Biden and Isaiah

As if US President Joe Biden doesn’t have enough to contend with, he has been getting some stick for his exegesis of Scripture. For the lay person, exegesis means a critical explanation or interpretation of a text and boy did Joe get it badly wrong.

To explain, if you missed it. Responding to the ISIS-K attacks in Kabul this week The US President vowed that the extremists would be brought to justice. He then used Isaiah 6 v 8. 

Isaiah 6 records an awe striking confrontation that Isaiah had with a holy God. God’s grace was amazing even back then and God moved to deal with Isaiah’s sin and guilt. Made new, Isaiah hears God ask “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” Isaiah full of the energy of new life responds, “Here am I, send me.”

Joe Biden abuses the Scriptural text to say, “The American military has been answering for a long time, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me.’”  

Isaiah though is neither American nor in the military. He is accepting a call to be a prophet for justice for sure but it doesn’t seem to be the kind that Joe Biden has in mind and hails from a very different Chief. 

Those of us in the rest of the world are more than uneasy with the equating of America and the prophets of God, as though they are conduits for God’s keeping the world right. The Taliban might be saying similar things!! 

Biden’s exegesis is frightening BUT more frightening is that his misuse of Scripture is an everyday occurrence all over the world. It could happen in a pulpit near you tomorrow!

Let me surmise two lazy acts that we need to beware of. The first is that someone has quoted the Scripture therefore they can be trusted and the statement has to be true. 

I have listened too many times to “lonely verses” being ripped out of their Scriptural context and preached as Biblical truth. I hear people walking around pontificating (and I use the word intentionally) that they are Biblical because they quote the Scriptures and quote them more than everybody. 

Throwing a “lonely verse” up in the air doesn’t make us any more Biblical than Joe Biden was! Let us beware of being fooled by a Biblical quotation. Let us not be lazy about what we hear. Let us listen carefully. Let us search the Scriptures to hear the deep meaning of the text and not just the careless throwaway use of it, as if it is some magic set of words.

Secondly, let us not be lazy about how we use the Scriptures. Welcome to my world. I need to confess that I feel insecure every single week as I step up to a lectern (or in front of a camera). I have a fear that I might abuse a holy text. It is not a fear of inferiority, either as a theologian or as a preacher. It is a holy fear that I represent God correctly. 

In every situation that I am in, I am determined that I will go as far as I can to understand the text in the context of its time and in the context of the entire Biblical narrative and then apply it as carefully as I can into the context of Fitzroy in 2021. I know that at times I will get it wrong but I am determined to pray and study as much as I can to not misrepresent the Jesus teaching, God's amazing grace and the radical ways of His Kingdom.



I think he’s looking over his shoulder at the bible-bashing Republicans, instead of looking up at the one who gave the Word.

Barbara McIlwrath

How should we respond when the message from the pulpit is the ideas and opinions of the speaker (he is training at Union College) in my own church stated that social media is harmful, and that there was loads of evidence to say so. Proper research agree with that view, but it also says the opposite and recent, peer reviewed papers report that, on balance, there is more good than harm. As he railed against social media not bring people closer he was being recorded for those who cannot, or are still too nervous to attend church in person. He used this opinion to talk about needing to be physically close to our fellow believers, and I don’t dispute that, but in a pandemic we can’t make others feel they are disobeying God by using social media to connect. My point in all this is how can we trust what is said on the word of God from the pulpit, if the other statements made are wrong?

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