When was the last time you picked up a book, opened randomly to a page, read a sentence, and concluded you knew what the book was about and started living your life by it? If we aren’t talking about the Bible, I bet your answer is never. But you’d be surprised at how many people try to understand scripture this way. Then they wonder why things don’t work out the way they thought it would. “Well I read that God has plans to prosper me and not to harm me, so why is my life falling apart?” Reading the Bible out of context is silly at best and could be dangerous.
So here are some helpful questions to get you going in the right direction:
Who wrote it? To whom was it written? What was the purpose of the writing? What did it mean to its original readers? If you’ll answer these questions, you’ll be on the right track.
So let’s look at that passage I eluded to a minute ago. It’s a very famous passage, Jeremiah 29:11. It says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Sounds awesome right!? Who wrote it? The prophet Jeremiah? Who did he write it to? The people of Israel who were being exiled into slavery in Babylon. What was the purpose of the writing? To remind them that God wasn’t giving up on them even though He was punishing them for the sin in their lives. I mean, look at verse 10! “This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” What did it mean to its original readers? They were in big trouble, but God would rescue them again.
The problem with just picking a verse out of the Bible and trying to apply it to your life is this: not everything in the Bible applies to you. Does God have a plan for your life? Yes of course He does! Does He want good things for you? Of course! Is this passage about you? Absolutely not.
Any other tips for understanding the Bible? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Always remember, we love you, we’re praying for you, and we’re in this together.