Non-Dispensationalist Christians (go ahead, look it up, I’ll wait) tend to get all uppity about how the Left Behind folks tend to use the Bible and a giant clothes line to justify their world view. That is to say, they take various key verses, remove them from their contexts, line them up in the particular order of their choosing, and argue that “the Bible says…” It isn’t a great way to do theology, and it has lead to any number of abuses on people’s finances, families, and lives. Still, every time I point one finger at someone else, there are three more pointing back at me. We aren’t as clean as we think we are.
Take Hymn #711 from the 1982 hymnal, for example. We’ll sing it during at least one service on Sunday. It is a periennal favorite since Karen Lafferty first paraphrased Matthew 6:33 and set it to a lively tune in 1973. According to The Hymnal 1982, the original version included only the first stanza and the Alleluia refrain. Subsequently, verses have been added, as in this version on YouTube.
“Seek Ye First” has grown to sometimes included Matthew 4:4 (cf. Luke 4:4) as well as Matthew 7:7 (cf. Luke 11:9, which is the reason we are singing it on Sunday). Anonymous sources drew on the work of Ms. Lafferty and cherry picked portions of Scripture that made it work for their theological desires. Since these authors of stanzas 2 and 3 are anonymous, I can’t say whether or not they are dispensationalists, but I can say that by including the 2nd stanza in our Hymnal, we’re complicit in clothesline theologizing.
All that, to say this, people who grew up over the last 40+ years are fairly familiar with the phrase, “ask, seek, knock.” It has been turned over and twisted in various ways such that now, it is often thought to read “ask and keep asking,” “seek and keep seeking,” and “knock and keep knocking.” I’m thankful to David Lose (gosh, I need to find a different Biblical scholar to offset my David Lose obsession) who builds on his words that I quoted yesterday to say this, “Popular piety has again interpreted this as a call to persistence… It might be more helpful, though, to read Jesus’ instruction as inviting trust – ask, search, knock… confident that you will receive what you ask. Of course there is no one among those listening that would give a snake or a scorpion to a beseeching child, so how then, Jesus implies, can we not trust that God as divine parent will give us all that we need, including and especially, the Holy Spirit?”
Ask, shamelessly. Seek, boldly. Knock, loudly. And know that the Lord your God delights to give you his best gift, a life of grace in the Holy Spirit.