Each year, I review dozens of resumes from medical students seeking to gain a position in our dermatology residency program. An important component of each application is the letters of recommendation, usually written by their medical school professors. Understandably, one would expect these letters to be glowing endorsements, gushing in accolades for the applicant. After all, why would an applicant ever ask someone who would not do otherwise?
Recently, I was surprised by a recommendation letter. Written by a prominent dermatologist at a major university medical center, he had trained generations of dermatology residents who later went on to become leaders in their respective fields. Thus, my attention was riveted to his evaluation, carefully parsing his observations and insights for the applicant. It began with a recap of how he knew the applicant and the research projects they had completed together. The evaluation raised no red flags until the last paragraph. There it was, the last statement of an otherwise seemingly excellent reference.
“I would rank this applicant within the top 40% of all medical students who have done a rotation with me.”
I was shocked. It was a common practice for references to rank an applicant on a relative scale compared to others who have worked with them. The usual statement was something like, “I would rank this applicant within the top 1%…or top 5% of all medical students with whom I have worked.” It was difficult to interpret this lukewarm evaluation as a ringing endorsement. The statement alerted us to dig deeper and we soon uncovered additional issues and deficiencies that led us to ultimately reject his application.
A tongue in cheek assessment is 50% of all medical students graduate in the bottom half of their class. While initially reading like a pejorative statement, it is simply a statement of fact; half of the class will graduate in the top half and half will graduate in the bottom half. Graduating at the bottom of one’s medical school class does not necessarily mean that a person is or will be a poor physician. Every medical student is well-qualified to be there and a lower standing may simply reflect that the entire class was highly competitive. Perhaps the student that ranked last would be ranked higher at another medical school. The task for a person reviewing a letter of reference is to read between the lines and attempt to discern what is truly attempting to be communicated. In this cited example, when we were willing to further investigate, it became clear that the candidate was not a stellar applicant. In other examples, the task is not as simple.
We should apply the same principles when we read the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God. Its entire message is centered upon Jesus Christ. The Bible shows us the pathway to salvation by confessing and repenting of one’s sins and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The New Testament is a stirring account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But what about the Old Testament? Does it also depict Jesus Christ and the pathway to redemption? Can we read between the lines?
The author of the entire Bible is God, the Holy Spirit. He directed dozens of men to record His revelation. Reading between the lines of this history of the Jewish people, are numerous clues that point to the revelation of Jesus Christ. From the prophecy of His virgin birth, the record of His death and resurrection, and to His triumphant return to earth as King of Kings and Lords of Lords-these seemingly disparate clues are beautifully woven together to forge an epic tale of love and redemption of a Holy God seeking to reconcile the relationship with mankind, broken because of sin.
Look at this remarkable verse in which the Holy Spirit directed the prophet Zechariah to write. He was writing to encourage the Jewish people returning to Jerusalem after seventy years of exile in Babylon. Dejected and stripped of their former glory, Zechariah prophesied of the Messiah who would restore their kingdom.
Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.
Zechariah 12:10 (NLT)
This Messiah would be born in the bloodline of King David. He would be pierced and be mourned at His death. He would be a firstborn son. Only one person matches this description-Jesus Christ. Yet, this prophecy was written nearly five hundred years before Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
Can we read between the lines?
This is exactly what God intended when He wrote the Bible. If we are willing to search for God, He will always reveal Himself.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.