? I hope it is. I hope it means more than experiencing the presence of God while the Devil beats on us or oppresses us. In the Bible, it is an expression that implies deliverance, healing and victory.

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