Well, we’ve come to the end of yet another chapter. I can hardly believe it. This chapter was more convicting than any of the past in that it made me realize that my prayer life isn’t what God wants it to be, but further more, God starkly reminded me that I must remain in Him, but I’ve been cherry-picking about what verses of scripture I want to read and applying my own meaning to it.
OUCH!! Not that I can argue, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t sting! How could I not remain (or be) in Him.
It’s all about context.
Context: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.
And there lies the very key. You cannot read scripture by the verse and incorporate what you think the meaning is…you must read the verse in context to find the circumstances and setting in which the words were said. Let’s look at one very well known verse, then explore the context of it.
First, let me ask if you remember the lesson that Jesus was teaching Nicodemus? He was the Pharisee on the Jewish Council who knew Jesus came from God because of the signs he performed. When Jesus responded back, Nicodemus didn’t quite understand and asked “how can this be?” So Jesus responded saying the following:
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
The other day, I wrote of unbelief, and I can see how this fits in. It’s written all over the verses. If we cannot believe in what we see, how can we ever believe in what we don’t see, and how can we remain in Christ if we doubt and don’t take in His Word?
The very last part of the definition of context really brings it full circle for me: and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.
It seems those last verses did just that. The context is now understood…except for the three verses missing in the middle. And I purposely left them out because had I just started with these verses, none of this would have made any sense. But now that we know this story, we can fill in the missing verses…and pay special attention to the verse that is bolded:
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
This bible study thus far has taught me one very convicting lesson. I read the verses that sound warm and comforting without reading the context in which the verse was said or written. I mold scripture to what I want it to say. Now, not that I’m implying that verse 16 doesn’t have some significant meaning to it, but there is a much bigger lesson at hand than the feel-good way this verse is often read.
Here’s another example, and I’ll give you verse this time:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Yes!! God’s plans for me are to prosper, no harm and give me hope and a future. Who doesn’t love that?!? Ever wonder the context of that super-feel-good verse? It’s part of what God was telling the Exiles to do until the time came from God to lead them back to their land…and it would take seventy years to do so.
Here is that verse in context of the story, and verse 10 really puts a different feeling on verse 11. God’s time isn’t necessarily quick…and might not even be in our lifetime. Yes…possibly not even in our lifetime! Jeremiah 29:11 is to reminded the Exiles that God will make good on His promises, and His plans are the only plans we are to follow…even if it takes a lifetime to achieve. Hope and a future can be found in eternity…maybe not here on earth. This was going to take seventy years.
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
This brings to a close chapter 3. As I move forward with the remaining chapters, I hope I can apply the context of scripture better than I have been. With God’s grace and mercy, I will.