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Lazy, Fantasied Bible Study

Desk with a bible and notebook on top of a laptop with a plant and glasses next to the laptop.
Context. Context. Context. When we take verses out of context, we are in danger of missing God's intent entirely. So don't do it.

In this week’s Boundless Answers column, Candice challenged us to “study God’s Word, as God’s Word,” to work through passages of Scripture that are obscure or offend our modern sensibilities. Yesterday, Steve from Stand to Reason Blog makes clear how important it is to consider context as well as the whole counsel of Scripture for “good Bible study.”

Imagine hearing a typical pastor preach in topical style. He focuses on lots of single verses spanning thousands of years, different cultures, and different literary genres and links them to points not flowing directly from the text. But this Sunday, instead of focusing on nice verses like II Chron. 7:14, Phil. 1:6, and Jer. 29:11, he focuses on four phrases from Psalm 109:

“Let another take his office.” (v. 8a)
“Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.” (v. 9)
“Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD.” (v. 14a)
“And let strangers plunder the product of his labor.” (v. 11b)

He then gets to the point of his sermon: we should hope and pray for harm to come to neighbors that offend us.

Steve follows with the obvious that no pastor would ever do this. He says the severity of such Scripture forces us to consider carefully its context while remembering the truth about God’s character. I’m having to do this now reading Joshua. My finite mind has difficulty reconciling a kind, loving and just God who commands the destruction of “both men and women, young and old.”

We wrestle with Scripture that makes us question the very character of God and easily accept prosperity verses as a right because “we are both lazy and prone to fantasy.” Steve writes, “We’re lazy because we’d rather not do the hard work of interpretation every time we sit down to read the text. And we fantasize that God wants all of the nice Scriptures about blessing and good things to apply to us.”

When we take verses out of context, we are in danger of missing God’s intent entirely. That’s why we need to be careful with verses of blessing. If a single verse of Scripture says exactly what we want to hear, we tend not dig any deeper.

Copyright 2007 Motte Brown. All rights reserved.

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