Location, Location, Location….
A popular saying in the real-estate business informs us of the 3 most important factors in real-estate. The first one is location, the second is location, and the third one is location.
When it comes to correctly understanding the Bible, there is a similar rule. The location, or the context of the passage we are studying, is of prime importance.
Before we get into that, we need to discuss a related subject, and that is our motivation.
In Matthew 7:12, Jesus taught what is known as the “Golden Rule.” This principle is found in many religions and cultures around the world. You have probably heard it. The simplest version is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
For many years I approached the Bible with the motive of searching for what I wanted to find. Later I realized that I had become imbalanced in my understanding of God and the Bible.
What really hit me was this: Would I appreciate it if someone else took the words I have spoken or written down, and interpreted them to mean something other than what I had intended?
If I did not want that done to me, should I not be careful to avoid doing that to God, and the men He used to pen the Bible! So, from that time on I have been more careful to try and discover what the Holy Spirit through the prophets and apostles meant when they put the Word of God in writing.
That is why we need to consider the context or the events surrounding the passage of Scripture that we are reading. How often do you open the newspaper and look at a line on the page without at least first looking at the title of the article? Would you then flip through the newspaper and find another line in a different article and piece them together to make a point?
Strangely this happens quite often with “students of the Bible.”
Things are taken out of context not only when people disregard the things written before and after a particular verse. Often we fail to see the cultural background, or fail to consider who is speaking and to whom they are speaking.
For instance, what if I told you that the Bible says to “curse God and die?”
Actually this phrase is in the Bible! In Job 2:9, Job’s wife had become frustrated as she looked at her husband, so covered with boils all over his body, sitting in a pile of ashes, scraping himself with a piece of broken pottery. Job was holding on to his faith in God by a thread, when she basically told him to give up, tell God what you think of Him, die and get it over with!
But Job reproved her and her foolish statement. Even though he did not understand why God had allowed his suffering, he continued to trust Him.
So we can see the importance of the context of this statement. There are a number of life lessons in the book of Job. They are being communicated unto us in a dramatic play. The long passages of dialog are not the way people usually talk to one another. But since we have no pictures or video, we have word pictures instead. They convey the deep emotion, fears, doubts and faith that human beings often experience in their lives.
The story ends by showing that Job’s trust in God was well-founded. Job learned a lot about himself and God in this experience as well. In the New Testament, James reminds us of the patient example given to us by Job, and the mercy and faithfulness of the same God in Whom we too have placed our trust!
What I am suggesting takes considerable effort. But again I want to encourage us that the effort is well worth it. There is a reason that the Bible remains the most read book in the world. The treasures to be found in it are of great value. If only we could search for these treasures as earnestly as we seek for so many things that matter so much less!
Until next time…..