The Deep Waters of Biblical Exposition

There was a certain man walking in the desert who came to a well. Amidst this parched and arid land he saw that it was deep, rich, and the very thing that the desert needed. People wandered about, thirsty and in desperate need of the life-giving waters of the well, however none of them came to drink of it. The man approached the well, took up a bucket and plunged it into the water.

At least, he tried.

The water in this well was not ordinary water. He tried yet again but was unable to get the brim of the bucket to go very far beneath the surface of the waters. The water was thick. Though he could see clearly to the bottom of the well, the water was simply too dense for the man to make much progress. He tried over and over again and eventually he was able to get a little deeper. By now a crowd had gathered around the man curiously watching his movements. The man tried more feverishly at plunging the bucket beneath the water as he could see that the people were in desperate need of the life giving waters. Eventually, after all his efforts he looked at the bucket disappointed seeing that it was only about half full.

He began to distribute it to the people and they were satisfied. Some drank much, others little, but some did not come to the well at all. He wished that he could give them more but he simply could not reach the depths that the well had to offer.  

Often I feel like this man when I approach the task of Biblical exegesis and exposition. I feel like I’m staring at that same well full of life-giving water and am uncertain how I am going to plunge its depths of truth and do so in a way that is meaningful to others. We can easily look around and see the desperate need for God’s Word and become discouraged, knowing that we could never fully mine its depths, and even if we could, some would still never come to drink. This is simply the nature of God’s Word. It is deep, dense, and full of truths whose surfaces we can hardly begin to scratch. For every drop that we manage to pull from the well of Scripture there is still so much remaining that we wish could draw up bucketful after bucketful for those whom we preach and teach. However, we cannot fully know the depths of Scripture, yet still, to draw from this well is the task for which we have been called.

So what must we do?

First, we must humbly recognize the Godly task assigned to us.

When we approach Scripture it is imperative that we understand that in our finiteness we lack the ability to fully comprehend the infinite. Now, this does not mean that we possess no ability of comprehending God’s Word; but, when we were affirm our own limitations it forces us to rely more heavily on God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. The acts of exegesis and exposition are not solo tasks, rather, it is a duty to submit to the influence of the Holy Spirit by immersing it in prayer and asking for wisdom from above.

Second, we need to find a better bucket.

By this I mean that we need to use the best tools we have at our disposal and we need to know how to use them. Whether it’s commentaries, lexicons, or any other type of aid, we must be able to further our knowledge of Scripture in order to help sink our buckets deeper into the well. Along with that we must continue in our education. Every degree is conferred with a commencement, a beginning, sending us out to begin the work for which the degree was earned. We often think of this as an end, however, it should compel us on further. Whether it is professional or private, the Biblical expositor must continue to learn.

Finally, get someone to help draw from the well.

We all approach the Bible with different backgrounds, knowledge, and perspectives. When we open exegesis to collaboration and multi-faceted scrutiny we can arrive at conclusions we may never have found on our own. This also creates accountability in our exegesis as we cannot let our own presuppositions warp a text into a meaning that is only suitable to ourselves.

As faithful preachers of God’s Word we have a task of upmost importance that should not be taken lightly. Scripture is indeed a deep well whose depths are not easily plunged. With humility, hard work, and help from others we can begin to sink our buckets a little deeper each time. We can never reach the bottom, but we can find more depth with each subsequent draw from the well.

So pick up your buckets! Seek God in the process and make every attempt to get elbow deep into the well so that your bucket spills over and onto the thirsting lips of those who are parched! Do not be discouraged at this daunting task, rather, be encouraged that we have such a tremendously deep and rich resource from which to draw.