Like the setting of a ring can enhance and embellish the beauty of a gemstone, the context of a verse of Scripture can reveal the beauty and power of a verse of Scripture! The power and potency of Scripture is not usually found in an isolated verse. Consideration of the context of Scripture is usually the key to grasping its full impact. Consequently, I always take the time to look at several contexts of a key verse of Scripture – Its literary context, the situational or historical context, and the clear purpose of a passage.
Context was the key to experiencing the powerful message of a verse of Scripture I read today during my time of “coffee with the Lord.” Here’s the popular, often quoted, verse I read this morning…
“The Lord’s compassions never fail! They are new every morning! Great is Your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:23)
What a reassuring, inspired, observation! Those who reverence and trust the Lord find that verse incredibly comforting! If you’ve ever gone through a severe trail, and survived with the Lord’s help, compassion, and faithfulness, you probably utter a hearty “amen!” to that verse!
But a consideration of the literary and situational context makes the truth of the verse even more powerful!
Jerusalem had been destroyed, its walls had been torn down. God’s temple had been reduced to an ugly pile of rubble! Many people had been killed, others had been taken as prisoners into exile in Babylon. Only the poorest were allowed to stay in the area. It was all the consequences of Israel’s sin and rebellion! They were reaping what they had sown! They were deserving of nothing but judgment. The writer of Lamentations, a true patriot, weeps his eyes out in sorrow and regret for the state of things in Jerusalem…
Here’s just a taste of the context (with the well-known verse included)…
“I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is! So I say, ‘My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord! … Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, FOR HIS COMPASSIONS NEVER FAIL! THEY ARE NEW EVERY MORNING; GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS! I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him!’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him! It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord! … For men are not cast off by the Lord forever! Though He brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men!” (From the verses around Lamentations 3:23)
Here’s the deal… None of us deserves the mercy, grace and love of God! “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and deserve God’s judgment. But God is faithful! He loves us and extends mercy and forgiveness to us! Though deserving (and perhaps even experiencing) judgment, God extends mercy and grace… “Though He brings grief, He will show compassion! Great is His unfailing love! He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men!” And for that I rejoice!
So remember: context always enriches (never diminishes) the precious, powerful message of Scripture! Always pay attention to context!