I can almost hear it now. Picture the scene as lasers cut through the smoke. The blaring musics cuts out as the children’s pastor bounces onto the stage…
“Dare to be a Daniel!” kids: YEAAHHHHHHH!
“Slay your giants!” kids: YEAAAAHHHHHHH!
“Marry a Prostitute!” kids: What’s a prostitute?
“Cook your food over poop!” kids: MOMMY! HELP!
No, I haven’t completely lost it; I’m simply showing you the logical conclusion of some of the bad hermeneutics that are commonly used in the church. Here’s how we get it wrong:
1. Take a story about a heroic “bible character”
2. Make them the hero of the story.
3. Challenge the congregation to be that guy.
1. That bible character was given objective marching orders from God.
2. The hero of that story, and of the bible, is Jesus. Jesus said it himself.
3. I’m not supposed to be that guy. God didn’t objectively call me to do their mission.
If I get this wrong, I make the story about me, I make myself the hero of the story, and I put myself on a mission I wasn’t sent on… and worst of all? I’m going to fall short. Not only is it a bad hermeneutic, it’s all law.
Wait, Marc, so you’re saying that the bible stories aren’t examples for me to emulate?
Well, let’s take a look:
Daniel in the Lions Den and David and Goliath have been Sunday School favorites for generations. Why? Because God called them to do heroic things. We’re predictable in that way, we’re always going to take the missions and promises that appeal to our pride.
If the hermeneutic of emulating the prophets is correct, here’s a couple missions your seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven pastor might want to cast out to the flock:
1. Go marry a prostitute. Maybe in the vein of “Dare to be a Daniel”, we could “Hope to be a Hosea”! So, get to it.. go marry yourself a prostitute!
When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.”
(Hosea 1:2 ESV)
2. Go ahead and start a family. And once you’ve got a few kids… she’ll leave you and the kids to go back to her old line of work. She’ll publicly humiliate you.
3. Write her off? Nope. Not only are you to track her down, not only woo her back, but actually buy her back at great price.
And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.
(Hosea 3:1-2 ESV)
So, “Hope to be a Hosea!” Huh. That doesn’t quite work, does it?
How about another great prophet, Ezekiel:
1. Weigh out your food each day (about 2 cups of barley a day).
2. Measure out your water each day (about 2 pints a day).
3. Now, take your barley, make it into cakes and cook it over human poop.
“Eat like an Ezekiel!”
And your food that you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from day to day you shall eat it. And water you shall drink by measure, the sixth part of a hin; from day to day you shall drink. And you shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung.”
(Ezekiel 4:10-12 ESV)
(by the way, that picture of “Ezekiel Break” above? It’s real. No kidding, someone markets it. I guess they missed the part about baking it over poop. Unreal. You couldn’t make this stuff up.)
See the issue? God hasn’t told you to do those things, he told them to do those things, and it wasn’t figurative, it was literal.
The point of these stories isn’t to make you stand up and be a hero, the point is to show God’s faithful love to his adulterous people (Hosea), and to foretell the destruction of Jerusalem, as well as God’s love in someday restoring her (Ezekiel).
The hero in these stories isn’t you. Ever. It’s God. If you want to find yourself in the “bible stories”, you aren’t Hosea. You’re Gomer!
The law says “Be Daniel!”, the gospel says “You’re Gomer, and he’s tracked you down and paid your price!”
So, Daniel isn’t about you, and being brave like Daniel, it’s about God and his faithfulness to his people.
David isn’t about you, either. It’s not about you “slaying the giants in your life” (ugh). Jesus is the greater David, slaying sin and death. I think Matt Chandler absolutely crushes it here:
We get this wrong when we saddle ourselves with the job of being those heroes. You aren’t Hosea, you’re Gomer. You aren’t David, you’re trembling Israel. See Jesus in his rightful place in those stories and you’ll freely worship Him for his grace.
So, the next time you hear someone challenge you to “live out” the lives of the “bible stories”, to “Dare to be a Daniel”, or to “Slay the giants in your life!” ask yourself if you’re supposed to marry prostitutes and cook your after-church-lunch over poop. Gross? For sure, but far less obscene than knocking Jesus out of his role in scripture so you can take the lead.
Think about it.