Which bible verses do you tend to claim for yourself? And perhaps as importantly, which ones do you not claim for yourself? We tend to be pretty selective when it comes to the scriptures we read or don’t read. Even within one book, even one chapter, we can claim a verse and ignore the next. If we truly are a “people of the book”, we need to be a people of the WHOLE book.
Our readings in Isaiah are a great example. Who among us hasn’t read, heard, or sung part of chapter 52, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!'”?
Yet who among us has read, heard, or sung the verses immediately preceding this, “‘For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,’ declares the Lord. ‘And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed. Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it.'”?
We ignore anything the prophets speak about our poor worship practices, our selfish ambitions, and the consequences of our idolatry. We decide that these verses are for Israel, foretelling their Assyrian or Babylonian captivities. But the truth is that we ignore these passages to our own peril.
We need to read the comfort passages right alongside the accusation passages. We need to take heed of God’s warnings as much as God’s grace. We need to begin to see the whole picture of scripture, not just the parts we like. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat the problems of our spiritual ancestors, to turn away from Christ in action if not in word, and to become “practical atheists” and suffer the same fate as literal ones.