Discovering Purpose in the Parentheses

In my Bible reading Friday morning, I read something placed in parentheses that really stood out as significant:

“…Shimri the chief (for though he was not the first-born, his father made him chief)…” 1 Chron. 26:10

It’s easy to overlook something in parentheses—especially if it’s tucked away in the midst of a bunch of boring details, such as genealogical lists in the Book of Chronicles.  After all, even the king of Persia used their book of chronicles as a sleep aid!  (see Esther 6)

But if we slow down long enough to ponder the parenthetical, whether in God’s Word or life in general, we can discover gems like this one that will encourage and inspire us when we do.

1. They give us wisdom and guidance through under-the-surface truth:

For example, “chew on” what 1 Chron. 26:10 means:  In the midst of a culture and time when the first-born always got first-dibs on top position and blessing, one dad decides to make his younger son chief!  What made him do that?

Apparently, he considered his younger son the better choice, enough so to defy cultural norms and tradition.  What made his younger son the better choice?  The same things that make US the better choice—our character, capability, and closeness to the Lord.

In other words, if the Lord wants us in a position of leadership, we’ll be placed there, regardless of status or cultural norm.

2. They reveal vital gifts and promises from the Lord:

Did you know that according to Bible scholars, almost all of Eph. 3 (from v.2 on) was originally in parentheses?!  (Now it’s written after a long hyphen)  All that wonderful truth about “the mystery… boundless riches of Christ… that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God…” and His glory in the Church were all part of a parenthesis!

Yet it’s clearly not something we can do without or want to miss!  Doesn’t this make you wonder what other gifts and promises are tucked away in parentheses, waiting for us to discover and apply to our lives?

3. They often reveal our true motives for what we say and do:

      Mark 11:32-33 puts this in parentheses:

      “…(They [the leaders] feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’”

This explains why they wouldn’t tell Jesus what they believed to be the source of John the Baptist’s authority.

How often has fear of people made US cowards and/or indecisive?  And what other motives are hidden in parentheses—ones we may not recognize in ourselves until we’re willing to let the Lord show us?

We’ll never grow or overcome sinful habits in our lives until we, like the Psalmist, say,

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!  Ps. 139:23-24

Parentheses like this abound in Scripture, waiting to be discovered, dug up, and discerned, like buried treasure.

How about the parentheses of LIFE?

The current pandemic is an increasingly long parentheses in everyone’s life, as it has rendered all of us “on hold” in quarantine.  In-person-church life, events, travel, visiting loved-ones, work life, etc., have been placed in the “parentheses” of a hiatus until they can resume.

As a result, they can make us and life feel insignificant—like we might as well just sleep until the whole thing is over!  But what we’ve learned from Scripture applies to the parentheses of life as well—there IS a use for them—if we look, learn and grow from each one.

Don’t pass them by on the way to something else, or we’ll forfeit the treasure within!

Verse of the Day

For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. — 1 Peter 1:24-25 (NIV)

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