Within Scriptures, we find all kinds of wonderful things. We discover all sorts of spiritual lessons within the imagery of the Bible. Paul taught:
“We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory . . . Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God . . . Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words“ (I Corinthians 2:7, 9-13)
Whenever you study the Scriptures, you need to compare spiritual thoughts with spiritual words; try to find the patterns, associations, and symbols presented; pray for enlightenment from the Spirit of God. Keep in mind three principles for understanding biblical imagery recommended by David Chilton, in his book “Paradise Restored“:
Read Biblically: do not speculate or become abstract, but pay close attention to what the Bible itself says about its own symbols.
Read the Story: try to think how each element in the Bible contributes to its message of salvation as a whole.
If, in their attempts to teach spiritual lessons, the writers of the Scriptures do indeed use symbolic and figurative language, then there must be a way for us to understand them. And, rather than guess and provide arbitrary meanings to these symbolic figures, we should go to the Scriptures themselves to discover what these figures represent!
Once you begin your own quest to understand this rich heritage of biblical images, you will notice that the Bible is truly a dictionary defining and interpreting itself. As Chilton explained:
“The Bible is not structured in a flat, this-means-that style. Instead, it is meant to be read visually. We are to see the images rise before us in succession, layer upon layer, allowing them to evoke a response in our minds and hearts.
“The prophets, for example, did not write in order to create stimulating intellectual exercise. They wrote to teach. They wrote in visual, dramatic symbols; and if we would fully understand their message, we must appreciate their vocabulary.
“We must read the Bible visually. The visual symbols themselves, and what the Bible says about them, are important aspects of what God wants us to learn; otherwise he wouldn’t have spoken that way.”
When we are reading the Bible and find a symbolic or figurative expression, we will see that symbol. At the same time, we should think of the biblical associations for that symbol.
This morning, I want to discuss the wonderful relationship the Scriptures have with the word, East. Well, also, West. They often go together. Let me give you an example: the Lord directed that both the Tabernacle and the Temple to be built facing east (in other words, as you entered either of them, you were walking toward the west). Now, keep this in mind, because it is very significant.
Another example (and the first place in the Scriptures this is presented), is found in the second chapter of Genesis:
Yahweh Elohim planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed (Genesis 28)
Notice what this is telling us. That there was a garden planted in the east part of Eden. Now, just so you aren’t confused, the Land of Eden was a large regional area; it possessed well-defined boundaries; and, the Garden of Eden was a specific area within the Land of Eden. In fact, we just read that the Garden was placed somewhere in the eastern part of that Land!
Later, if we continued to read the account, we would discover that the Tree of the “Knowledge of Good and Evil” and the “Tree of Life” were both planted in the middle of the garden. Then, the Lord told Adam that in this Garden he would find everything he would ever need and that he was free to eat whatever he found (probably an enormous variety); however, he was to view the fruit from the Tree of “Knowledge of Good and Evil” as death itself. (it is important to know that Eve didn’t even exist when this instruction was given. It was given to Adam and he bore the sole responsibility to carry it out and see to it that she did so as well!)
Okay, so Adam was not created inside the Garden (another “Hot” word, in the Scriptures). He was created outside the Garden and later placed into it:
“Then Yahweh Elohim took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15)
Move forward several thousand years, to the story of the wise men. Where were they when they saw that “star“? That’s right, they were in the east. then traveled from the east to find the child, Jesus. Meaning, they traveled “west.” The perfect illustration of this is seen in nature: our sun rises in the East to illuminate the Earth, then travels to the West, right? Also remember that when Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey, he came from the east; from the Mount of Olives (which is to the east of Jerusalem) and obviously, traveled West.
What I am saying is that the east is the source of blessings and divine salvation. However, if people travel to the east, they find themselves either in trouble or causing trouble:
Cain was exiled to the east after killing Abel
People travelled east to build the Tower of Babel.
When Abraham and Lot went their separate ways, Lot went east and ended up in Sodom and Gomorrah!
The Israelites were exiled to Babylon, in the east.
In other words, good things come from the east, but when you travel to the east you end up face down in a garbage can! See, it’s not that good places were in the west and bad places were in the east; it’s all about the direction you are traveling!
All this direction-stuff is important in the Scriptures. For instance, in the eleventh chapter of Genesis, we see an interesting event. Specifically, in the thirty-first verse, we read that,
“Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they stayed there.” (Genesis 11:31)
Hidden within this text is that initially, it was Terach, and not Abram, who first received the call to take his family and move to the land of Canaan. We know that Terach received the call when they were living in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans, which was a very wicked place; in fact, it was the cultural center for the worship of the moon-god Hurki, who today is known as Allah.
Interestingly, though, for some reason, after Terach left Ur, instead of heading southwest to Canaan, he went northwest to Mesopotamia! In other words, he moved away from where the Lord asked him to go. When they arrived at a certain city, they decided to stay instead of going on to Canaan.
When the Lord turned and made the offer to Abram, He added, “Oh, by the way, your father and your father‘s other relatives aren‘t welcome to go along.” My suspicion is that since Terach apparently only went part way, and then decided not to follow the Lord anymore, the Lord shrugged His shoulders and used someone who would go that whole 9-yards — Abram. Partial obedience isn‘t a little obedience — it‘s disobedience. So, we see our God following His well-established pattern of electing, dividing, and separating. (And we are always arguing for unity! If is unity under the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is good. However, if it is unity under the leadership and guidance of men, we should ignore it!)
If you look east, you will see God coming, and what direction is He traveling? Well, He is facing to the west, and traveling toward you! And, if you plan to follow him, you must travel with Him to the west, towards a future with God. Looking east is seeing our past (our former sins and life w/o Christ); but when you hear the people say, “Go West young one,” it is a call for you to walk to the future, toward a life in Christ!
If you travel to the east, you are moving away from God, to a place that God has left. Sure, it may be an attractive place or even an exciting place, but God ain’t there no more and sooner or later you will find yourself in trouble. You are living apart from God’s blessings, and away from his ongoing work.
So traveling to the west symbolizes moving into the future, in the direction of God’s ongoing story for your life. However, when you travel to the east, you are traveling into exile, into captivity, away from God’s salvation.
What I am trying to show you is how seemingly unimportant details in the Scriptures can always teach us something!
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I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.