Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Misplaced Bible Verses

I’ve a different sort of category of favorite Bible verses: those which, at some point, I forgot or didn’t know their location. Now these passages stand out in memory because I had to search for them. We have to discover for the first time even the most well-known Bible verses, after all. I’ve several of these underlined or yellowed in my old Bible.

So the angel swung his sickle on the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:19).

I searched for that one when teaching a class on Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I remembered the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” but not the location of the original scripture.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, used this verse to encourage Christian unity among doctrinal differences.

When he left there, he met Jehonadab son of Rechab coming to meet him; he greeted him, and said to him, “Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours?” Jehonadab answered, “It is.” Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.” So he gave him his hand. Jehu took him up with him into the chariot (2 Kings 10:15).

Wonderful words. “Do you love God and neighbor as I do? If so, let us love one another, even though we disagree.”

Here are several other scriptures that, at some point, I searched for, or “misplaced”:

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

I could’ve checked the household items for sale at the local Christian bookstore for that one. You can purchase Joshua 24:15 plaques for your front door.

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

That’s another verse featured on Christian products!

Then the Gileadites took the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. Whenever one of the fugitives of Ephraim said, ‘Let me go over’, the men of Gilead would say to him, ‘Are you an Ephraimite?’ When he said, ‘No’, they said to him, ‘Then say Shibboleth’, and he said, ‘Sibboleth’, for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand of the Ephraimites fell at that time (Judges 12:5-6).

That’s the source for the term “shibboleth,” although the word itself just means “stream.”

Some other passages:

And if he finds [the lost sheep], truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish (Matt. 18:13-14).

I have escaped by the skin of my teeth (Job 19:20).

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Prov. 16:18)

Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray (Prov. 22:16: the familiar RSV translation is Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it).

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective (James 5:16b, although I prefer the King James, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.)

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22).

Is there no balm in Gilead? (Jer. 8:22)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Prov. 3:5-6).

The years of our life are threescore and ten (Psalm 90:10).

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days (Eccl. 11:1).

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow (Gal. 6:7).

He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him (Psalm 126:6).

Darn it, now I’ll have that hymn stuck in my head all day! It’s a religious “earworm.”

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, "Hitherto the LORD has helped us." (1 Samuel 7:12).

That’s another scriptural reference for a hymn, “Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing,” and this one inspired the hymn, “Almost Persuaded.”

Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?” (Acts 26:28).

Other scriptures:

God helps those who help themselves.

Wrong! I’m being lighthearted again. That saying has been attributed to Aesop, and also to Benjamin Franklin. I’ve known at least one person, though, who thought it came from the Bible.
I’m ambivalent about that saying. My own career has often benefited when I was adaptable, did my best, treated people rightly, and kept my professional skills updated. I work hard, solve my own problems, and have been praised for adding value to organizations. And yet … the Bible does not teach competency and self-reliance. Throughout the Bible, God constantly helps people who cannot help themselves; he takes the side of the sinful and the helpless. Proverbs 28:26a actually says, “He who trusts in his own mind [himself] is a fool.”

As long as I’m thinking about non-scriptures, I recall another popular saying, “Build it and they will come,” which is from the movie Field of Dreams (actually “build it and he will come”). But I’ve heard the phrase quoted in the context of church building programs. It occurs to me that, someday, people may think the phrase comes from Nehemiah, a Bible book also often cited for building programs because of its theme of the rebuilding of the Temple. You’ve been warned!

While I’m still on the subject of movies …

I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful punishments. Then they shall know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance on them (Ez. 25:17).

I looked up this verse after seeing the movie Pulp Fiction. One of the hit-men (Jules, played by Samuel L. Jackson) quotes an elaborated version of the verse when he kills people. What happens to him is what preachers hope for: a Bible verse opens up for him, causes him to recognize his own evil, and inspires him to change his life. His partner, on the other hand, refuses to see the possibility of grace in a random-seeming event, and his refusal costs him his life.

Those who trouble their households will inherit wind (Prov. 11:29a).

That’s the reference for the well-known play and movie about the Scopes “monkey trial.”

Here’s one more movie reference. The warden in The Shawshank Redemption has a picture in his office that reads, “His judgment cometh, and that right soon.” I dug a little bit, and unless I’m mistaken, this is a version of an Apocrypha text, Sirach 21:5, The prayer of the poor goes from their lips to the ears of God, and his judgment comes speedily. Of course, the warden in that movie cares nothing of the poor or God.

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