Vol. 5, No. 2
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As the land of Egypt suffered through the plagues God sent against them in punishment for Pharaoh's refusal to allow the Israelites to go into the desert and serve the LORD, Pharaoh, having already broken many promises but under pressure from his servants (Exodus 10:7), offered up a compromise solution. Pharaoh offered to let the Israelites go into the wilderness but only on the condition that they leave their children behind (Exodus 10:8-11). The Lord's response was the plague of locusts followed by darkness. Then Pharaoh offered to let the Israelites go into the wilderness and take their children, but on the condition that they leave their flocks and herds behind. But Moses rejected his offer because it was not what God wanted (Exodus 10:24-26).
Often today, people wish to bargain with God over what he will allow and what he requires of them. For some reason, they believe that if they go along with some of God's requirements, he should just forget about the rest. However, God does not operate that way. He knows what is best for us and offers us a covenant that is in our best interest out of his love (1 John 4:7-11). Our obedience -- without any exceptions we may propose -- is essential to pleasing him (Hebrews 5:8-9). Pharaoh had every opportunity to accept God's will and let the Israelites serve him in the wilderness. Due to his own pride, he lost his slave laborers not only for a few days but forever. As we consider what God tells us to do, we must remember: God does NOT compromise. He does not change (Malachi 3:6) -- we must change (Joshua 1:7).
Mark Twain once said something like, "It isn't all the things we know that hurt us. It's all those things we know that ain't so." How true this is in regard to Bible study! Most people think that they understand the Bible, at least to some degree, before they ever seriously begin studying it. However, the sincere Bible student must guard against holding preconceived ideas, because they are roadblocks to truth.
When Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, heard that a prophet of God could heal him of his leprosy, he headed toward Israel. However,
"Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper" (2 Kings 5:10-11).
Naaman's anger, which originally caused him to ignore the prophet's instructions, was rooted in his preconceived idea of what the prophet should do. It was only when he was willing to accept the truth regarding what he was told, following his obedience, that he was healed (2 Kings 5:14).
In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). Jesus knew that his disciples were likely to make suppositions as to his purpose, so he warned against drawing conclusions before considering all the facts (all his teaching) (John 12:48). Still, many of the Jews held to false assumptions about the Messiah in the first century, such as assuming he would be a political leader and deliverer. Jesus did not meet their expectations because they expected the wrong thing! They were so busy looking for a Messiah that met their own preconceived ideas that they neglected and mistreated the Messiah when he was right there among them (John 1:10-11; Mark 12:10-11). Some people today think they know what is right, then they go to the Scriptures to support their ideas. Such an attitude will inevitably produce failure because, just like the Jews before them, these will spend so much energy looking for the wrong teaching that they will overlook, neglect and mistreat the truth. A good Bible student must be willing to toss aside all creeds -- whether written or implied -- and reject all assumption, and then accept the Bible as God's revealed truth (John 17:17).
All of us have preconceived ideas. We all carry baggage toward our Bible study. We have all been taught something about the Bible prior to our independent study. But we must not hold these preconceived ideas as if they themselves are truth. We must be willing to evaluate our previous ideas using God's Word as our standard and discard false notions -- no matter their origin or else we will attach ourselves to the unwieldy burden of our own presumption, making true Bible study futile and thereby drowning in unbelief.