God Loves those Turning Points (The “Pivot” Structure in Inductive Bible Study)

Before we begin looking at a new structure for Inductive Bible Study, I recommend that you read (or re-read) the lesson on Contrasts. That lesson discusses important aspects of looking for major structures. As we proceed, I’ll assume you already have that information. So it’s always good to review before focusing on a new structure.

Turning Point (also known as Cruciality or Pivot)

Now we’re going to talk about a structure called “Turning Point.” It is also sometimes called “Cruciality” or “Pivot.” It’s when the story is moving clearly in one direction, and then the story does an about-face and moves in a different direction.

The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus would be the major example of Turning Point in the Bible. The long-awaited Messiah King dies. Turning point! Didn’t see that one coming. And then … Jesus, who died, is now risen from the dead! Didn’t see that one coming, either. That’s another major Turning Point.

Apart from that pivotal story of Jesus, around which the whole Bible turns, there are other examples of Turning Point in various biblical passages. When you find a major Turning Point that covers a large part of a passage you are studying, you can identify it as a major structure. If you look closely at that Turning Point, it will help you understand better what the author is trying to communicate through the story.

Let’s look at several examples that have stood out for me as Turning Points. Remember to first read the passage all the way through. Then look at the discussion of Turning Point. Then read the passage again, focusing on the Turning Point.

(1) Matthew 27:55-28:20

There is a turning point in this passage in verse 28:6, when the angel notifies the women that Jesus is not in the tomb because He has risen. The material leading up to this turning point focuses on the burial of Jesus, including the care of Joseph (27:57-60) the vigilance of the women (27:61, 28:1), and the suspicions of the chief priests, along with their effort to prevent something from happening (27:62-66).

After the turning point, the material moves in a different direction in reaction to the resurrection event: the women are sent to alert the disciples (27:7-8, 10), on the way they encounter the risen Jesus (27:9), the priests now have to spread misinformation (28:12-15), Jesus has all authority (28:18), and the disciples are commissioned to spread His baptism and teaching (28:19-20).

(2) Genesis 2:4–4:26

This passage includes a turning point at verse 3:6. Until that point, mankind is living as God intended. After that point, they are living in rebellion against God. Everything changes. What follows that turning point is a series of problems in which things unravel: knowledge (3:7), curses (3:14-19), banishment (3:24), enmity, anger, strife, murder, deceit, punishment (4:5-16).

(3) Psalm 118

Verse 19 sets up a clear turning point in the psalm. It is not so much a turning point of realization as of directed action. This is a thanksgiving psalm, in that the psalmist has already made it through the dangerous time on which he reflects. He has already experienced God’s deliverance on some level. But in verse 19, the psalmist sets up and opens a new direction of response. He is no longer looking back on his previous struggles. He is stepping into the new reality that God has made available to him through saving and delivering him (21). And he distinctly invites the reader to come with him and prays on behalf of the reader (25).

This pivot has the effect of transforming the battlefield into the place of God’s presence. It distinctly models the action of thanksgiving and praise called for in the opening and closing inclusio of the psalm (more on “Inclusio” in next week’s lesson). And it picks up the theme of righteousness (15) and invites the reader to consider at a deeper level the relationship between God’s deliverance and righteousness.

Turning Point versus Contrast

Sometimes what looks like a Turning Point is really an example of extreme Contrast. The difference is so marked that it looks like a Turning Point. If you aren’t sure what you are seeing, ask yourself: “Does the story change direction abruptly, and can I identify a verse or or a cluster of several verses that serve as the pivot point?” If so, that may be a structure of Turning Point. If not, it may be extreme Contrast. Either way, remember the point is to be drawn more deeply into God’s Word and spend that time with Him. Whatever structure you see, lift it up before God. Ask Him to show you how the author uses that structure to help communicate the meaning of the text.

Look for Turning Points

As you begin to study the passages God leads you to, see if any of those passages have a distinct Turning Point. Not every passage will have this structure. But when you find it, mark it, and study it. See how God uses that Turning Point to bring you more deeply into His biblical message.