Squaring The Circle Maker with Scripture

Our small group is studying Mark Batterson's best-selling book, The Circle Maker. I generally agree with the mega-pastor's premise that we need to pray persistent, specific prayers. There are plenty of biblical examples for doing just that.

But there's one major problem our group and I have. And, I have it with a lot of Christian books: a lack of context.

Under the heading of "Always cloudy with a chance of quail," Batterson uses God's sending of quail to the Israelites in the wilderness as an example of God's abundant provision for His people:

    Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. "Oh, for some meat!" they exclaimed. "We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!" (Numbers 11:4-6).

Batterson goes on to write how God miraculously answered their prayers:

    Now the Lord sent a wind that brought quail from the sea and let them fall all around the camp. For miles in every direction there were quail flying about three feet above the ground. So the people went out and caught quail all that day and throughout the night and all the next day, too. No one gathered less than fifty bushels! They spread the quail all around the camp to dry (11:31-32).

Sounds great, but Batterson, stops at verse 32. What about 33 and 34?!

    But while they were gorging themselves on the meat—while it was still in their mouths—the anger of the Lord blazed against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. So that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah (which means "graves of gluttony") because there they buried the people who had craved meat from Egypt (11:33-34).

This is not an example of God abundantly providing for His people needs but an example of God abundantly punishing His people for their complaining.

I don't even find a prayer for meat in the narrative:

    And Moses said to the Lord, "Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, 'Give us meat to eat!' I can't carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!" (Numbers 11:11-15).

The only prayer seems to be "Just kill me now!"

And here's the answer from God:

    "And say to the people, 'Purify yourselves, for tomorrow you will have meat to eat. You were whining, and the Lord heard you when you cried, "Oh, for some meat! We were better off in Egypt!" Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will have to eat it. And it won't be for just a day or two, or for five or ten or even twenty. You will eat it for a whole month until you gag and are sick of it. For you have rejected the Lord, who is here among you, and you have whined to him, saying, "Why did we ever leave Egypt?"'" (11:18-21).

Again, the book has some valuable lessons to teach about prayer, but reader beware! In fact, reader beware of every book you pick up! Make sure the verses and biblical stories are shared in their proper context. (Here's an important article on What does the Bible really say?.)

I can't square everything in The Circle Maker with Scripture, so I can't whole-heartedly recommend it. But I'm so glad for members of my small group who are wise and discerning readers who are able to strain the grain from the chaff. And, most of all, I am glad for a group like them to make sure I'm not taking Scripture out of context!

© Copyright 2012 James N. Watkins

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