T H E  I N T E R P R E T E R

adapted from a sermon by Joseph Parker (1830-1902)
“And the LORD answered me, and said: 
‘ Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables,
that he may run that readeth it’.”

Habakkuk, the prophet
 
“Which being interpreted”, that is what we need:  a man to tell us the meaning of hard words and difficult things and mysteries which press too heavily upon our staggering faith. The interpretation comes to us as a lamp. We instantly feel the comfort and the liberty of illumination.When we heard that word Emmanuel we were bewildered; it was a foreign word to us. It brought with it no familiar associations nor did it speak to anything that was within us. But when the interpreter came, when he placed his finger upon the word and said to us, “The meaning of this word is God with us”, then we came into the liberty and into the wealth of a new possession.
So we need the interpreter. We shall always need him. The great reader will always have his day, come and go who may. We want men who can turn foreign words, difficult languages, into our mother tongue. Then how simple they are and how beautiful, and that which was a difficulty before becomes a gate opening upon a wide liberty. We need a man who can interpret the meaning of confused and confusing and bewildering events; some one with a key from heaven, one with divine insight, the vision that sees the poetry and the reality of things; a man with a clear, simple, strong, penetrating voice who will tell us that all this confusion will one day be shaped into order, and all this uproar will fall into the cadences of a celestial and endless music.

We shall know that man when we meet him; there is no mistaking the prophet. He does not speak as other men speak, nor is he in difficulty or in trouble as other men are. On his girdle hangs the key, the golden key, that can open the most difficult gates in providence and in history, and in the daily events that make up our rough life from week to week. How much more we might have elicited from him if we had listened more intently to his wonderful voice! What miracles of music he might have wrought in our nature, but we take the prophet sometimes as a mere matter of course: he is a man in a crowd, his specialty we overlook, and we know not that he is talking to us from the mountain of the heavens, from the altar of the temple unseen ….

It is the prophet’s business to interpret things to us, to tell us that everything has been from the beginning, to assure us that there are no surprises in providence, to calm our hearts with the deep conviction that God has seen the end from the beginning, and that nothing has occurred on all this theatre of time which God did not foresee and which God does not control.  The devil is but a domestic servant in the kitchen of God; the devil has limited chains; he counts the links, he would like to make seven eight, he strives to strain the links into greater length, he cannot do it, he was chained at the first, he has been chained ever since, he will be chained forever– Hallelujah!  The Lord reigneth!  There is but one throne, and all hell is subject to the governance and the authority of  that throne….

“Which being interpreted”.  We need the interpreter every day.  We say, Affliction, and he says, I will interpret that word to you;  it needs interpretation, it is a very bitter word, but affliction being interpreted is chastening, refining, sanctifying, making meet for the Master’s use.  The Cross being interpreted is law, righteousness, pardon, redemption, atonement, salvation.  Being misinterpreted, it is to one class a sneer, to another an offence, to another foolishness; but to believe its interpretation at its best, it is the power of God and the salvation of God.  Man being interpreted is child of God, son of the Eternal, a creature made in the image and likeness of God, and meant to live with God and to enjoy Him and glorify Him forever.  The Church being interpreted is the most vital centre of the most blessed influence, an association of souls that love the Cross, that live in Christ, that are saved by Christ, and that have no joy that is not consonant with the purposes and pleasures of God.
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Quoted in Bernard Ramm’s Protestant Biblical Interpretation, (1950) e4unity@cs.com

See my post “Do we need an Interpreterat SIMPLECHURCH

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