November 3 I Sunday
“Turn my heart towards Your statutes and not towards selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your Word.” —Psalm 119:36-37
Words make up a sentence and a group of sentences form a paragraph. When reading the Word of God, the second unit of truth is to examine the context of the sentence within the paragraph. Do not be mistaken and equate sentences with verses in the Bible. While the Scripture is the divinely inspired Word of God, chapter and verse indicators are not. Although chapters and verses are helpful for locating a particular part of Scripture, it should not serve as a division of truth. We should leave aside chapters and verses when studying the Bible and think of the sentence in the context of the paragraph it is a part of.
For example, at Jesus’s temptation, the devil quoted Psalm 91:11-12 saying, “If You are the Son of God…throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:6). The devil quoted complete sentences but messes up by taking it out of the paragraph context in which it comes from. By the way, the devil can quote Scripture and he does but if we read the next sentence of the psalm that the devil does not quote it says, “You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent” (Psalm 91:13). Who is the lion prowling around and who is the serpent in the Bible? The lion and the serpent both represent the devil. If the devil quoted the next sentence, he would be talking about his own demise.
Another example, Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV). A woman once shared with me that she was a part of a team leading a Sunday evening service. When asked, “Which one of you is the singer?” She responded, “We do not have one but I used to sing so I claimed the promise, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’” But it was a disaster. The woman could not understand why God did not fulfill His promise. I told her, “Because that verse has nothing to do with your singing. It has a context. By looking at the paragraph, Paul is saying, ‘I’ve learned the secret to living with nothing, with plenty, in poverty, in riches, well fed or hungry––in any circumstance––when Christ is my strength.’”
The sentence will never contradict the paragraph; rather, we derive the sentence’s meaning from the paragraph. As we study the Word of God, a sentence has to be understood in light of the paragraph––this is the second hermeneutic practice.
Prayer: Sovereign God, teach me to understand Your Word in the right context and not misconstrue its meaning to my own advantage or gain. Thank You, Lord.