Feb 20, 2012 David Lang

The Best Cross-References

Sometimes the best system of cross-references you can use is your own brain. As you're reading a passage of Scripture, your mind makes associations with other passages which may be related in ways that wouldn't necessarily show up in a typical list of cross-references.

I experienced that last week when reading Psalm 91 during family devotions. This has been one of my favorite psalms since I first read it in college, yet it's funny how you can read a familiar passage and make associations you've never seen before. At times like that, you want your software to be fluid enough to let you explore those associations without losing your train of thought.

The message of Psalm 91 is that those who remain "in the shadow of the Almighty" (verse 1) will experience divine protection in the midst of trouble. It contains all kinds of interesting literary features, but the part that got my synapses firing this time was verses 11 and 12:

For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways. They will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (HCSB)

Gustave Dore's Depiction of the Temptation of Jesus (from Bible Art) During our devotions, I asked my children where they had heard those words before, and I was pleased that a couple of them remembered that the devil quoted them in his temptation of Jesus. I happened to remember that Matthew 4 and Luke 4 both contain the temptation of Jesus, so I told my family to turn to Luke 4. While they were turning there in their print Bibles, I entered Luke 4 in the Go To box at the bottom right of my Search tab to jump there myself.

Before I continue, what if I hadn't happened to remember which passage to turn to? How could I have used Accordance to help me find that passage? I'll show you how to do that in my next post.

When my family and I read Luke 4, we saw that the devil quoted Psalm 91 when he was tempting Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the temple. (I'll show you how to find out more about the "pinnacle of the temple" in Wednesday's post). Jesus resisted the temptation by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, "Do not test the Lord your God."

At that point, my family and I turned back to Psalm 91. Since I had navigated away from that passage using the Go To box, I was able simply to click the Back arrow to the left of the Go To Box to jump back there.

I then asked my children to look at the original context of the verses the devil quoted. We discovered that in Psalm 91, that promise of angelic protection comes in the context of plague and harm which strikes without warning—unexpected troubles that cannot reach the one who remains hidden in the "shadow of the Almighty." The devil, however, was trying to get Jesus to go looking for trouble—to commit a foolhardy act with the presumption that God would rescue him from the consequences. This contrast underscored the appropriateness of Jesus' response.

The next verse of Psalm 91 continues the promise of divine protection: "You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the young lion and the serpent" (verse 13, HCSB). Considering the original context, I asked my children to contrast the dangers posed by a lion and a serpent. With a little prompting, we concluded that a lion overpowers its victim with a direct assault, while a venomous snake is often hidden, striking unexpectedly and relying on its venom to destroy its victim from within. We took the point to be that God will protect the faithful from both kinds of danger. This got me thinking about Romans 8:35, which I paraphrased from memory for the sake of time. Otherwise I would have entered Romans 8 in the Go To box and scrolled the chapter until I found the verse I had in mind.

My next thought regarding Psalm 91:13 was that it was interesting that the devil didn't quote that verse when tempting Jesus to test God. After all, wouldn't treading on a lion and cobra be more appropriate when trying to get someone to be presumptuous about divine protection? Then it occurred to me that the devil is compared both to a lion and to a serpent in Scripture. It's never wise to make too much of what someone chooses not to quote, but it does make you wonder, doesn't it? In tempting Jesus, one could see why the devil might take care not to call to mind promises of ultimate victory over lions and serpents!

From this brief example, it's easy to see how reading one passage can call to mind other passages because of direct quotations, associated images, and similar applications. At times like that, it's important to be able to follow those associations quickly and easily. If it is too difficult to navigate to those other passages, you may just lose the association and end up feeling frustrated. In this case, I had a rough idea of the references for the passages I had in mind, so I simply entered the references in the Go To box or used the Back arrow to jump back and forth. In upcoming posts, I'll show you some ways to follow those associations when you don't remember the references.

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Archived Comments


February 20, 2012 11:12 AM

Great stuff! Looking forward to next couple of posts.

Barry Francolino

February 20, 2012 3:24 PM

Even the Almighty's shadow has more light than the devil's notion of "glory." 

Some cross references that come to mind:Lucifer for he shines as a minister (messenger) of light; also, many passages that descibe God/Jesus as light. 

If we stay even in God's shadow, we are in a light that outshines all of God's "illuminators" (Heb 1.13-14 comes to mind).


Brandon Kelly

March 01, 2012 5:21 PM

After reading this I wanted to say that this is one of my favorite parts in the Bible. I love how the Devil tempts Jesus, even though he already knows that it's a waste of time and he will be unsuccessful. For he knows that God is all knowing and that God has already said what WILL happen in the end. The only thing that he has left to bring him any solice is how many people he'll be taking to hell with him. I myself have started my own blog about God, Jesus, and The Bible where I talk about what I learn as read and how it affects my life. I hope to gain as big a reputation as you someday, God bless!