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  • Writer's pictureRobin Smit

Literal and Deeper Meanings of Scripture

The other day on Facebook, I posted about the 4 steps of Hebrew interpretation of Scripture. To say it caused a stir would be an! The word "literal" seemed to be a trigger for quite a few people... and understandably so! Most people have been taught "literal" meanings of verses that are nothing more than doctrinal interpretations... such as: penal atonement, original sin, wrath of God, etc.

But when I say "literal" I do not mean religious, carnal interpretation of a verse. I mean the simple, basic understanding of a verse that Holy Spirit intended for us to get. And then underneath that simple, basic, Holy Spirit intended, meaning of that verse are deeper levels of understanding.

The problem I'm seeing is that people are teaching deeper meanings of verses that depart from basic foundational truths, such as Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and God Himself... or as Baxter Kruger says, "God of God come to earth." If that is not our foundation how can we teach deeper meanings, or allegorical meanings of verses? Paul said that the Scriptures point to Jesus. Anyone who knows me and has read anything I've written knows that I am all about pulling out the deeper meaning in verses. I LOVE digging out the treasure with the help of Holy Spirit! But understand Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth testifies of Jesus (John 15:26).... He reveals Jesus and what He FINISHED. A friend of mine recently said what about the book of Revelation, it's not literal, it's all symbolic and written in obscure language, we weren't meant to read it literally. I 100% agree! But Revelation 1:1 says that this book is the revelation of Jesus Christ. This is the simple, basic, Holy Spirit intended, literal meaning of the book of Revelation. Any "deeper" teaching from that book apart from that literal meaning would be error.

Someone asked me not too long ago if I’m a “literalist” -- as in, if the Bible says it then I believe it period! My answer was, "Yes and no." In other words, Yes, I literally believe “By His stripes, I AM healed” BUT no I don’t literally believe (based on the translators interpretation ) “Vengeance is Mine sayeth the Lord, I will repay!” That is, I don't believe it literally that vengeance is God's and He will repay, the way we have been taught to think of vengeance. But as I look at that Scripture in the Greek and see that vengeance is about justice, about God making a just judgment… declaring guilty or innocent. This verse is about giving place to wrath -- giving place (seat; location) for His passion (wrath is orge)... His passion for His children was to destroy whatever harms them (the law of sin and death). That is the literal, basic, Holy Spirit intended, meaning of the verse. So, yes! Now I literally believe that Scripture! God declared ALL mankind righteous in Christ. That was His vengeance... His justice! I believe to understand the literal (not the carnal, religious literal but the Holy Spirit intended literal), we need to look at all Scripture through the finished work of Christ. Because then we will dig deeper into the verse, mining out the hidden treasures, and not depart from the Spirit of Truth - who always testifies of Jesus!

Here is an example of how I dig out deeper meanings of verses. It's from my book Awakened.

Psalm 78:72 tells us how David shepherded the people as the king of Israel, saying, “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.”

On the literal level in this verse, we are told that David shepherded them with the integrity of his heart. Integrity is defined in our dictionaries as honest and upright. And it also says that he guided them with the skillfulness of his hands. In other words he led them well.

So, because of his heart's integrity, he was able to lead them well by the skillfulness of his hands. That is a great literal truth.... David as a shepherd had integrity of heart and led people well, and we are to do the same. And if that's all we ever learned from that verse, it's fantastic. To lead people with a heart of integrity above all, and then out of that will flow skillfulness or the ability to lead well.

I love the Hebrew language because of the layers and layers of meaning in each word, each letter, verse, etcetera. And these rich meanings will help us to lead people better. It will show us the depth of what integrity of heart and skillfulness of hands looks like from a new covenant, IN Christ, FINISHED understanding.

Let’s look at what else we can pull from this verse that will help us to lead.

The word shepherd in Hebrew is ra’ah, meaning to pasture, tend or graze. The ancient root is a picture of the head and the eye of a man. Together they mean “man watches.” It is the picture of the shepherd closely watching over his flock. He cares for their well-being. I love that the word picture is the head and the eye. Our ability to shepherd well flows out of our FACE TO FACE relationship that we have with Him. It is from our union with Him, that we will co-think and co-see what He knows and sees. And then we will be able to see others as He sees them, and lead them into knowing themselves as they are known.

David shepherded the people with integrity of heart. The word integrity is tom in Hebrew, meaning completeness, FULL, perfection, simplicity, upright (another word for righteousness). The root of the word is tamam, meaning to be complete or FINISHED! The ancient root of this word tamam is WHOLE!!

Literally in the Hebrew, this says v’yarim k’tom — and he shepherded them as FINISHED or WHOLE!

Anyone who knows me knows that my absolute favorite words are FINISHED and WHOLE!! My previous book (It Is Finished) was on that very subject!!

As leaders, we shepherd people by leading them into an understanding, an awareness that ALL is FINISHED, and they are entirely WHOLE! That is the most important part of leading or shepherding. Leading them to the understanding or awareness of FINISHED and WHOLE in every area of their life!

Then David says, “And by the skillfulness of his hands, he guided them.” The word “by” can also be translated in or with. And skillfulness is tebunah, in Hebrew, and it is a noun, not an adjective. In other words, it isn't describing how David uses his hands, but rather, it is the thing by which he guided the people. He shepherded them with tebunah or understanding.  The root of the word is discernment, it also means to separate mentally. What does it mean to shepherd them by separating mentally?

  • It is guiding or leading not by what is seen but what is unseen. To separate mentally is to not depend on the mind of reasoning or natural understanding but rather the mind of Christ.

  • It is to understand and discern spiritually that which can’t be seen with our natural eyes.

  • And it is leading with the understanding, the discernment (skillfulness) to see and understand we are FINISHED, WHOLE.

The word for hands in this verse is not the typical word for hands. It is the word kaph, which means open palm as in the ability to carry something. And the root is kaphaph, meaning bowed down, to bend, or curve. I see a picture here of David’s heart bent toward Father, Son, and Spirit’s heart. Aligned with Their desires, Their purposes, and Their Love! And this alignment enabled him to carry skillfulness to guide the people and to have the understanding of discerning things in the spirit — of seeing beyond the natural. David guided the people with the Father, Son, and Spirit’s vision — seeing people and life through Their eyes of love.

The word for guide is nachah in Hebrew, meaning lead or guide, and it implies transporting. The ancient root of the word is REST. It is transporting people in their thinking to the place of rest. The place of IT IS FINISHED. The place of VERY GOOD. The place of our co-seated-ness IN Christ. 

As leaders, we are to guide people to the FINISHED place of REST, not works.

That's how I mine the Scriptures... I never dig out anything that is not about Jesus and what He FINISHED. And anything law based, or that doesn't reflect the nature of the Father that Jesus showed us, I leave in the Old Testament or the Gospels and I don't bring it forward in my understanding of this New Covenant life in Christ.

For us who teach, it is time to grow up as leaders. It is time to stop being offended by words like "literal" and allow that word to be redefined from a legalistic, carnal, erroneous doctrine interpretation, of Scripture to a simple, basic, Holy Spirit intended, meaning of Scripture. Because then when we dig deeper and we pull out the allegorical, the types and shadows, laws of first mention, meaning of names, numbers, etc. it will always point to Jesus as the Christ and His FINISHED work for us and as us. Then we will cause people to grow in their identity... in who they are as Christ! Because if we discard that, we are left with an unchecked game of pure imagination in which we are no longer objectively deriving meaning from the Scriptures but reading meaning INTO the Scriptures that may not be true.

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