NKJV - 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.
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No. Precept upon precept, at least in the method spoken of in Isaiah 28:9-10, is not an ideal method for Bible study. As Is 28:11-13 describes, it is actually a stumbling block to understanding scripture. "So then, the word of the Lord to them will become: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there—so that as they go they will fall backward; they will be injured and snared and captured." 'Precept upon Precept' in Is 28:9-10 refers to a piecemeal teaching which never gives the larger picture. The teacher 'feeds' the student milk, not solid food, by listing rules and regulations apart from their spiritual content. For a modern example, a children's church might fall into this when teaching young children; emphasizing the ten commandments or practical things they should do or not do. However, if the underlying reason of obedience out of love is never explained, or the gospel is never explained, then this can become a legalistic set of rules even for a kindergartner. For older Christians, we definitely should examine ourselves often and ask the reason we are doing something, especially if we are teaching others that something is a 'must' or a 'shall not'. Our focus should not be on checklists of sin or virtue, but on walking by the spirit (Rom 8:5-16). As we walk by the spirit, we will put to death the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:13-25), but we cannot be perfected by rules (Gal 3:1-13). The Jews added countless 'rules' to scripture, and overemphasized the rules in scripture over their moral basis. God took them to task for this many times (I Sam 15:22, Ecc 5:1, Hos 6:6). This was a main reason Jewish converts had difficulty accepting that the Gentiles could be saved without being circumcised, and a reason many Jews could not accept Christ's ministry due to the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:5). Another aspect that is dangerous, besides the rule-oriented vs. Moral focus, is that the teaching spoon-feeds scripture and can easily distort it. The teacher has control over what little is given, and how the student should interpret that. For examples: - A Pastor might give an expository sermon where he goes line by line through a passage. Yet by ignoring cross-references, adding his own interpretations, and emphasizing some parts over others, he can lead the congregation towards his own personal interpretation while simultaneously convincing them that it is 'nothing but the word'. - A Pastor might give a topical sermon, but by selecting only those cross references that support his view, teach a skewed version of the topic. - A book or theory might be presented piece by piece. Individual scriptures, outside of their context, are given as proofs. Once it is laid out what a given scripture 'must' mean, the next scripture is given. Further scripture is interpreted in the light of all the previously interpreted scripture that the author has given before it, and any personal views or assumptions that he has convinced the reader to believe. Conflicting scriptures are ignored or redefined to line up with the view. 'Precept upon Precept' in Is 28:9-10 leads to stumbling and injury, but Is 28 gives an alternate method, a 'sure foundation': "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place." Is 28:16-17 Our cornerstone is Jesus, the foundations the teachings of the Apostles. We ourselves become living stones in the building as it is built up (Eph 2:20, Matt 21:42-43). God gives us His own Spirit to dwell in us, help us relate to God as His children, and help us grow in relationship with Christ. (I John 2:18-27, Eph 4:13-15, II Pet 1:3-11, Gal 4:1-7, Matt 23) Good teaching, then, is based in Christ and grows towards Christ.
We are to learn this way because it is the way babies and toddlers learn. It does have its place, and at one point in time is necessary, but if any in the church would bother reading the entire passage with an open mind they would know that this is not God's point here -- he is telling us that this is the way we do act and it has become a curse to us. This is a part of a much larger prophecy which begins in Isaiah 20 and ends in Isaiah 35. In it a watchman (Isaiah) is giving his report of the things he has seen that are a danger to the nations of Israel and Judah, with some reports concerning neighboring nations as well, and is laying out God's case against these nations and their rebellion against God and why they are to be given over to Assyrian captivity according to the law of tribulation (found in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 as blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience of God's law; the highest levels of curse is captivity to your neighbors whether a wooden yoke (Jeremiah 28) which is remaining in your country (home) but paying tribute to a foreign power or an iron yoke (Deut 28:48) which is exile from your land.) The pattern of this prophecy is laying out the case against someone, looking ahead to the day God will execute judgment against them (in that day) then looking farther ahead to when he will return them to their inheritance after repentance and payment of the penalty (in that day). In Isaiah 28 the statement in question is given during the laying out of the sins of the people which cause the judgments of the law to be brought against them. The verse in question is actually two verses, (10 and 13) and in the latter it is unquestionably stated to be a curse. Verse 11 says that because this is the way their priests and prophets have taught them (the traditions of men, and not God's word, BTW) God will send them into captivity. Verse 12 says that because they have refused to enter the place of rest (God's law) the word of God has become to them (verse 13) nothing but a list of do's and don'ts, and became the very trap that eventually sent them into their captivity. This was what Jesus was talking about when he told the Pharisees and teachers of the law they had set aside the law of God for the traditions of men. These people in Isaiah's day and in Jesus day were not even learning the law of God line by line. They were learning man's interpretation of a bunch of do's and don'ts line by line, along with additional rules by men saying this is how you avoid crossing the line into sin -- do not walk more than 2000 cubits on the Sabbath, don't carry a pale of water (something the law actually commanded them to do if they kept their livestock in their stalls on the Sabbath) and any number of other petty regulations. Had they at least learned God's law instead of the traditions of men "line by line" they would have been a bit better off but the prophet was clear that even that would not be enough. This is how toddlers learn but adults require something else. In chapter 26 the prophet said, "11 When its twigs are dry, they are broken off and women come and make fires with them. For this is a people without understanding; so their Maker has no compassion on them, and their Creator shows them no favor." Learning God's word line by line and little by little does not bring understanding. It is necessary for children, and if they do not get this they will not be able to move into understanding later until they do finally learn line by line, but if they never move beyond line by line they will eventually fall into the trap and be sent into captivity. So beyond a certain point this is no longer a good way to learn. Chapter 29 says, "13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught." Without understanding they never have God's heart.
Most people seem to omit the very important ending to this verse, about why precept is on precept. I direct your attention below and notice the reason is given for us, "So that they may go, fall backward, be broken, be snared, and be taken." "13 And the word of the Lord will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, in that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken." For some reason, people take these verses as a 'how-to' guide on how scripture is to be taught and learned. For me, this is very puzzling as this method is being ridiculed and it is stated for us very plainly that it ends badly. It is speaking about the teachers taking over the process, of the people being led around by the teachers, who dispense the scriptures 'little by little' never allowing the full picture to be seen. To me, this describes modern church teaching very well. We come in, get a half hour spoon feeding, and then we are on our way. I would point out also that in the Hebrew texts, verse ten reads like an elementary school taunt, which shows that he is making fun of the teaching style they use, when they say 'do this, do that' - as below in transliteration: "saw la-saw la-saw qaw la-qaw qaw la-qaw" He is using a childish phrase to highlight how silly they are being. The tragedy is that those relying on it are being led to ruin. Unfortunately, I have seen many, many modern teachers use these verses as their guiding premise. To me, it just seems that the prophecy is being fulfilled in our day and His people perish for lack of knowledge.
Why must precept be upon precept? "precept upon precept, line upon line" (Isa 28:9-10), is addressing how one gets understanding and truth from the scriptures, making it your own, not just parroting what others have said. It starts with "Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message?" 2 Tim. 2:15 Study to show yourself approved unto God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. This is achieved by comparing what God has had recorded on any given subject and searching through ALL the scriptures to see what is reviled and what is not reviled also, concerning the subject. This line upon line comparison is need to get an accurate understand of God’s will. There are false concepts presented by men that do not follow this by taking a single verse or short passage from the Bible out of context or twisting it. For Example: Jesus made wine, drank wine, and spoke of new and old wine and we are told to drink a little wine for your stomach sake and infirmities. Therefore, it is a good thing to drink wine or alcohol. But that is not all the scriptures says on that subject. What about the scriptures that warn against its use for recreation? Does God's word teach that it was a good thing Noah did when he drank wine became drunk and lay naked in his tent? What of Lot's daughters causing him to drink wine, was that wrong? What about God's command to Aaron and his to not drink wine nor strong drink for ever throughout their generations? Was God being partial or did he have a good reason for this? What about the warnings and admonitions of Pro. 20, 21, 23, 31; Rom.14; Eph.5, 1 Tim. 3, Titus 1, 2, etc? Other examples would be subjects like baptism, the Lord's passover supper, Christmas, Easter, tithing, modesty for both women and men, etc. A precept is a procedural directive or a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought: moral precepts; (syn) principle, rule, canon, doctrine, command, order, decree, commandment. Precepts and doctrine derived from studying the scriptures will not be in opposition or contradict each other. If it is absolute truth it will fit any situation like a key that will open all locks. If the precept fits most doctrine or scriptural principals but not all them, it is not truth or correct. God’s word harmonizes with itself in all cases if you have the proper understanding of truth presented. Therefore, it is again necessary to compare precepts with scripture and other precepts to insure accuracy of one’s understanding and aligning one’s thoughts with God’s truth. We can not trust our own reasoning, which is a precept derived from: Pro. 3:5-7; Isa. 55:7-9 and other places. This is the same procedure as what those from Berea did. They received the principles and precepts but searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so (if it aligned with God’s revealed truth). Acts 11:17 2 Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. A simple aid in helping to understand the scriptures is ask yourself four questions about any passage. 1) Who is speaking? (God, man, Satan) 2) Who is being spoken to? (men, children, women, the church, gentiles, Jews) 3) What is the authority of the one speaking? (God, man, Satan) 4) What time or dispensation is in view? (before the law, after the law, age of grace, etc.) Studying the scriptures, comparing text and searching out ALL on any given topic, not just reading them, is paramount in gaining understand of truth and the will of God for each believers.
Jesus condemned the Pharisees because they added their own extra biblical laws to Gods laws and even made them more important. It was an attempt to make themselves more righteous than others that did not obey their extra biblical laws and rules. They believed that they could obey the law so well that they would go to heaven on account of their own righteousness. They were really putting people in bondage to things that God never intended. They put burdens on the backs of people that they themselves would not lift. The church does that today. We add our own extra biblical laws to Gods word. Drinking, smoking, dancing, going to movies, watching TV, working where tobacco and alcohol are sold, wearing the wrong kind of clothing, and many other extra biblical laws. Once it starts there is no end. We become our own God and decide what is right and wrong for everyone outside of what the bible says. We cherry pick verses to support our own manmade law. When we do this we are putting people in bondage, making our selves more righteous than others, and it leads to spiritual pride. Precepts become more important than people. Our laws become more important than Gods laws. Obedience to the law becomes more important than walking in the spirit of the law. Grace is a foreign word. Everything is license. We cannot love people because everyone is a sinner but us. We strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Churches use it to control people and raise money. Cults brain wash people by using scripture to write their own biblical truths. The bible says in the last days the church would go into apostacy and I believe we are there. There is no love for God or people. We have brought everything down to law. Our own thou shalt nots are more important than the bibles absolutes. Many people are brought to believe that obeying these extra biblical laws is what saves them and it leads them to hell. Jesus means nothing and He died in vain because we are so righteous we do not need HIm. That is why Jesus said these people worship me in vain teaching the commandments of men but their hearts are far from me. It is a cancer in the church.
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