2008-08-27 - Summer Questions
2008 #8 ~ Contemplating Scripture
Jeremiah 29:11, 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.'
Today's Question: This verse gave me immediate comfort -- a word from God that I needed RIGHT THEN. Then out-of-the-blue I started thinking: Can I, or should I, depend -- or really find comfort -- on this verse by itself - alone? I know there is an entire story that surrounds the verse. As I was contemplating the verse and praying, the thought entered my mind that perhaps I shouldn't just take that verse by itself and print it or memorize it for reflection without reading the story that goes with it - ¦this is the first time I've ever thought about it this way and it began to concern me because I don't want to just read the verse and then say, "Okay, it's done" and twist the intentional meaning to fit my situation... Or is that how it's supposed to be?
I have cut down the size of what you wrote some, but I think I have retained the bulk of what you are asking. And, as I already wrote you in my short personal note - YES!! I do think that the Spirit can immediately use a portion of Scripture to comfort us. The principle that I would like to emphasize is that Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. We can and do gather precious comfort and strength from isolated passages - even isolated from their context - but never if we are gathering comfort in a manner that is out of accord with the overall teaching of Scripture. Context is a leading principle of Biblical interpretation, but another principle is that our interpretation of a particular passage must be in agreement with all of Scripture.
I think of Malachi 3:6, For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. It is a wonderful promise from our gracious God, that He is ever the same, and never changes, and therefore His promises can never fail. It is something many take comfort in directly, without considering the context of the passage. It would be a pity, really, if we always had to run through the context of the passage every time we wanted to apply the passage to our hearts, or to someone who is undergoing a difficult time. The context of that passage concerns the sins of the people in turning away from the Lord. The verse in isolation is a great comfort, but the passage it introduces is laden with other th oughts that, if dragged in every time we used the sixth verse, would make it far more cumbersome. The truth is that our God never changes. All His promises are yes, and amen, because He Himself will never go back on His Word. I, the Lord, do not change, stands true by itself, and in accord with the whole of Scripture. It is also true in the context of the passage it is found in. It is simply a true truth: God never changes.
I want to thank you for this practical question. I do think we can, with care, look into God's Holy Word and take short passages into our hearts, being always watchful that we never cross the true framework that the milieu of Scripture would lead us to understand overall.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Editor's Note: The questions in this series are stated in the exact form sent by the readers - unedited, unproofed, in order to remain true to the reader's original wording.