I enjoy a certain size puzzle — something small that I can assemble in three days or less. That’s about all the time I am interested in putting into a cardboard puzzle. I basically assemble the outer borders and then work my way in. I refer to the picture on the box as often as is needed. A friend of mine had a different methodology. He started at one corner and worked from there all the way through the pieces until he reached the other end of the puzzle. His methodology is closer to what is needed when resolving the real life puzzles we face. One such puzzle for those who follow Jesus is to understand what God says to us or in other words, detecting the sound of God. On more than one occasion in the life of Jesus, God spoke verbally out of the heavens. On one of these occasions, some of the people mistook the sound of the voice of God for thunder (John 12:29). That’s the puzzle! Sometimes it takes more than three days to figure this kind of puzzle out; and there may be more than 300 pieces.
People were often puzzled at what Jesus had to say. When Jesus said, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going” (John 7:33-35; see verse 35 for their puzzlement), this puzzled the Jewish leaders. Nicodemus was confused (John 3:10), the disciples were often confused (as in John 4:31-33; Matthew 16:23; and Luke 24:4), and we will be puzzled until we are ready to hear and act on what God is teaching us. To get there we must learn to study the Bible with the skill of an architect and a toolbox full of the right tools for the job.
King Herod was puzzled when he listened to John the Baptist. He liked listening to him but he was perplexed at what he had to say when he spoke what God wanted him to hear — that he should quit sleeping with his brother’s wife (Mark 6:18-20). Peter, a famous apprentice of Jesus, was puzzled over a vision God had given him which was meant to lead him to ignore the arbitrary walls that he had constructed between himself and people who did not look like or act like he did (Acts 10:19). The more difficult a thing is to do and the required change to make, the more challenging the puzzle is to our ears and hearts. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Luke 14:35b).
We are mimes gesturing our visions of God with an incomplete choreography; but as we mature with ears more attuned to the quality and distinctiveness of God’s voice, our inner eye is opened and all the dusty pieces of cardboard interlock into an understanding of just what the big picture really is (John 10:1-6). We are not sheep wandering aimlessly through this life. God makes one thing clear enough after another. We can count on His Word (the Bible) when we skillfully apply the tools of interpretation. I am intentional and intent on teaching the right way to handle Scripture by example each Sunday. It took me too many years to realize that I must be careful to carry out this charge. For a while I was lead to believe that constructing a sermon was boiling down a few verses to say what I wanted them to say. Now I do the best I can to pray my way to hearing what those verses want to say and then to faithfully teach that. I sense the urgency in detecting the sound of God’s voice in the verses and making the puzzle as easy as possible. I want my friends who listen to know how to put the puzzle together for themselves.
2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB95): Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.