A Sunday school teacher asked her class, “What did Jesus say about marriage?” One student said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
That is not exactly the context!
Another teacher asked his class, “Why does the Bible say men should only have one wife?” A boy responded with, “No man can serve two masters.”
That is not exactly the context either!
I read about a man who wanted to just turn to a page in the Bible and read whatever he pointed his finger out. He pointed to, “And Judas went out and hung himself.” He wasn’t satisfied with that so he did it again and his finger landed on, “Go thou and do likewise.”
The context of a passage is vitally important. Understanding it will help us deal with the present.
Here is how context can help.
We know that there is something wrong with the human race. There is too much evil and violence in all societies. This planet is a dangerous place to live. Wars and rumors of wars are constantly the headlines.
Moses gives us the reason. It all started in the garden of Eden where Adam and Eve disobeyed God. That is the context.
How did this universe get here? Moses gives us the context. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” We are told who and how.
Where did man come from? Some biology teachers will say we came from the monkey but Moses tells us we came from mud. All the elements in the human body can be found in dirt!
The context is not just there to satisfy our curiosity. The context could have saved millions of lives. In Deuteronomy 23:12-13 Moses said that human waste was to be buried out side the camp. That simple statement could have saved the lives of millions. During the Middle ages, 3000 years later, human waste was dumped in the streets creating diseases of cholera, dysentery and typhoid fever. Plagues could have been avoided if Moses’ advice would have been taken seriously.
In the 1840 30% of the women who gave birth died after childbirth. No one could figure out why. Then a doctor made a rule that everyone examining a patient had to wash there hands. The death rate dropped from 30% to 2%! The washing of hands saved lives.
And Moses instructed his people to wash their hands after they touch someone who was unclean or sick. In fact Moses said the hands needed to be washed in “running” water. It took until the 20th century to realize that invisible germs and bacteria could be removed only if washed in running water. But for 3500 years people suffered and died because they did not heed this advice.
Context is important. Jesus is the ultimate in context.
Jesus knew the scriptures. He fulfilled the prophecies about Him. A virgin would give birth to Him. He would be born in Bethlehem. He would heal and be betrayed by a friend. He would be crucified. These were all fulfilled in Jesus’ life.
He said, “All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses...” Luke 24:44
When Jesus faced Satan in the wilderness He was able to deal with the temptations thrown at Him. We will also face our “wilderness.” That wilderness may be in school, or at work but we will have to deal with temptation just as Jesus did.
How did Jesus deal with the temptations? His weapon was, “It is written.” He quoted Moses. He knew the context.
He said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” when Satan told Jesus to turn stones into bread.
He said, “It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” when Satan wanted Jesus to do something spectacular by jumping off the pinnacle of the temple.
He said, “It is written thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve” when Satan wanted Him to bow down to him and he would give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.
Each time Jesus referred to the context of scripture to ward off the temptation.
If it were not for the context we would never know that God loves us. We will never discover God loves us by the laws of nature. We have to go to the written word.
How would we know our sins are forgiven if it were not for the word? When we go to the cross we read that Jesus blotted out the offenses on the cross. He rewrote our story. We walked in darkness and now in light. We were lost but now are found.
He even told His disciples not to rejoice over the things they have done but because their names were written in the book of life.
Joseph’s brothers tried to write out the story of his dreams. They thought they could erase his dreams by killing him and then changed their mind and sold him into slavery. But the Lord was with Joseph and rewrote his story. Joseph told his brothers, “You meant it for evil but the Lord meant it for good.”
Song: “Mercy rewrote my life” The Leper met Jesus on the road and said, “If you want you can heal me.” Jesus touched him and he was cleansed. When he told his friend he would have said, “I met Jesus and mercy rewrote my life.
When the dying thief asked Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” When he got to heaven he would have said, “All I did was ask and mercy rewrote my life.”
And what He did for them He can do for you.
Conclusion: Peter’s testimony would sound like this. I strayed away and denied the Lord. I even cursed and said I did not know Him. But He gave me one look and mercy rewrote my life.