Let me tell you a little story. Once there was a young man who as a new Christian greatly admired an old saint whose teaching in the word of God had opened a vista the young man had no idea even existed. He aspired to be like the old saint. The young man greatly admired the old saint’s worn, time-weathered Bible as well. Its pages were wrinkled and crinkled, its verses underscored, its margins inked with notes. Because of the aura that went with it—that of a seasoned saint steeped in the word—the young man wanted a Bible like that very badly. But oh, that would take time, and patience, and what young man has patience and time, especially one who wants to distance himself as fast as he can from a life he has thus far wasted on himself?
And so how does a young man of 25 become an instant seasoned saint? He buys a new Bible, and, being careful not to tear its pages, crinkles them one by one in his hand, attempting to imitate the effect.
It was a sorry disappointment. He eventually gave the Bible to an acquaintance, who told him some time later that he had accidentally left it in a phone booth.
The young man is older now, and thinking back the other day, had a good laugh at himself and his immaturity. He eventually learned that there are no short cuts in the pathway of coming to know God—or to owning a well-worn Bible, either. Now he has two or three Bibles that look like that old saint’s Bible… but for some reason, his love of Bible exegesis has brought him to the place where he knows less now than the young man he used to be.
Exegesis? It was only when the Internet and its resources came along that the young man, grown quite a bit older, came across the word. Bible school students take classes in exegesis; they are taught careful procedures to rightly get at the actual meaning of Scripture. An exegesis of any given word or passage explains that passage in its context going into, among other things, the meanings of the Hebrew or the Greek, thus hopefully bringing to light the obscurities of the word of God.
For, the Bible can indeed be a very obscure book… just as God Himself can be a very obscure God.
On the day that God gave Israel His commandments, He had come down on Mount Sinai clothed in cloud and smoke and thick darkness.
And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was (Ex. 20:21).
Communing with God in the cloud, Moses received further commandments for the people, and eventually instructions for the tabernacle that God wanted built. What was the significance of the tabernacle?
Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them (Ex. 25:8).
Five centuries later when Solomon’s temple had been finished to the last detail, and the sacrifices had been made, and the ark brought into its place, the temple was filled with a cloud “so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (2 Chr. 5.14). Upon this, Solomon spoke the following words:
The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness. But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).
As I was reading this passage one day, the light came on. What was the significance of the temple? This. The God who had been cloaked in thick darkness, in cloud and mystery and obscurity… He was here in His temple now, not afar off in Heaven, but nigh, not hidden away, but unveiled. That was the whole purpose of the tabernacle and the temple—that the unknown inscrutable God might dwell there and reveal Himself openly, make Himself known.
And so a thousand years after Solomon, we come to John’s words about the Temple not made with hands.
No man hath seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).
The word declared in the Greek is exegesato, a verb form of the noun exegesis, meaning that the Son of God declared the Father, revealed Him, made Him known. Vincent’s Word Studies confirms this.
Hath declared (ἐξηγήσατο) Or, rendering the aorist strictly, ‘He declared.’ From ἐκ, forth, and ἡγέομαι, to lead the way. Originally, to lead or govern. Hence, like the Latin praeire verbis, to go before with words, to prescribe or dictate a form of words. To draw out in narrative, to recount or rehearse (see Acts 15:14, and on Luke 24:35). To relate in full; to interpret, or translate. Therefore ἐξήγησις, exegesis, is interpretation or explanation (Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Volume Two).
In other words, according to John 1:18, the Son of God is Himself the exegesis of God. The tabernacle and Solomon’s temple were but types and shadows of the true temple not made with hands; it was the Son of God Himself who declared, explained, interpreted, made known, revealed, shone forth, the God who had dwelt so long time in thick darkness, and no one had ever really seen. In the Temple of His Son, this God now dwelt, and shone forth. The obscure, mysterious, hard to understand, distant, way-up-there-somewhere-far-away God… the Son of God brought Him nigh and revealed Him and made Him known to men.
Only the Son of God Himself could do that. In fact only the Son of God could be that explanation, the kind of exegesis that is God Himself making Himself known to men.
The young man I referred to is older these days, and is himself a little wrinkled and time-worn now. He has loved Bible exegesis over the years. What has it done for him? This. He finds in his heart a perpetual cry. Oh to know more fully this One in the bosom of the Father—this One who is the exegesis of God Himself.
Apart from that exegesis, Bible exegesis has missed the mark.
…More next time.