On the Lowestoft prom is a telescope looking out to sea. Beneath it says in big letters: ‘Can you see the sea?’ Then in smaller letters beneath: ‘Monster’. By adding a word the meaning changes!
When I was a boy my chemistry teacher, Oily Wakefield, used to say ‘Go and sit on the fire…(dramatic pause)… bucket,’ pointing to a red bucket of sand. By adding one word the meaning changed. His point was that we had to listen to all of his instructions.
Using only the convenient parts of information is familiar. Politicians choose the facts or statistics that support their opinions or actions. Christians choose the verses that suit their particular beliefs or message…
For example… This morning I read ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing!’. (Isaiah 43:27). I’ve heard this explained with only half of the information… implying that the past is of no account – the future is all that matters.
In the context, however, Isaiah would commend us to remember our past:
- Our past makes us who we are. By looking back we understand ourselves better, see where we are now and plan our future more wisely.
- We must learn from past mistakes. It’s these lessons that help us to make better choices in the present and future
- When present times are tough we look back at good times. We then get through present difficulties with encouragement and gratitude.
- Isaiah looked to his God who has been with his people at particular times in the past. That knowledge reassured him to trust God for his future.
The message of the sea monster and the fire bucket is a lesson I’m still learning. There are times when I hear or remember half of a message, instruction or request (particularly from my good-lady-wife). My resulting message-bearing, story-telling or required-action then misses the mark… The whole message is important.