The right setting makes all the difference! Context is important!!

Beautiful setting for gem

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!

A “tweetable moment” this morning during “coffee with the Lord”

HopelessA “tweetable moment” this morning during my time of “coffee with the Lord” (crammed into only 140 characters :-)…

When circumstances seem hopeless… when they ARE hopeless… JESUS!

(Get out your Bible and read Luke 8:41-56)

What about the “God-things” that are beyond comprehension… the “secret things?”

Beyond ComprehensionDon’t know if you’ve ever had to deal with the issue of denial of access to information you’d really like to have.  You didn’t have the right “security clearance” or someone in authority determined that it was privileged information and only for a designated few.  Perhaps it was your parents who withheld sensitive information from you when you were growing up… Or it might have been someone else.  It can be frustrating!

On the other hand, we operate just fine in our daily lives, without some information!  I’m using this computer today to post something that I believe to be helpful… Yet I don’t know the “in’s-and-out’s” of “computer language” or all the intricacies of software, apps or computer hardware… I know a little – I’m an informed user – but I probably just “know enough to be dangerous.” I’m ok with that… I’ll depend on the tech gurus and specialists and use the “user friendly” side of some very technical stuff.

And when it comes to some “thorny theological issues” I’ll take the same approach!  In fact, I read this helpful passage today in the Bible during my time of “coffee with the Lord” on that issue…

“The secret things belong to the Lord, our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV)  …Words spoken from God, through Moses, to God’s people Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land.

I’m so grateful for the things God has clearly revealed to us in the Bible! … Here’s my conviction (I’ve had my Bible study students write it in the flyleaf of every Bible they own down through my years of teaching) – “This book is my all sufficient guide for faith (i.e. my relationship with God) and daily living!”

Now I’m the first to admit there are a lot of things I don’t know Biblically and beyond my comprehension theologically – “secret things,” things of mystery, “ineffable” things (look it up).  But there are a host of things I do understand… Things that God has clearly revealed!  And in the words of the late Billy Graham, “It’s not what I don’t understand that bothers me – it’s what I do understand!”

Now that’s not an excuse for intellectual laziness or sloppy, ad hoc, theologizing!  I believe God calls us to study, and reflection, and clear thinking about what He has revealed!  But on the other hand, the God I serve is infinite, and there is much about Him that is “ineffable” (there’s that word again!).  But I am convinced Apostle Peter’s inspired revelation is true: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3)

I’m ok with that!  I’ll seek, and search, and study, and depend on the Holy Spirit to reveal and illuminate what God has revealed… But when my understanding just “hits a wall” and I experience one of those “ineffable” things, I’ll trust the Lord, depend on His character, and await a full understanding of what He wants me to know on the other side, where “I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

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