On Not Understanding the Scriptures

About a week ago, I entered into a couple of brief discussions about a particular verse.

Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has done it? – Amos 3:6

I brought it up only because another pastor brought it up in relation to John Piper’s tweets about the devastation in Moore, Oklahoma. I affirmed that I believed this statement. I did not explain it. I did apply it to the tragedy in Moore. I simply said I believe it.

But I don’t understand it.

Now I don’t want to get into a big discussion about this passage and God’s sovereignty over all things. I affirm that too. It’s just that the older I get the more comfortable I am with not understanding parts of the Bible – whole stories, verses, themes, – while still staking my life on it. I’m OK with not understanding and still believing parts of the Bible. Actually, I’m more than OK.

In fact, the more I’ve thought about it, the more sense it makes. I can only assume there is no one outside of God who has understood all the Scriptures in full.

Sometimes, I don’t understand something because I’m dense. Sometimes, I just have have not studied it. And at other times, the tension is too much for me too say, “I understand what God is doing/saying here.”

There are two parts of Matt Redmond. The part that is more sympathetic with the Liberals wants to explain away the tension. The conservative part – the part I grew up with – wants to explain it…to have an answer.

But the more I think about this and read the Scriptures, I like the tension. I have found when the tension happens, it can take me to a place where my heart is tender enough to realize I am not all-knowing. It is at these times when I feel the most like a child in my faith. How many times have I said to my kids, “I know you don’t understand what I am telling you, but I want you to trust me. One day you will understand.”

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t seek understanding in our study of the Bible. I’m saying there are things we are not going to understand and we should not only be comfortable with not understanding but we should we let lack of understanding be a window that enables us to look out in wonder at the One Whose ways are not our ways and Whose thoughts are not our thoughts.

12 thoughts on “On Not Understanding the Scriptures

  1. Patrick Badstibner May 29, 2013 / 8:04 am

    Matt good thoughts again and I echo them totally. Probably my weakest area of study when it comes to scripture is Revelation and Daniel in other words Eschatology. When there seems to be so much focus on that topic today. When others ask me to teach or speak on it I always reply “I will be gald to when I have finished understanding, applying, learning and comprehending the rest of the Word Of God.”

    Not that I do not understand it or do not believe it should be taught “All Scripture is good for…….” but like you just shared there seems to be much yet I do not understand than to make one central theme my focus especially when Christ said “No man including me, knows the hour or time”

    Glad to know I’m not alone here, thanks!

  2. Rebekah Grace May 29, 2013 / 8:32 am

    Beautiful! Full of grace, humility, and surrender. Thanks, Matt!

  3. Gregg May 29, 2013 / 10:12 am

    Exactly! Great thoughts, Matt.

  4. Adam May 29, 2013 / 11:53 am

    I think much of the Christian life is learning to live with the tension of that life. It is the already/not yet written all over this fallen world.

  5. Anita May 29, 2013 / 12:03 pm

    Thank you, Matt. I have sometimes wondered if I was just shallow and not “diligent” enough in study, because I am content to trust the God that has been so faithful to me over the years. Yes, there are so many questions I have and things I don’t understand or even “like” that I read in the holy Scriptures, but what I do know is that He is good, He is great and He can be trusted in the unknowns.

  6. Clark J. Allison (@clarkjallison) May 29, 2013 / 6:49 pm

    Matt, I’ve been reading your blog for the last two months after discovering and reading your amazing book, God of the Mundane. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

    We were deep in leadership in a super mega church, saw the sausage being made and eventually couldn’t remain. It hit us so hard I still can’t listen to Christian music (other than old school hymns) and we are having a tough time re-integrating to a church.

    Our 6 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It’s not cancer, and she will, God-willing, live a full and long life. But it sucks. Four shots of insulin a day, 5-8 pricks of blood to test blood glucose. Always worried.

    I’m too old and experienced to fight God and complain and ask why. Many have it much worse. But I do pray many times a day that God will heal my little girl. He may. He may not. But I’m more convinced than ever that he loves me and he cares for my girl and our family.

    Just like you say in this post, we don’t get all, or even most, of scripture. But God has revealed himself to us time and time again, and we can trust that he is good and that he does care for us – even though we don’t get it.

    Thanks for your writing.

    • mattbredmond May 29, 2013 / 10:15 pm


      You are most welcome. But I should also thank you. Sometimes I wonder if I put “too much blood on the page.”

      Your story is my answer.

  7. T.G. Borah May 29, 2013 / 8:12 pm

    A few minutes ago while working together, I told my ten year old son I would be so proud of him if he spent thirty-plus years struggling with the scriptures. I mentioned he could be a scholar, and then he told me scholars only teach! No, son, scholars live life with everyone and everywhere. Amen. Your mainline browser.

  8. Suzanne Evans May 29, 2013 / 8:32 pm

    You’ve just explained myself to myself. I long raged, not against a Calvinistic understanding of God’s sovereignty but against that sovereignty itself and the incomprehensible losses wrought thereby. I wore myself out beating on God’s stern, unyielding chest. I finally rested, like a child, in His arms, and rest there still. I love how you’ve said it. “…there are things we are not going to understand and we should not only be comfortable with not understanding but we should we let lack of understanding be a window that enables us to look out in wonder at the One Whose ways are not our ways and Whose thoughts are not our thoughts.” This, this is what I haven’t been able to explain to my no longer believing children: why I believe in and love a God who gives AND takes away, who builds AND tears down, who at times seems treacherous, murderous, and anything but loving. Ah, my beloved children. Someday, may you too “look out in wonder at the One Whose ways are not our ways…” and rest rather than rage.

    • mattbredmond May 29, 2013 / 10:17 pm


      See my above reply to Clark…same goes for you. And God specializes in prodigals.

      • Suzanne Evans May 29, 2013 / 11:56 pm

        He does. And, once, such was I. Thank you for the reminder.

        And thank you for the blessing of your writing.

        I just read God of the Mundane last Friday. Oh my. A true perspective corrective. It’s a book that should be read and re-read, not so much to be reminded it’s ok that one’s never made it to the big leagues as to say, remember, God is as glorious and worthy and wondrous a God over ones little-noticed life in the corner as he is over the self-consciously glorious lives on the stage. Honor him accordingly. I think I’ve found it too easy to think that according to the public notice goes the accountability. Just as he hasn’t rationed out his Godness according to our significance on the ecclesiastical stage, no more can we escape our relational responsibility to him with rationalizations re: our proportional worth. So thank you, Matt, for being used of God to speak to my heart and to those of many like me.

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