One of the stubbornly resistant facts of the Bible is that all of its words, affirmations, and denials have to be interpreted.
Take for instance a hint of of God’s goodness spoken by the LORD to Moses and remembered by Paul, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (Exodus 33:19; Romans 9:15).
Anyone who wants to understand those words must interpret them, or rely on someone else to do so. The result is that some interpret those words as being full of sovereign narrowness (Romans 9:18), while others see them pointing beyond themselves to oceans of undeserved kindness (Romans 11:32).
The challenge in reading any portion of Scripture, as we’re all finding out, is to be able to connect the dots not just with a few selected texts but with the grand sweep of a drama that begins in the Garden and finds fullness of meaning in the life, words, suffering and resurrection of Christ.
As we do that, we are likely to discover surprises in the way the LORD shows mercy to people like Cain, Nebuchadnezzar, Jacob, Nineveh, Cyrus, in the words of Jesus’ toward those crucifying him… and,
Then there’s Jesus’s parable of the laborers in which (to give a hint about the mercies of the kingdom of God) he describes an employer who claims his right to pay those who work for an hour at the end of the day as much as those who gave him a full days work (Matthew 20:1-16).
Once again we get a hint that while inspired Scripture gives us a part of the Story (glances and glimpses), God has reserved the right to keep to himself— the whole unfolding of his goodness…