While working for the U. S. Forest Service as a “Radio Tech,” I had the pleasure of assisting in the installation of a forest-wide electronic public exchange (PBX), a telephone switch. In preparing for that experience, I attended a two-week course for certification on the Mitel 2000 PBX. It was a good course, well-taught, and I came back armed and ready not only for the installation and set up, but also for continued maintenance and upgrades. A major theme of the course was the Mitel Manual. Actually, it was not just one, but a series of manuals on the switch. Throughout the course, the instructors continually referred to one or more of the manuals stressing the critical nature of not just knowing the switch itself, but knowing the manuals. The key to expedient maintenance and repair was in knowing where to look for the answer. We were given our own copies of the manuals, and by the end of the two weeks, they were well worn.
Well worn. That reminds me of an old country song—no surprise, right? The singer tells of the family Bible on display on the table, with his family tree dutifully preserved inside. The pages are never turned, the Bible never touched, except to add the name and dates of births and marriages and deaths. Quite the contrast to the Mitel manuals. After a week already showing signs of wear, there were note cards sticking out from the pages, marking a section of interest, a place to return to later.
Those Mitel manuals were a lot like the manuals I’d been accustom to in the military. They detailed every possible operation necessary for a well-functioning PBX. One whole manual alone detailed each part and its corresponding part number and how to order it. The writers had thought of every possible scenario, and anticipated it. Technical writing is truly an art. And the principles apply to all types of things, even the instructions for preparing mac and cheese.
The other day, while helping my daughter make mac and cheese, I pointed out that one of the steps in cooking it said to “Add the cheese packet.” I suggested that this meant to just put the packet in with the macaroni. She didn’t laugh. Everyone knows that the packet needs to be opened and one pours the content into the pot. Right? Technical writing, to be thorough, is a bit like computer programming. Each statement must be fully understood, fully stated. One doesn’t describe answering the phone as “answer the phone.” One must start with the ringer and lifting a handset. Oh, what’s a handset? Get the idea.
There’s another kind of instruction. It’s the instruction offered in the Bible.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16,17.
As I understand, after a person accepted Christ at a Billy Graham event, he or she was encouraged to read the Bible and get into a church for Christian fellowship. While there are portions of the Bible that list very clear steps a Believer is to follow, a lot of the Bible is Story. Not story as in made up. Not a tale. The Bible is true. It is also historical. Therefore, story as truth and instruction are imbedded within the narrative of the Scriptures. Y’shuaJesus spoke in parables, the truth available to and gleaned by those to whom the Lord reveals through His Spirit. A note on the historical accounts within the Bible. In the Apologetics Study Bible, the note on 2 Timothy 3:16 states, “Some critics argue that all Scripture cannot be divinely inspired since a moral G-d could not possible have inspired, say, the story of a horrible rape in Judges 19:22-30. Scripture does record immoral acts. Inspiration guarantees its accuracy, not it divine approval. G-d’s approval or disapproval of human acts recorded in the Bible must be inferred from the comments of the Biblical narrator, the divine responses to the action, the purpose of the book as a whole, and Biblical principles.”
The Bible, being story, isn’t neatly organized into topical areas. This has been done, though, for us by those who’ve compiled indices to the Bible. One Bible that devoted to topics is the Billy Graham Training Center Bible. While not all topics are covered, and not all references cited, the reader picks a topic of interest, such as salvation, and is given an overview then refered to a page number and a Scripture. There will be a short commentary on that Scripture citation, and another Scripture reference. Usually there will be four or five Scriptures and enough commentary to assist the reader in understanding the topic chosen.
The letters included in the New Testament are more specific instruction, often addressing issues within the newly formed Church. The Scripture cited early, 2 Timothy 3:16,17, is an example of a statement that is fairly clear. The note quoted offers some guidance to understanding the Scripture. There are many commentators that expound upon the Scriptures offering their interpretations. Matthew Henry is one of those who takes us line by line throughout the Bible. There are others.
How do I know that a particular commentator is accurate, or leading me in a proper direction? The Apostle Paul writes the Philippians:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord. Don’t be anxious. PRAY.
There a long, but very interesting sermon with transcript that speaks to “How the Spirit Helps us Understand,” by John Piper from 1984.
Oh, what’s RTFM? Back in the day, as they say, that was a saying in the military maintenance company in which I was assigned. It meant Read The . . . Manual.