Why the spiritualities of those who wrote the bible matters

“The historian of the inner life”, in turning to the bible, is looking at the spiritual biographies of the writers of the bible, to gain understanding about the nature of God, and to better interpret the scriptures themselves. So, we look at the spiritualities of the writers of the bible, as a lens, opening new layers and dimensions of understanding of the actual biblical texts-in style and content. John the mystic, for instant, speaks of light and dark–he speaks mystically and in high symbols. Peter in practical but far reaching scope, often using stone or rock metaphors, as his personal identity rested on his rockiness! Luke, the doctor, records all the details, in almost Aristotelian specificity. Each writer, in short, had a very personal relationship with God, and therefore, had their own unique styles of expression, flowing from their true identity in Him. So when it came time to write down letters or gospels, their personal spirituality with God informed their style. In short, their expressions flowed out from who they truly were in Christ. Expression flows from true identity!

So even when i am looking at Daniel, i will look at Daniel the person in relationship with his God. I want to notice that God spoke to him often in symbols, visions and dreams. And that this was his place of meeting God; so it is natural that he is able to interpret other’s dreams, and study the books of the wise men of his time with true illumination. He studies Jeremiah’s writings, and those of the host culture in which he lived. He does so to the point where he becomes leader of the wise men–the seers and interpreters of Babylon.

It is also a fun way to read scriptures to consider the personal spiritualities of so many men and women over time. How God related to each uniquely, and how they expressed this relationship in their own styles. God left us a very diverse book, with many diverse personalities expressing their personal emphasis and cadences in their writings. Moses psalms are different in tone than David’s, which are different again-in both tone and emphasis-than his son, Solomon’s psalms. How cool that God did not just write some monotone revelation, but rather used the unique contours of personality of the biblical writers!

Looking at identity as a key to hermeneutical understandings, helps illuminate another layer or dimension of scriptures. In some sense it is an act of contextualizing scriptures in the being of space and time and personality. Again, God did not just dictate, but revealed in personal ways which made sense to those writing scriptures. And it is helpful to climb inside their stories and personal relationships with God, to get a sense of why they chose certain metaphors or arguments or ways of expressing who God is.

When we do this, we also honor the way God has chosen to reveal Himself–ie through people with specific personalities–through the particular poems which He Himself created them to be.

Of course, scripture also reveals a history of each writer’s brokenness and God’s redemption of the aspects of personality still in rebellion against Him. That is part of the whole story. David, for instance, prays often celebrating God’s deliverance-because He knew God as deliverer over and over again in his story. He also makes poetry about God’s beauty, for he had a deep love of beauty. And even in his largest life mistake, you see the rebellious expression of his love of beauty. But in over half his poems, God’s glory and beauty is expressed. The other emphasis in his spirituality was God’s warrior qualities! This opens up new light his poetry in scripture.

When we encounter a person, any person, we look with three lenses. Our personal feelings and thoughts of them–first instincts etc; then what we sense of how they feel about themselves, and what labels from others they have internalized; then lastly, and most importantly, we try to sense in The Holy Spirit more how God sees, feels and is thinking of this amazing person. It’s helpful to do the same towards the writers of scripture. Even if we recoil, for instance, at Paul’s perceived views on women. That’s our feeling. If we then switch to sense how God might view Paul in this area, we encounter a very different vision!

Fortunately, we have a few writers who basically write their own autobiographies–Jeremiah comes to mind first! Then David, and later Paul. With these men–their actual lives are revealed as teachings in scripture. Once again, making clear that God can highlight identity itself as a teaching or revelation about who He is. God likes identity. And He made us to celebrate Himself. In David’s greatest poem, he turns to meditate on himself as a wonderful and fearful creation of God. He is celebrating who God is, by celebrating himself. This is the truest context for a song of myself from the right perspective. Nature is amazing, David effuses, I am amazing also because of God. David said he became a living portent, symbol or sign. So his life story was about God, and in his case, a foreshadowing of God’s Son, Jesus.

So, you have these overt people, who God used to highlight identity in scripture. But it is also possible to piece together in His Spirit, the spiritual or inner biographies of most of the writers of scripture. And in doing so, we find another level of depth of meaning in His Word.

Let me get back to Daniel for a minute. Most people end up focusing on his visions and prophecies. But if you look at his life itself as a prophecy God was offering, you see another level! You see a displaced Jew rising up in the hierarchy of a foreign culture while still remaining very true to His God and His People. He blessed the other culture, and preserves his own, eventually helping his people get back home-or making a way for this deliverance.
Daniel was a seer. He was also one who met God in esoteric study. He studied the prophecies, the Hebrew scriptures or writings at that stage; he also studied the writings of his host culture. He learned their symbology, and astrological understandings. It says that he specifically gleaned understandings about time and the release of his people from the writings of Jeremiah, the prophet. So here is a man, who studied and had visions and dreams. He had an unusual level of integration between the imagination and the mind. He met God both in study, and in solving riddles and symbolic interpretation. Yet, he could also do practical rulership and management. He was a ruler in a foreign land. Put in charge of his own subculture–the wise men and seers; and was placed over much of the land in a civic leadership capacity. This is a rare combination of artist with manager ruler. He met God in vision and finance. A very unusual combination, Daniel was; and, he had a very unique spirituality. Perhaps symbolizing the role of the Jew in foreign nations.

I can only think of David as someone who also combined this poetic prowess with practical leadership and management. You really do see something amazing about God’s oneness in these two men’s lives–God is both very creative and a very good manager in practical ways–to put it simply. These men’s lives reflect God’s own integration, and His ability to integrate the many aspects of who we are individually, and collectively as the church or Body of Christ.

His church is meant to be creative and practically useful on the ground. We need both, and because God is One, He desires that we also integrate our symbolic with our management and practical wisdom. In short, God desires that we also be one or integrated personalities. This is the hope of true counseling–that people become a more whole expression of who they truly are. And this is based on who God is. Because He is One, He is making us one full expression with many facets integrated around a core identity. This is because, we in His Image, are meant to reflect who He is–our creator is reflected in His Creation–which we are!

There are many other reasons to focus on the inner spiritual biographies of the men and women who wrote scriptures, but the highest reason is to get to know, appreciate, and love our Father God who created us to express Him through the unique filters which we are! In this sense, identity is one lens through which to read and interpret the scriptures, as a means of being blown away by who God is!

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