On Monday, I recounted a study of Psalm 91 I did with my family last week. During his temptation of Jesus, the devil quoted Psalm 91:11-12, so we also looked at the account of the temptation in Luke 4. There we discovered that the devil was using these verses to tempt Jesus to throw himself down from the "pinnacle of the temple."
Have you ever wondered what the "pinnacle of the temple" is? Here's how to stop wondering and find out: simply select the phrase "pinnacle of the temple," then choose PhotoGuide from the English Tools menu of the Resource palette. (I'm assuming, of course, that you have the PhotoGuide, because, well, why wouldn't you?)
As I explained in a recent post, the value of the PhotoGuide is not just in its vast collection of photos, but in the detailed historical and geographical information it contains. If you want to know something about Jerusalem in general or the temple mount in particular, the PhotoGuide is one of the first places you should turn. Here we can see photos of the southeast corner of the temple mount, which is its highest point above ground level. We also see the model of what that location would have looked like in Jesus' day. The caption also discusses another possible identification of the "pinnacle" and points to another figure in that same article.
If you don't own the PhotoGuide, you could choose any other resource in your Accordance library, or even choose to search all your tools at once. To do the latter, simply select the phrase "pinnacle of the temple," then choose [All Tools] from the Search menu of the Resource palette. A Search All window will open displaying every occurrence of the phrase "pinnacle of the temple" in your entire Accordance library.
Now, it's certainly nice to be able to do such a broad search so quickly, but this particular example shows how problematic such searches can be. Browse the results, and you'll see that no Bible dictionary has an article on the pinnacle of the temple. Instead, almost all of the results come from the body text of articles focused on other things, such as the martyrdom of James or the account of Jesus' temptation. Click to read those articles and you'll find interesting information, but not much of it is focused on describing the pinnacle itself.
That's the challenge of library-wide searches: you get the results quickly, but then have to wade through them looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. It doesn't take long for your Bible study to become bogged down looking for the answer to a simple question like "What is the pinnacle of the temple?"
In this way, it ends up being far more efficient to consult a resource like the PhotoGuide which specializes in illustrating such historical details. Remember to consult it, and you can usually find your answer quickly and get back to your passage of study.
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)
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.