Posted by: alisonwalley | 29 November 2009

Using the imagination

When I was first taught how to prepare a Bible study on a single passage, we learned to ask three basic questions:

  • What does this passage say?
  • What does it mean?

And the all-important, not-to-be-forgotten question

  • What does it mean to me?

And a very good basis for doing a Bible study these are. But I wonder sometimes if this is too cerebral a way of looking at the Bible. I nearly put ‘intellectual’ instead of ‘cerebral’ but I don’t think it’s so much a matter of cleverness, as looking at something too much with your head. A good father/child relationship is much more than about knowing, it involves all sorts of other things. And God is the father who truly loves his children.

God’s word does of course speak to our minds, but also to our emotions. How dull the Bible might become otherwise! And no wonder Jesus used parables to speak to people – whatever other reasons there were for this he knew that stories grab out attention and that we get really involved in them.

I was thinking of this during one of our studies in Hosea. As I said in a previous post, there’s a lot about judgement in Hosea. Now suppose you were pronouncing judgement: “This house is going to be pulled down because it’s been condemned as unsafe.” How could you ram the point home apart from repeating yourself?

Many of the prophets God sent to his people had to talk about judgement a lot. How did they get round repetition making people ignore them? If you read Hosea chapters 7 to 10, you’ll find many many pictures of the sin of God’s people and what would happen as a result. Here are just a few:

  • “Ephraim’s … hair is sprinkled with grey, but he does not notice” [Ephraim is another name for the northern kingdom, Israel]
  • “Ephriam is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless … I will throw my net over them; I will pull them down like the birds in the sky”
  • “Their leaders will fall by the sword”
  • “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour.”
  • “Thorns will overrun their tents”
  • “Their root is withered, they yield no fruit.”
  • “Samaria’s king will … be swept away like a twig on the surface of the waters” [Samaria was the capital of Israel]

Pictures can speak to us in ways that facts may not. Pictures slip under our guard. God is so gracious that he will use all means to reach us. We need to let God’s word speak to our hearts and imaginations as well as our minds.



  1. Good post.
    After all, if all we needed was a book of systematic theology God would have given us one.

    “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
    But the more I called Israel,
    the further they went from me…

    It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    taking them by the arms;
    but they did not realize
    it was I who healed them.

    I led them with cords of human kindness,
    with ties of love…

    How can I give you up, Ephraim?”

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