A Tribute to Dr. Michael Heiser

In the book of Acts, Luke records the scene where an angel of the Lord tells Philip (one of the apostles) that he must immediately go south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. On the road, he comes across a eunuch who is a high official of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, who is in charge of her entire treasury. The eunuch had been returning home from worshiping in Jerusalem. Philip (by the Spirit’s guidance) found him traveling in his chariot on the road, struggling to understand the writings of Isaiah. Luke describes what then came about…

Acts 8:30-31 (HCSB) When Philip ran up to it, he heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”“How can I,” he said, “unless someone guides me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

A few verses later, Luke tells us how Philip had helped the eunuch…

Acts 8:35 (HCSB)So Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning from that Scripture.

The eunuch then appealed to Philip to be baptized, so Philip granted the request.

Being Changed for the Better

Nothing is more important than understanding what God has said. When we do, we then change for the better. For the eunuch, understanding who Isaiah ultimately wrote about (Jesus) motivated him to express his new found allegiance to Him by being baptized. It changed him for the better.

The People at the Wall

Another example of how one changes for the better when the Scriptures are made understandable to them is in the eighth chapter of the book of Nehemiah. There, we find the scene where Nehemiah the governor, Ezra (the priest and scribe), and the Levites were together instructing the people after the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem had just been completed. The Old Testament describes what happened…

Nehemiah 8:8 (HCSB)They read out of the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read…

A few verses later, we then find out how the people responded after being given an understanding of the Scriptures being read to them…

Nehemiah 8:12 (HCSB)Then all the people began to eat and drink, send portions, and have a great celebration, because they had understood the words that were explained to them.

Again, why were they moved to celebrate?

“…because they had understood the words that were explained to them.”

It’s a simple fact worth repeating:

When we understand the Bible, “we then change for the better.”

Dr. Michael Heiser (February 14, 1963 – February 20, 2023)

If there was one person that has helped me the most in understanding what the Bible says, it’s Dr. Michael Heiser. He showed me through his books, podcasts, interviews, and also through an email exchange that I once had with him that in order to really grasp what the Scriptures say, we must read them according to the context from which they were written. Here are some quotes of his that I had saved in my iPhone notes over the years:

“The right way to interpret scripture is through the context which produced it.” – Heiser

“Here’s the bottom line: The Bible is NOT to be interpreted through the grid of modern culture or our own cultures which are modern. It is to be interpreted in light of the context in which it was given. If anyone has any interest in getting to what the text meant when God inspired its creation, THAT is the proper method — not appealing to 16th century Europeans or anyone else outside the divinely chosen cultural context. The latter is to recreate or filter the Bible in or through our own image.” – Heiser

“The right context for interpreting scripture is the context which produced it.” – Heiser

That second quote hit me hard several years ago. I had gone through a period in my walk where I had relied a lot on Biblical content which was primarily based upon a particular traditional lens, rather than the “divinely chosen cultural context.” As a result, much of my theological convictions were grounded in systems, teachings, and influences that originated from people who either (or both) did not know the original Biblical languages nor did they even know the historical context from which the Bible came from. Dr. Michael Heiser was instrumental in helping me to shed those poor perspectives, greatly improving my understanding of what God has said, changing me for the better. In other words, because of what I have learned from Dr. Michael Heiser, I am now (and forever) more in awe of Yahweh.

My prayers go out to the Heiser family and those who were closest to him. May the Spirit of Christ be with them as they mourn.

Godspeed, to the brethren!

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