What in the world is a hermeneutic?
You might be familiar with the term if you took any classes at a seminary or if you study the Scriptures with commentaries.
But hermeneutics isn’t a discipline that should be reserved just for academic Christianity. No, hermeneutics is something we all use in our everyday, street-level walk with God.
So, what in the world is a hermeneutic? In a word - interpretation.
Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. We each carry around our personal life hermeneutic; that is, our particular way of making sense of life.
Most significantly, our hermeneutic is what gives direction and motivation to our behavior. For example, if I believed that achieving X led to happiness, then I would pursue X. If I concluded that consuming Y resulted in cancer, then I would avoid Y.
In Psalm 73, we discover that the writer Asaph has a defective hermeneutic. It’s a dysfunctional perspective that you and I carry around sometimes, too.
Everywhere Asaph looked, it seemed as if the bad guys were winning. The arrogant, proud, and lawless appeared to thrive, living with wealth, health, pleasure, and ease.
It didn’t make sense. How could a just and holy God allow the wicked to prosper and the righteous to suffer? Asaph began to wonder if it was worth obeying the Lord. He became so embittered that he was like a beast before him (read the entire Psalm, but see verses 21-22 specifically).
Yet Asaph had made a devastating interpretative error - one that you and I are prone to make as well. His everyday life hermeneutic had no destiny included in it.
Without eternity, Asaph would have been right. If our present, physical world is all we have, then all of life should be about what we can experience, acquire, and enjoy in the here and now.
If this life is all that there is, then you would expect a good God to immediately and obviously bless those who follow him and curse those who mock him.
But this life is not all that there is. So, you and I must live with a preparation mentality - and with a destiny hermeneutic.
You can’t interpret personal suffering and societal brokenness without remembering that God is not satisfied with the world as it is. The Creator - who made this world and rules everything in it and who is the definition of goodness, wisdom, love, and truth - has promised to one day make all things new.
Your street-level hermeneutics must also include this essential interpretative perspective: the fallen world is meant to drive us to the end of ourselves. It will take us beyond our autonomy and self-sufficiency. It will push us beyond our righteousness, strength, and wisdom.
Why would God allow us to be frustrated in this world? Why would he leave us here to groan? Because in so doing, he’s molding and preparing us for eternal glory.
This broken world was never meant to be our paradise - it’s a preparation for our final destination.
So today, if you look around and believe that those who have defied God are experiencing blessing, apply your destiny hermeneutic and look again.
If you think that God has forgotten about you by allowing you to experience frustration and suffering, revert to your preparation mentality and think again.
Grace has given you something better than they are now experiencing. Grace has given you eternity - a destination so glorious that the most eloquent words on a page couldn’t do it justice.
1. How often do you consider the amount of interpretation that you do every day? Or do you move through life without much reflection?
2. Why is it beneficial to regularly review your street-level hermeneutics? How would your interpretation of life change your behavior? Apply this to at least one specific example.
3. Look at the evidence of your everyday life: what are you pursuing and what are you avoiding? How does your interpretation of X and Y lead to this behavior?
4. In what ways have you neglected to apply “the destiny hermeneutic” to your everyday life recently? What desires, words, and actions have resulted?
5. How can you view this broken world as a preparation for a final destination this week? How will that be spiritually helpful to you?