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Eisegesis Unplugged

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passage

"No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17)

Thanks to the 2013 Super Bowl and a famous professional football player, the above passage now has worldwide recognition!  Initially, I thought it was just a Super Bowl occurrence, but I found out that it was also used after a previous 2012 playoff game, by the same player, in a post-game interview. Having had my curiosity piqued, I Googled it and found out I can even buy a t-shirt with the passage and the players face! How cool is that?

A little more Web searching revealed that there's a popular Christian song that has as the chorus:

"No weapon formed against me shall prosper, it won't work

No weapon formed against me shall prosper, it won't work"

A well known and very popular preacher uses the verse in a personal testimony, preaching it to a thunderous applause and applying it to everyone in the congregation, meaning that no weapon formed against any of them has a chance of success either.

I mentioned a few celebrities, but I also suggest that we ordinary folks have a tendency to just grab on to what they tell us just because they say it. That can get us in trouble if we are being fed a bill of goods and we don’t play the role of good Bereans (See Acts 17) and test what we are being fed no matter how sweet it sounds!

So what about "No weapon formed against me shall prosper”? Does it mean, as is often assumed, that all of our earthly plans and desires will meet with success just because we are children of God? Does it mean that obstacles to those plans and desires are 'weapons formed against us' by personal enemies or diabolical forces? Let's take a closer look.

The Context

Having described the great provision of vicarious atonement through the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53), in chapter 54, Isaiah the prophet announces the consequent blessings: the expansion of Israel, the blessings of safety and peace, and anticipates the salvation and restoration of Israel, This chapter contains awesome descriptions of the everlasting love of God toward His covenant people and promises of a glorious future (vv. 11-17). Verse 17 concludes the chapter, and should be considered in its entirety, along with verse 16:

16 “Behold, I have created the blacksmithWho blows the coals in the fire,Who brings forth an instrument for his work;And I have created the spoiler to destroy.

17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper,And every tongue which rises against you in judgmentYou shall condemn.This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,And their righteousness is from Me,”Says the Lord. (NKJV)

We can summarize these two verses together as follows:

The city of God is secure because (1) all the powers of evil are under God’s control and (2) he will defend his people. Behold, I. God alone accomplishes the promised victory. This is the heritage (all the promises of chapter 54) no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed. God will protect his people and defeat every enemy, no matter how powerful.[i]

The promised heritage (no weapon formed against them shall succeed) is for 'servants of the Lord', those who serve him faithfully and obediently, and whose righteousness is found from Him and not of their own. There may even be obstacles (enemy weapons) along the way like the Babylonian captivity Isaiah spoke of, but the enemies of Israel will not ultimately succeed. Isaiah 54 points to the final culmination of all of God’s covenant promises at the end of the age, the destiny of God's covenant people, whom God created for His glory (Isa 43:1-7). There is a much bigger picture here than our personal plans, desires and schemes!

So how do we apply these verses?

I'm glad you asked! There certainly is an application for Christians today and it is found in the pages of the New Testament.

"As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:4-6)

Peter reminds us that "we are an elect nation, a holy priesthood, living stones built on the foundation stone, a people that has obtained mercy and will not be put to shame; and that we are to show forth our praise of Him as we live in righteousness before all people who will see our good works and glorify the Father. So the message for us today is the same as the message for the returning exiles spoken of in Isaiah 54. God has begun a new work in Christ and called us as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation displaying the mercy and righteousness of God. Great promises of the blessings of peace, safety, prosperity and victory are held out to those who obediently walk in God’s perfect will for their lives."[ii]

Dear friends, the passage we tear  from its context and claim for personal glory and gain (no weapon formed against me shall prosper) has nothing to do with winning football games, or any of the other selfish plans and schemes of men.  And yes, I am among the guilty! However, now knowing that this passage is about the goorious restoration of the people of God and the city of God,  we will surely have opportunities to explain to others the Master's eternal plan, maybe even someone wearing the t-shirt!

I don't know about you, but I'm not buying the t-shirt!

[i] ESV Commentary

[ii] The Book of Isaiah, By Allen Ross, Th.M., Th.D., Dallas Theological Seminary

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