The Verse Snatcher

“And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.”
~ Luke 12:39

Gather around children and I will tell you a story.

Back in the day before iPhones, iPads, iPods, and podcasts, I used to listen to a thing called a radio while driving. I had a cassette player, but it was broken. I turned the dial this way or that to pick up a radio station broadcasting over the air. Typically your choices were music on FM or talk on AM. I had worked late and as a consequence, I was driving home late one night. I tuned into the Christian radio station to listen while driving home. Some “preacher” was talking about how much power you could have if you only had enough faith.

I had been driving a while and not paying close attention to the radio. It was the standard serving of health and wealth prosperity preaching. I heard the “preacher” ask, “Did you know you can command God?” There was a dramatic pause for dramatic effect after the question, and it got my attention, dramatically. The preacher claimed that God said in the Bible, “Command me.” No reference was given for the quote, but it was explained that if a person just had enough faith, they could command God to do what they wanted.

Honesty compels me admit I’ve never won a Scripture Knowledge prize at Market Snodsbury, or any other market, snods, or bury. I was acquainted with all 66 and I had taken the torch to all dark recesses of my mind, but couldn’t emerge with a reference for that quote. I listened intently to the rest of the program, but the reference for that quote didn’t come up. Where did the Bible say that?

What We Have Here

It took a little while before I could fully apply myself to search for the verse, but I did find it. The phrase came from Isaiah 45:11: “concerning the works of my hands command ye me.” The verse begins, “Thus saith the Lord.” The huckster on the radio said that God said this, in the Bible, and it meant we could command God to do whatever we want, granted we have enough faith. I had verified that is what the Bible says, but is that what it means?

Simply reading the whole verse aroused suspicions that the prosperity peddler was playing fast and loose. Isaiah 45 comes after some of the strongest rebukes of idolatry and statements of God’s sovereign supremacy in all Scripture. Chapter 45 addresses Israel and asserts the supremacy of Yahweh and catalogs some of his sovereign works. The prophet Isaiah speaks as God’s mouth-piece and chides the children of Jacob for striving with their Lord. Verse 11 is a challenge to the complainers to counsel the Almighty if they have better ideas about how the universe should operate. It is similar to the challenge God issued to Job in Job 38:1-40:2. That challenge silenced Job’s complaining. The challenge in Isaiah is to bring the unbelieving of Jacob to silence and compel them to faith in the sovereign God and only Savior (Isaiah 45:18-25).

Suspicions confirmed, the radio rooster was wrong. What we have here is an example of prooftexting. Prooftexting involves taking little snatches of verses here and there and using them to support a teaching or practice. Technically, God did say the words, “command ye me.” If a person casually runs the reference, he finds the words and then assumes the teaching is right. However, with even a few verses of context, it is clear that God is not saying he will perform our commands to him as long we have enough faith or use the right incantations. This is merely one example of a pervasive practice.

.50 Cal Communication

I recently had a conversation that reminded me of that radio preacher I heard so long ago. My collocutor was delivering little snatches of verses from all over the Bible like he was firing rounds from a BMG. My side of the conversation went like, “Well … that doesn’t mean … but … wait a minute … yeah, but …” We had jumped from place to place and after a few minutes I wasn’t sure where we even were. What were we talking about?

It’s been a while since I have heard that sort of rapid-fire, machine gun delivery of verse portions. I’ve found it’s always a pretty sure sign of prooftexting. Delivering a multitude of verse snatches does not equal “having Bible” for your position. Ignoring the original contextual meaning of a passage and using it to say whatever you want is not equal to “Thus saith the Lord.” Remember that Satan liked to use God’s words to suit his own purposes (Matthew 4:6).

If you find yourself sitting under teaching and preaching that jumps all over the Bible to give rapid-fire verse portions, take heed how you hear. It’s a good sign you are hearing prooftexting, otherwise known by such terms as, misusing Scripture, mishandling God’s word, twisting Scripture, mangling the Bible, etc. Beware the verse snatcher.

About Jeff Short