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Don't Jump to Conclusions

by Allen Dvorak
via Gospel Power Vol. 15, No. 14, April 6, 2008.

Elkanah, father of the Old Testament prophet Samuel, had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah (I Samuel 1). Peninnah had children, but Hannah was barren. In a mean-spirited way, Peninnah "provoked" Hannah because of her infertility. When Elkanah and his wives went up to the house of the Lord to worship, Hannah prayed silently to God, vowing that if He would give her a son, she would give the child to the Lord all the days of his life.

The priest Eli observed Hannah praying, seeing her mouth move, but not hearing her words. Eli concluded that Hannah was drunk and rebuked her, saying, "How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!" When Hannah explained that she was praying with great grief, Eli recognized his error and blessed her.

We all fall prey to Eli's mistake from time to time. In order to make sense of the world around us, it is necessary for us to assign meaning to the actions of others. We observe someone's behavior and we frequently draw conclusions about that person based on their action. Actually we respond to the meaning that we assign to the action rather than the action itself. And sometimes, like Eli, we make assumptions which are invalid. Even if we succeed in being objective in our judgment, frequently there is more than one possible explanation for one's behavior. Eli's inappropriate rebuke was the result of his error in assigning meaning to her action.

It is not difficult to see how al this applies to us. A friend or neighbor does something and we begin assigning reason to their action. "He said that for the purpose of hurting me." "She did that just to spite me." "I know that she said that about me, even though she didn't mention me by name." Often the truth is that the speaker had no such motives. Unfortunately, friendships are sometimes destroyed because someone made unwarranted assumptions about another's actions or speech.

This danger of making unwarranted assumptions also exists in our study of the Scriptures. It is easy to insert our own thoughts as we decide what the Bible is teaching us. If we are not careful, we will accept the opinions of other men without realizing that the Bible does not actually say such things. For an excellent illustration of this, ask your friends what kind of forbidden fruit Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden? Why, an apple, of course! Where does the Bible identify the kind of forbidden fruit? We must differentiate between God's speech and our assumptions.

How can we avoid this pitfall of accepting incorrect conclusions? With respect to the Word of God, the careful Bible student will read and re-read the Word. He will test his religious convictions by that which he has read. Avoiding unwarranted assumptions could possibly save some friendships and perhaps our soul also.