Why Are Both Meaning and Significance Important to an Accurate Understanding of the Message of the Scriptures?

Without Meaning and Significance, One Cannot Accurately Understand

The Scriptures contain a completely coherent message, which is called both the Mystery and the Word of God. However, that message cannot be properly understood if those who read the Scriptures do not accurately understand the meaning of what is said or the significance of why it was said.

As with any written or spoken form of communication, if a reader or hearer fails to grasp the meaning or the significance of a statement, there is a breakdown in communication. Although it is easy to see why an accurate understanding of the meaning of words is crucial to communication, it is not as easy to see why an accurate understanding of their significance can be just as essential. Here is an example that illustrates the importance of significance:

Every day at precisely 3 o’clock, an express train comes roaring down the tracks past a railway station. At 2:59 the railway attendant hollers, “It’s almost 3 o’clock!” Although the meaning of these words is clear, if a person doesn’t know that an express train is about to come through at a high rate of speed, he will fail to grasp the significance of why the attendant said what he did. That’s because significance relates to an assumed knowledge that stands behind what is said. In this case, the unstated message is, “Get off the tracks!”

As this example clearly shows, it is possible to hear or read what someone says and not grasp the significance of why it was said. This is important to remember when reading the Scriptures. Before one can fully grasp the significance of what the Prophets and Apostles wrote, one must first understand what they are talking about. This first requires insight into their mind-set, which in turn demands an understanding of the historical and cultural context in which they wrote.

Revealing and Concealing the Underlying Message of the Truth

If one has the required insight into the author’s mind-set, the significance—the underlying message—of every statement in the Scriptures can be easily understood. This is true even of statements that are completely ambiguous to the uninformed. If one doesn’t have insight into the author’s mind-set, however, one cannot grasp the significance of what is said, even when the meaning of those statements appears obvious. Take another look at God’s promise to David:

“I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
(2 Samuel 7:10–13) —NASB

Most who read this passage believe it to contain a reference to the future birth of David’s son, Solomon, who would eventually become king of Israel and build a great temple (“The House”) for God. But how can that understanding of Nathan’s prophecy be true? Since the throne of King Solomon did not endure forever, it seems unlikely. Furthermore, the text plainly says God would not “raise up a seed” for David until after David died.

The underlying message—the meaning and significance—of what God promised David in this passage cannot be understood unless one has insight into the meaning and significance of the Hebrew idioms “make a house,” “build a house,” “make a name,” and “raise up a seed.” The Truth is, God was promising David that He would Himself “build a house”—that is “engender a Son”—for David after David died, which is what He did through the Virgin Mary.

In the wisdom of God, the prophecies of Moses and all the other Prophets of Israel were written in simple yet ambiguous terms that are meant to simultaneously reveal and conceal the underlying message of the Truth of the Word of God that lies hidden in the Hebrew Scriptures. To those with insight into the parabolic images and Hebrew idioms that Moses and all the other Prophets of Israel used to speak in parables, the true message of the Scriptures, which is the Truth of the Word of God, is revealed. To those without the necessary insight, that message remains concealed, just as Jesus said:

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” And He answered and said to them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him shall {more} be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
(Matthew 13:10–13) —NASB

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