He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. (Mk 4:34)
I was recently asked an intriguing question:
What would be the sense in interpreting your own tongue? Why not just 'cut to the chase', and interpret it right-off?
The question goes deeper than just the issue of someone interpreting their own message in tongues. Since it is the same Spirit that inspires both the tongue and the interpretation, the same question holds whenever tongues and interpretations comes. Nor can you dodge the question if you are one of those who holds that tongues have ceased - because they had to be in operation first in order for them to cease. So why did and does the Spirit of God choose to use tongues and interpretations to communicate with his people? Why doesn't he 'cut to the chase' and just give a prophetic message in the first instance. Since Paul makes it clear that prophesy is to be desired above all the other spiritual gifts, why bother with tongues at all?
Here I take a detour into the gospels. Because it is interesting that the disciples asked Jesus a very similar question:
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (Mt 13:10)
Jesus never spoke in tongues, but it is clear that he had a similarly curious method of communication: he would speak in parables that would be incomprehensible to most, and then later he would give the interpretation. [It is also interesting in the Greek that speaking in tongues (glossais lalo) and speaking in parables (parabolais lalo) are similar constructs.]
Why, as the disciples themselves wondered, did Jesus not just cut to the chase and give the plain meaning in the first instance.
In fact, if we look back through the scriptures we see that this was often God's chosen means of communication:
God did not tell Pharaoh that there would be a famine, but gave him two dreams that Joseph had to interpret.
Even after Gideon had heard the voice of God, and had various miraculous confirmations to the tests he put out, he was finally convinced that God would give him victory through a dream and its interpretation:
As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, "Arise, for the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hand." (Jdg 7:15)
The prophet Daniel was renowned for one who was able to give interpretations from God. Twice he had to give both the message and the interpretation. The first when God spoke through Nebuchadnezzar's impenetrable dream; the second when God chose to communicate through indecipherable writing on the wall.
I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. (Da 5:17)
So we see, it's not a new question at all. Indeed looking at the big picture of God's eternal plan of redemption we might ask the question, "Why didn't God cut straight to the chase and send Christ, the lamb slain from before the creation of the world, when Adam fell? Why the millennia of type and shadow before the reality was revealed?"
Whatever the reasons may be, you cannot escape the fact that God chooses to communicate in this way! One reason may be that it is because he knows that we have to appreciate the problem before we will appreciate the solution; we have to appreciate the difficulty before we will appreciate the deliverance. It could also be that, like with the parables, God chooses not to reveal his most intimate thoughts and feelings to the casual observer, but only to those who make a diligent inquiry into them; those who hunger and thirst for his righteousness; those who seek him.
As Keri Jones says: God does not hide things from his children; he hides them for his children.
One thing is clear. There is something compelling about a mystery revealed. For whatever the reason, it speaks to us far more than if we just had the end message itself. It carries with it the M.O. of God himself!
Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation. (Da 2:9)
"Do not interpretations belong to God?" (Ge 40:8)