Whether common or uncommon, my guess is that commonality is not a subject that is sending great waves of expectation coursing through your body. I’m also probably correct in assuming the idea of reading something as usual as commonality doesn’t even register on your excitement Richter scale. Admittedly, commonality doesn’t sound very exciting, but it is a very important principle of Biblical understanding.
Have you ever noticed how things that are all around you usually get the least of your attention? My first instruction to this principle came when I was eleven years old. I attended an art school every Saturday morning. The teacher probably had the commonality concept in mind when he began each session with an assignment to quickly draw an ordinary object from memory … something we saw all the time … like a common bird or a rose. We quickly learned how much our power of observation was lacking. Recalling the general appearance of the items we were assigned to draw was not a problem, it was the details that eluded us. Objects like these were just too common … we saw them so frequently we didn’t give them much consideration.
A person is easily lost in a stadium full of people. Likewise, it is difficult to single out one Tulip in a large field of seemingly identical flowers. Not only that, you tend to not pay attention to a single Tulip’s details when your eyes are taking in thousands of blooms in one glance. If you wanted to hide a Tulip, would it be hidden best on you fireplace mantle or amidst a field of Tulips? In the field, of course.
This is the idea behind the witness protection program. The best place to hide a person, or a family, is among a lot people … right out in the open … so they are hidden in plain sight. When a person is placed in the witness protection program, they are given new names and identities, then they’re taken to a new location … not to hide in an out-of-the-way motel … but to live. They get jobs, attend school, go to movies and restaurants, buy houses … all of the common activities people do. The object is not to stand out, but to blend in.
Treasure maps are an important part of stories and movies like the Indiana Jones series. The good guys and the bad guys search for a map, because it shows the location of a treasure. In these stories, the maps are often hidden in a clay pot or behind a painting hanging on a wall. These are O.K. hiding places if you want the map to be found, as is the case in a story. The witness protection example, however, teaches that a better hiding place would be with a lot of other treasure maps, in say a book of treasure maps. Of course, only one map would lead to the true treasure, the others are merely camouflage.
Maps might be a great way to hide directions to a treasure if you’re making a movie. A better way might be to write out the directions and include them in a book about a traveling family … a big book … a book containing many other directions to a lot of other places. A book that many other people would want to own and read, if only because of the interesting experiences the family encounters on their journey. Directions to the real treasure would, in this way, be effectively hidden among a myriad of the other directions to scores of other destinations. Like a person in the witness protection program, the real treasure would be hidden in plain sight … camouflaged by directions to a host of other locations. As the book becomes more and more popular, many copies come into circulation. The more popular the book the better. If a large number of the books are sold each year all over the world, the book itself becomes very common. The directions to the treasure are then very well hidden in the commonness of the book as well as all of the directions to differing locations. Only someone who knew that the directions to the treasure were hidden in the book would know to look in the book to find the way to the hidden treasure. The people who would actually find the treasure are the ones who learn how to distinguish between the true and false directions.
The book I’ve just described, in this loosely woven analogy, is the Bible. Hidden in the million or so words of the English Bible are directions to a treasure trove of jewels, precious stones, gold and silver. Nuggets of truth. Each one a jewel of great worth. The story is that of the family of Israel … it includes their journeys along with their successes and failures … there are stories of wars and their victories and defeats … it’s a 4,000 year history. Hidden in its stories is an avalanche of directions to the greatest treasures you could ever hope to find. Concealed in the accounts of common, ordinary people are to be found such uncommon valuables as hope and joy, mercy and forgiveness, courage and strength, freedom from bondage and eternal life. There are also depictions of sin and evil of every kind, as well as recipes for staying out of their snare.
The secrets of the universe are hidden in the Bible’s pages, but even school children can understand it. At one and the same time it is general enough to appeal to every person in every age, yet specific enough that individuals believe it was written just for them. All of this is accomplished through the principle of commonality.
One of these common things was discussed in the article on duality. We saw that duality was all around us. In fact, everything has a counterpart. They are so prolific in our world we barely notice them, and when we do, we attach little importance to them. What a great place to hide a secret treasure.
One of the most important themes in the Bible, that of covenant relationships, is well hidden in the Bible because of commonality.
Principle: Biblical Covenant Is Hidden In Commonality.
Covenant is common to life. Even when evidence of covenant is limited to human relationships, covenants abound. Actually, more that abound … they proliferate. The commonality principle tells us the best hiding place for something is among many similar objects. Consider that there are now more than 7 billion people populating the earth. That’s a staggering number that is constantly multiplying. Now consider the number of relationships that exist between those 7 billion people. That number is even more staggering, and that number, whatever it is, is constantly multiplying as well. Clearly covenant relationships are extremely important to God, and as you should expect, they are beautifully hidden. He has hidden them first in the Bible, hidden among millions of books; then He has hidden them among billions of covenant relationships among the people of the world. Biblical covenant must truly be exceptionally valuable if God has gone to such extensive measures to hide them. Covenant relationships are so common, we hardly ever pay any attention to them. Finding those that are important to God requires they be sought with great diligence.
The Bible is largely built on the principles of duality and commonality. This is why we have spent so much time on these principles. It is absolutely essential to recognize this if you want to be in a position of gaining true understanding from your time studying the Bible.