Step 6

connect the dots

All the steps we have fol­lowed so far were aimed at pos­tur­ing our heart, clear­ing dis­trac­tions and build­ing a scaf­fold for con­struct­ing our un­der­stand­ing of God’s Word. Now we’ll be­gin to put it all to­geth­er. In­stead of in­vent­ing ideas or try­ing to find mean­ing through ran­dom thoughts or feel­ings, we are go­ing to use The Bible to read The Bible. This is what we call “Con­nect­ing The Dots”.

Think of any pas­sage or verse in The Bible. In your mind, take these vers­es and roll them into a ball. Now squeeze that ball small­er and small­er into a sin­gle dot. Place that dot on a sheet of pa­per. Or, for an­oth­er anal­o­gy, roll up these vers­es into a sin­gle shin­ing star and place it in the clear night sky. But as you know, these are only a few vers­es in one chap­ter in one book in the en­tire Bible. There­fore, in­stead of one dot on that sheet of pa­per, there are many. In­stead of one star in the mid­night sky, there many stars, comets and galax­ies. Even more, when you look at His Word, you won’t see a bunch of iso­lat­ed dots or in­di­vid­ual stars. In­stead, God’s Word Is a con­stel­la­tion, a field of in­tercon­nect­ed stars. His Word Is a graph, a set of re­lat­ed “dots”. Every pas­sage in the Bible will con­nect to and re­flect oth­er pas­sages in His Holy Word. For this rea­son, us­ing any pas­sage as your start­ing point, you can make con­nec­tions to oth­er parts of the Bible.

But every pas­sage is not con­nect­ed to every oth­er pas­sage. Vers­es can only be con­nect­ed if they have: sim­i­lar sum­maries and/or if they share sim­i­lar peo­ple, places, things or ideas. If two pas­sages do not share sum­maries, peo­ple, places, things or ideas, then you can­not con­nect the pas­sages. Con­nec­tions, whether to vers­es in the same chap­ter or to vers­es in an­oth­er book, are strong or weak de­pend­ing on the sim­i­lar­i­ty of their sum­maries and the num­ber of peo­ple, places, things or ideas the pas­sages share. For ex­am­ple, Psalms 2 and Psalms 110, al­though sep­a­rat­ed by 108 chap­ters are so strong­ly con­nect­ed, they might as well be the same Psalm. So do not re­strain your­self to only con­nect­ing vers­es that are in the same chap­ter. In­stead, ex­pand and strength­en your un­der­stand­ing of The Bible by re­lat­ing pas­sages on the ba­sis of sim­i­lar sum­maries, peo­ple, places, things or ideas.

Lo­cal Con­nec­tions

Now let’s demon­strate how this con­nec­tion process works with Matthew 7:24-29. Be­fore tak­ing a trips to An­drom­e­da, we al­ways be­gin by say­ing hel­lo to our neigh­bors. That is to say, the vers­es around a pas­sage will like­ly have some­thing in com­mon with the pas­sage than vers­es in an­oth­er part of The Bible. So we read around the pas­sage first. But how much around should we read? Well, about ten vers­es is be­fore and af­ter the pas­sage is usu­al­ly a good place to start. For our prac­tice pas­sage this means read­ing Matthew 7:13-23 and Matthew 8:1-13. As you are read­ing, make con­nec­tions to Matthew 7:24-29 by see­ing where the pas­sages share sim­i­lar sum­maries, peo­ple, places, things and ideas. Pause here and take your time be­fore con­tin­u­ing.

So let’s briefly sum­ma­rize Matthew 7:13-23. Je­sus be­gins in 13-14 by talk­ing a bout how dif­fi­cult it is to en­ter heav­en. Then in 15-20, He says that true prophets, speak­ing true words, will pro­duce good fruit while false prophets, speak­ing evil words, will pro­duce bad fruit. Fi­nal­ly in 21-23, He tells us that those who en­ter heav­en hear and do His Word and are known by Him. Based on these sum­maries, here are a few easy con­nec­tions we could make:

  1. Matthew 7:13-14, 15-20, 21-24, 24-29 all show us two groups of peo­ple: Those who walk the easy way of dis­obe­di­ence to bear bad fruit, build hous­es on sand and suf­fer eter­nal de­struc­tion in hell. Those who walk the hard way of obe­di­ence to bear good fruit, build hous­es on The Rock and abide for­ev­er with Je­sus in heav­en.
  2. In Matthew 7:21, Je­sus Says that He Stands at the door of heav­en wait­ing to ad­mit those who do The Will of His Fa­ther but deny those who dis­obey His Fa­ther. In Matthew 7:24-29, Je­sus Echoes this when He Says those who hear and do His Words build their house on rock and will abide through the storm. There are two things to be seen in this sim­i­lar­i­ty: The peo­ple mar­velled at Je­sus in 7:28-29 be­cause He De­clares that His Word must be obeyed and that He Has Au­thor­i­ty to ad­mit into heav­en and send to hell. He Says Peo­ple go to heav­en by hear­ing and do­ing His Words and do­ing The Will of His Fa­ther in Heav­en. In essence then, Je­sus Equal­izes His Word and The Will of His Fa­ther in Heav­en. Ac­cord­ing to Je­sus, obey­ing Him is the same as obey­ing God The Fa­ther.

Our sum­ma­ry of Matthew 8:1-13 re­veals sim­i­lar themes. Je­sus Heals a lep­er and then heals a Cen­tu­ri­on’s ser­vant. The cen­tu­ri­on rec­og­nizes the au­thor­i­ty of Je­sus and says that be­cause of that au­thor­i­ty, Je­sus only has to say a word and his ser­vant will be healed. Fur­ther read­ing of Matthew 8 shows that Je­sus has Au­thor­i­ty over storms and demons too. So read­ing from Matthew 7:24-29 through Matthew 8 we see the re­cur­ring idea and ex­pres­sion of Je­sus’ Au­thor­i­ty. We al­ready know He Has Au­thor­i­ty to Com­mand and to De­cide who goes to heav­en or hell. Af­ter read­ing Matthew 8, we now see that Je­sus Also Has Au­thor­i­ty over dis­eases, storms and demons. He Is Lord.

Glob­al Con­nec­tions

So there you have it. Matthew 7:24-29, far from a lone­ly star in the sky, is at least well con­nect­ed to the sur­round­ing vers­es. Now let’s see how these vers­es might be con­nect­ed to the rest of The Bible. Look again at our sum­ma­ry of Matthew 7:24-29 and an­swer this ques­tion: Are there any sto­ries or pas­sages in the Bible about fool­ish and wise peo­ple? or pas­sages about dis­obe­di­ent and obe­di­ent peo­ple? Pause here and take time to an­swer this ques­tion.

There are prob­a­bly many but here are a few.

  1. Cain and Abel: Cain dis­obeyed God and killed his broth­er. Abel, the right­eous prophet, obeyed God by of­fer­ing the right sac­ri­fice.
  2. Ja­cob and Esau: Esau through dis­obe­di­ence and im­pa­tience de­spised his in­her­i­tance. Ja­cob, by God’s Grace, in­her­it­ed Je­sus Christ and re­pent­ed of be­ing a liar and cheater.
  3. Ju­das and Pe­ter: Ju­das dis­obeyed Je­sus and com­mit­ted sui­cide. Pe­ter dis­obeyed Je­sus but re­pent­ed of his sin to be come an apos­tle.

Now take some time to an­swer this ques­tion: “Are there are oth­er places in The Bible that talk about the same peo­ple, places, things or ideas found in Matthew 7:24-29?”

Of the many you could have cho­sen from, here are a few:

  1. Rain and Floods: In Gen­e­sis 7, God De­stroys wicked peo­ple every­where us­ing a rain and floods that cov­ered the en­tire earth. In­ci­den­tal­ly, only Noah sur­vived be­cause Noah heard and obeyed The Word of God. In Matthew 7:24-29, Je­sus Speaks of rain and floods through which wicked fools are de­stroyed while the right­eous wise are pre­served. Now we know that Je­sus Is not only speak­ing about mi­nor storms and floods. Je­sus Is Also Speak­ing about sur­viv­ing a flood that pro­ceeds from God as judg­ment upon a sin­ful world. But jump for­ward to Philip­pi­ans 2:5-9 and you’ll see that Je­sus Is Also Speak­ing about Him­self. Je­sus Is The Wise Man Who Built His House on The Rock by Obey­ing God, His Fa­ther. Though He Died when God Judged Him on the cross, be­cause of His Right­eous­ness, God Raised Je­sus up again by The Pow­er of The Holy Spir­it (Phil 2:9, Ro­mans 6:4, 8:11, He­brews 5:7). His House Abides For­ev­er high above every flood and rain. (Eph­es­ians 1:20-21).
  2. Moun­tains: In Ex­o­dus 19-31, God, Cloaked Smoke and Thun­der, De­scends on a moun­tain to give Is­rael His Com­mand­ments and In­struct them in prop­er wor­ship. In Deuteron­o­my 27-28, tribes of Is­rael are in­struct­ed to stand on two sep­a­rate moun­tain peaks, to pro­nounce a bless­ing on the obe­di­ent from one and a curse on the dis­obe­di­ent from the oth­er. From Matthew 5-7, Je­sus Stands on a moun­tain giv­ing a ser­mon where He De­clares the ful­fill­ment of the law (Matthew 5:17-48), in­struc­tions for wor­ship (Matthew 6), the bless­ing of heav­en on those who obey Him(5:2-16) and the curse of hell on those who dis­obey Him (Matthew 7:13-29).

Con­clu­sion

This par­tic­u­lar les­son has been longer than usu­al. Just keep in mind that our goal is to make con­nec­tions with the pas­sages we read and the rest of The Bible. We make con­nec­tions by look­ing for oth­er pas­sages with sim­i­lar sum­maries, peo­ple, places, things or ideas. We al­ways be­gin by look­ing at the vers­es around our cen­tral pas­sage and then, us­ing the same sum­ma­ry and make-be­lieve list, we con­nect­ed our pas­sage to oth­er parts of The Bible.

When you con­nect pas­sages in the way we just de­scribed, the world you build from God’s Word be­comes denser, rich­er, sim­pler and yet more com­plex. Con­tin­ue mak­ing con­nec­tions as you just learned. In time you will see that God Speaks in Con­stel­la­tions be­cause He Is One. And you will mar­vel as He Un­veils for you The Beau­ty of His Holy Word.

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“Is it not indeed from the LORD of Hosts that the labor of the peo­ple only feeds the fire, and the nations weary them­selves in vain? For the earth will be filled with the knowl­edge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
- Habakkuk 2:13-14

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Wanna reach out and ask me some ques­tions? Or do you want clar­i­fi­ca­tion on some­thing writ­ten here? If so, write me a let­ter. I’d love to hear from you and I’ll respond. I bet your hon­est ques­tion will pro­duce insights that will ben­e­fit other read­ers.