"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Tuesday, November 2, 2021

PONDERING THE PARABLES – Introduction and Part One

~ By James Fire

INTRODUCTION: What does it mean to ‘ponder’? Think of ponder as reflecting on weighty thoughts. It’s from the Latin word ponderare which literally meant ‘to weigh’.
We will be reflecting the various parables of the Bible – which, as we will see, are not only contained in the teachings of the LORD Jesus but are found elsewhere in Scripture.
Parables are methods of speech utilized in the conveying of information by use of illustrations; there are various figures of speech in the Bible and linguistic vehicles used to convey truth.

What is the purpose of figures of speech in the Bible? 

To give special emphasis, to call attention to the point, to add force or power to an expression. Which sentence is more memorable? “A burglar snuck into my house.” OR “A burglar slipped into my house like a cat stalking prey.”

Why are figures of speech in the Bible?
Figures of speech are universal to human communication. Every language, including the biblical languages, has them. God used figures of speech to call attention to a point in the scriptures. It’s important to understand figures of speech in the Bible in order to get the correct interpretation of Scripture.

Serious misinterpretations of Scripture come from:

Calling something figurative that is literal. For example, the 6 days of creation in GENESIS 1 are literal 24-hour periods. But many who want to believe creation couldn’t have happened that quickly say they are figurative.

Calling something literal that is figurative. For example, people ridicule the Bible because they think it states that GOD literally has wings:

PSALM 17:8
Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings
,

It is not honest biblical interpretation to call something figurative simply because you don’t understand it or don’t want to believe it.
The words in God’s Word are perfect. God has a reason for everything He says – where He says it; when He says it; to whom He says it; and how He says it. Figures of speech in the Bible are precise and exact, not haphazard.

How do we know when the words should be taken literally or figuratively?

The Bible should be understood literally whenever possible. But when a statement appears to be contrary to known fact or to a lesser extent, our experience to the general teaching of truth, then we can expect that a figure of speech is present.

If a word or words are truly a figure of speech, then that figure can be named and described. It will have a specific identifiable purpose. How can we recognize figures of speech?
The words don’t make sense literally.

In 1 COR 11:16-21, Paul calls himself a fool. He isn’t one but is using the figure “sarcasm.”
In ISAIAH 55:12, “the trees will clap their hands.” Trees don’t have hands and don’t clap. The figure is “personification”.

The words are clear and literal, but meant to convey a deeper lesson or application, such as in a parable. The words are clear and literal but are put together in a grammatical or structural way that brings emphasis to the section. This kind of figure may be lost in translation.

GENESIS 2:17
you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die
.

The Hebrew reads, “dying you will die,” using the figure “many inflections,” that is the same word in different forms.

EPHESIANS 3:18
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ

The “ands” is the figure “Many ands” and gives separate emphasis to each part, more than a comma would.

What are the various/different kinds of figures of speech?

The study of figures of speech is complex because of the number of languages (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and English) involved, and because each language has many figures. But the patterns of language are so universally common to mankind that most of the figures of speech cross over from language to language in a recognizable way.

Various scholars through the centuries have offered systems of classifying figures of speech. The clearest and best documented case (pdf) is by E. W. Bullinger. 
 

Below is merely the listing of the various kinds of figures of speech; for their full definitions and examples as cited in Scripture, check out the pdf above or this website

1. Figures Involving Omission (words or meaning left out)
    a. Affecting words (grammar or sentence structure)
    b. Affecting the sense (the meaning)
2. Figures Involving Addition (words or meaning inserted)
    a. Affecting words (grammar or sentence structure)
    b. Affecting the sense (the meaning)
3. Figures Involving Change (words or meaning changed)
    a. Affecting the meaning
    b. Affecting the order of words
    c. Affecting the application of words (interpretation of words)

Ellipsis– words are left out.
Tapeinosis– lessening, demeaning or understatement
Antenantiosis – meaning “opposite.”
Epizeuxis – duplication; repetition of the same word in a sentence.
Anaphora – like sentence beginnings; repetition of the same word at the beginning of successive sentences.
Polysyndeton – many ands; repetition of the word “and.”
Paradiastole – neithers and nors; repetition of neither or nor.
Epistrophe – like sentence endings; repetition of the same word at the end of successive sentences.
Epanadiplosis – encircling; the same word at the beginning and end of a sentence.
Anadiplosis – like sentence endings and beginnings; the same word at the end of a sentence and beginning of the next sentence.
Repetitio – repetition of the same word irregularly in the same passage.
Polyptoton – many inflections. The repetition of the same word in different forms.
Hyperbole– exaggeration
Metonymy – change of one noun for another related noun.
Synecdoche – transfer; exchange of one idea for another associated idea.
*Metonymy and synecdoche are very similar. The distinction is that in metonymy, the exchange is made between two related nouns; in synecdoche, the exchange is made between two related ideas.
Hendiadys – two for one; two words used, one thing meant.
Antonomasia – name-change; change of a proper name for an appellative.
Euphemismos – euphemism, change of what is unpleasant for something pleasant.
Hyperbaton – transportation; placing a word out of its usual order in a sentence.
Simile – resemblance; a comparison by resemblance.
Metaphor – representation; a comparison by one thing’s representing another.
Hypocatastasis – implication; implied resemblance of one thing to another.
Gnome – quotation
Amphibologia – double meaning; has two interpretations both of which are true.
Eironeia – irony; expression of thought in a form that conveys its opposite.
Oxymoron – wise-folly; a wise saying that seems foolish.
Idioma – idiom; peculiar usage of words or phrases.
Prosopopoeia – personification; things represented as persons.
Parabloa – parable; a continued simile.

So then, what is a parable
"Usually a short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle."

Parable comes to us via Anglo-French from the Late Latin word parabola, which in turn comes from Greek parabolē, meaning "comparison." The word parabola may look familiar if you remember your geometry. The mathematical "parabola" refers to a kind of comparison between a fixed point and a straight line, resulting in a parabolic curve; it came to English from New Latin (Latin as used since the end of the medieval period, especially in scientific description and classification). The Late Latin term parabola referred to verbal comparisons: it essentially meant "allegory" or "speech."

Why were parables given in the Scriptures?

NUMBERS 23:7,18
7 And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel. 18 And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor:

NUMBERS 24:3,15, 20-21, 23
3 And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: {whose...: Heb. who had his eyes shut, but now opened} 15 And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: 20 And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish forever. {the nations: the nations that warred against Israel} {that...: or, even to destruction} 21 And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwelling place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock. 23 And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this!

Balaam took up his parable, that is, spoke under the influence of inspiration, and in the highly poetical, figurative, and oracular style of a prophet. Mysterious to the merely curious, instructional for those desiring truth, damning to those who reject the Word of the LORD.

Such poetical and at times cryptic speech is found in the book of JOB by the man himself: See JOB 27 and JOB 29.

King David was one who would readily give his ear to parables, and as a result, expound upon them in his lyrical works – which may in fact have had prophetic relevance, but not readily understood, as is most often the way of parables and prophecies:

PSALM 49:4
I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp
.

Whereas David would lend his ear to listen to a parable, the LORD Jesus Christ would open His mouth to speak parables to the people which was prophesied:

PSALM 78:2
I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old
:

MATTHEW 13:34-35
34 All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, 35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world
.

The prophets Ezekiel had spoken in parables as well:

EZEKIEL 17:2
Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel;

EZEKIEL 24:3
And utter a parable unto the rebellious house, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Set on a pot, set it on, and also pour water into it
:

So when and why did the LORD JESUS CHRIST speak in parables?

Before we get into this, we need to back track a bit in the ministry of the LORD. As we all know, He went about doing miracles and healing people by the droves, all of which were not only blessings upon those that He bestowed them, but also fulfillment of prophecy as well as signs of His Messianic authority.

ISAIAH 35:5-6a
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing

The whole thing with parables started in MATTHEW 13, but prior to that, when Jesus had cast out demons on two different occasions, the Pharisees made a major blunder and attributed the LORD’s miracles to the power of Satan, rather than to GOD:

MATTHEW 9:32-35
32 As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. 33 And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, "It was never seen like this in Israel!" 34 But the Pharisees said, "He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons
.

And notice the LORD’s response to their accusation:

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

There wasn’t any! Not this time anyway!

The Jewish people had their supply of exorcists who were able to cast out demons (LUKE 11:19), and as was their custom, they would seek to learn the demon’s name, and once they had it, they could command the spirit by name – thus exercising authority over it and cast it out.

But there was one problem: there were demons that were able to cause their victim to become mute, unable to speak – and so the demon was safe from exorcists because they couldn’t learn its name. There was hope however that when the Messiah came, He would be able to do what the Jewish exorcists could not: make “the tongue of the dumb [to] sing…”. The Hebrew word for dumb means ‘mute’ based on its root word (“to bind up”) as in one’s tongue, or ability to speak.

So when mute-inflicting demons that possessed these two individuals were brought before the LORD, and He cast them out – people were astonished “It was never seen like this in Israel!”
But then there is this other situation in MATTHEW 12 very much like the first. There, the LORD was once again casting out demons.

MATTHEW 12:22-37
22 Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23 And all the multitudes were amazed and said, "Could this be the Son of David?" 24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons." 25 But Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 "And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 "Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. 31 "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. 33 "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 "Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned
.

The miracles, the healings and the exorcisms that the LORD performed, and most especially those he performed in releasing the demon-enforced silencing of their victims were signs of the Messiah. The LORD Jesus fulfilled these signs perfectly as He Himself was anointed of the Spirit of GOD to do so. It was the Spirit of GOD that pointed to the Messiah as One of His primary witnesses. Therefore to reject Jesus in spite of these Messianic signs was likewise a rejection of the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

It was such testimony that would lead a person to the truth as mentioned in MATT 16:16b:
…You are the Christ, the Son of the living God

He Who alone is the Savior of the world. Thus to reject the testimony of the Holy Spirit is blasphemy which disparages salvation through Jesus Christ.
Because GOD grants truth in stewardship to the souls of Earth, He evaluates how we handle the truth. If we seek it out, hear and understand, value and obey that truth, GOD sees that we are faithful in the stewardship of such, and grants more truth. If we ignore it, lend a deaf ear to it, disparage it, then GOD will diminish further truth from us, seeing how we are unfaithful in our stewardship.

This is why the LORD began to speak in parables to the people. It’s understood that parables are good teaching apparatus – and that’s true enough, but only for those who seek and love the truth, who are open to the Holy Spirit and receive His testimony. Yet for those who reject the truth, parables are a form of judgment couched in mercy. 

Because they who reject truth, refuse the One Who is the Truth that offers it and commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and therefore judgment will fall upon them. Were they exposed to more truth, they’d be liable for rejecting it as well, and judgment would be more severe. So even though they will be judged for the truth that they rejected, parables would ensure that they’d be denied understanding more truth that they’d reject and incur further judgment.

MATTHEW 13:10-17
10 And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" 11 He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 "For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 "Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 "And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand and seeing you will see and not perceive; 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.' 16 "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 17 "for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it
.

So now that the preliminaries are established, we can proceed in our examination of the parables of the Parable Preacher, the Revealer of dark sayings – coming up in Part Two of this series!

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