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Re: Scriptural Context

1) "..do what is right in His eyes, give ear to His commandments and
keep -ALL- His statutes.." (Ex15:26)

2) "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" (Mt22:36)

3) "..if they are careful to do -ALL- that I have commanded them,
according to the WHOLE LAW and the statutes..." (2Ch33:8)

4) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of
mint and anise and cumin, and have disregarded the weightier matters of
the law: judgment and mercy and faith." (Mt23:23)

With a subject entitled "Scriptural Context" I have just quoted some
Scripture passages out of their original context. But please notice the
comparisons between them. In the second one the person is nitpicking
with Jesus as to -which- law was above all others, but when the Law was
given, God's intention (#1) was that "all" of it was to be kept. Jesus
condemns the hypocrites of His day (#4) for nitpicking, when God's
intent (#3) was that they do "all" that He commanded.

This is somewhat of a side-ways slide into the present topic. As we 
think of how to help baby Christians grow, in the context of the 
internet and e-mail, there is not the same 'personal' touch that there 
is when a congregation meets physically at some location at a 
pre-assigned time schedule. These studies get typed, proofed, tweaked 
and mailed. You receive the file...'chunk'...there it is. Yes, we have
regular Q/As, and there are e-mails I answer personally (that are not
public Q/As); but again, those are 'chunk' bodies of text. There is not
give-and-take 'discussion' possible in this kind of format. Thus, while
I can send things out to you-all, there is a very real sense in which 
you-all are 'on-your-own', as you have "come out of her My people".
(Rev18:4)

Thus, we understand the need to know -HOW-TO- "study" God's Word. I
suppose I could run a series on "Bible Study Methods"; but the Lord is
not leading for that, specifically, at the present time.  But this
consideration of "context" might be one of the single most important
matters to understand.

Where does our instruction in God's ways come from? The Scriptures make
us "wise for salvation through faith..in Christ Jesus". Scripture is
"breathed by God" and is our source of understanding for "doctrine,
reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness.." And when we know
the Scriptures, the Believer is "..thoroughly equipped for every good
work." (2Tim3:15-17) The Scriptures.

And 'how' are the Scriptures imparted to us? Through the Holy Spirit 
who "guides" us "into all truth". (Jn16:13) If we are "rightly dividing 
the Word of Truth" (2Tim2:15) we have no need for any human teacher 
because of the "anointing which [we] have received...teaches [us]
concerning all things.." (1Jn2:27)

How do we "rightly divide" the Scriptures? First of all, we need to
actually -have- the Scriptures. Thus, we speak regularly of translation
issues; not going to rehash that right now. But if you are reading a
perVersion, while it may 'contain' God's Word, as a whole it -is- NOT
God's Word. And remember above, God's will is for Believers to keep
"ALL" His commandments. If you use a perVersion, you have only 'some'
of His commandments, not "ALL". If you are still clinging to your NIV,
RSV, NASB, etc...throw them aside and get a KJV, NKJV in print.  If you
like to read from your computer, go download the VW-Edition.

Now, once you -have- God's Word, 'how' does one study it to know God's
will? There have been many throughout the years who had no regular
study method for themselves, but when it would come time for their
daily "Bible reading time", would quickly come into their room, just
prior to lights-out for bed time, open their Bible...wherever it
happened to open, point their finger, and start reading. Some have even
thought that, for their children, a "simple" method of giving their
children the Scriptures is to buy these boxes with verse-cards, and
each night pull one card out and read it, and for them, that becomes
the total extent of their so-called "Bible reading" (after hours and
hours of TV and video games!!!). Quick! Give God a little mention.
Amen! Good-night!

How does one come to know God's will for one's life? Do we do like in
the above paragraph, or like it was said of someone: they opened the
Bible and put their finger down... the passage said, "..and 
Judas...went and hanged himself.." (Mt27:3-5)  Well, not sure that 
-that- was such a good word from the Lord, closes the Bible, opens it, 
and finger down again, "..go and do thou likewise.." (Lk10:37) Not sure 
that such a thing is really God's will for him, he does it one more 
time; eyes closed, finger down, eyes open:  "..and what you do, do
quickly.." (Jn13:27)

Now, we might chuckle at what is likely an assembled tale/fable to
illustrate a point... but people actually do that. It is that whole
mentality that has spawned the theology of the "Bible code". As if the
Bible were a "magic charm" to be wielded. As if it's own Word were not
enough; a mere "code" by which to receive "other" messages. What did
Paul warn Timothy about "other doctrines"? (1Tim1:3) What are those who
bring an "other" gospel?  (Gal1:8-9)

But no! God's Word is, well... God's -WORD-. How many times does it say
variations of, "And Jehovah -SPOKE- to..." (Num1:1) God spoke to Moses
"face to face". (Ex33:11)  The Scriptures were given as God's holy men
were "propelled along by the Holy Spirit". (2Pt1:21) If a person reads
a letter or e-mail from a friend, do they close their eyes, point their 
finger to a certain spot, and read merely a sentence or paragraph? Not 
hardly! They start at the "top" and continue reading till they reach
the end.  Supposing the letter told about 1) horses, 2) their trip, 3) 
their children... and your finger only landed on the "trip" and that's 
all you read, how do you suppose they would feel if you were later 
speaking on the phone, and they mentioned something about the children 
in the context of what you should have known because of that letter, 
and you respond "in-ignorance" about it? Well...it was IN THE LETTER! 
Didn't you get it?  Well, ya, I got it. Well..!?!?

Now, supposing their letter spoke of the 1) horses and 3) children, and 
how the children were learning to ride the horse? Now, suppose on 
another occasion you decided to get that letter out, and this time read 
the part about the "horses"...and your mind reminisces about your 
friends, and you begin to wonder to yourself..."I wonder if those kids 
will now be learning to ride horses?" So, quickly, you dash off a note 
to them, or call them on your cel-phone..."Hey, are you going to teach 
the kids to ride horse?" Well, duh! Didn't you read #3? #3 told how the 
kids are learning to ride. Oooh, but that's right...you only read #2 
and then #1. You didn't get as far as #3.

Now, as we progress here, and I give some "real" examples, please, if 
you recognize your own correspondence, don't take it "personally". I've
already answered your notes. You and I (and the Lord) are the only ones
who know that it was 'you'. But be assured, you are not alone. I'm only
using 'your' examples because they were most recent. Many -MANY- others
do the same thing:

There was a query recently to the effect, "Is it OK to repeat the
Lord's prayer?" It is found in Mt6:9-13.

First of all, does Jesus -say- to "repeat" it? He says, "in this 
-manner-, therefore, pray.." (vs9) Now, vs9 is like "#2".  But what
does "#1" say? "..do not babble vain repetitions as the heathen do...do
not be like them.." (vs7-8) You see, if a person reads far enough, the
Scripture, itself, answers the question. "Is it OK?" No, it is not! The 
"context" gives the answer.

There was another recent query about the One commanded to "thrust in 
[His] sickle and reap.." (Rev14:15) The question was, "who/what" is
being reaped? If a person continues reading just a few more verses, the 
context of the passage gives the answer: those going into the "great
winepress of the wrath of God" (vs19)

Now, mind you... there are times I receive queries, all laid out nicely
in numerical order... and if I didn't know better, I would suspect the
questions probably came from the inquirer's college or Bible school 
professor (not their own inquiring mind/heart), and they were looking
for quick answers to test/quiz questions. There are times, if I had a
way of knowing where the person was from, I would investigate to see
what schools were nearby, and contact a school official to see if
somebody was attempting to "cheat". Some of those I don't even 
acknowledge; others I query them back as to the source of their 
questions; and others, I help talk-them-through to finding their own 
answers, or 'point' them to the answer without actually giving it.

Now, also, 'what' do we read and study? Only the N.T.? There are many 
who suppose that the O.T. was for Israel, -BUT- the N.T. is "for the 
CHURCH!" Well, what does Paul say?  What is the "household of God" 
based upon? The "apostles and prophets" with "Jesus Christ Himself 
being the chief cornerstone". (Eph2:19-20) Who first used the 
expression, "cornerstone"? Israel. (Is28:16)  Paul says that the Rock 
that followed Israel in the O.T. was "Christ". (1Cor10:4) Jesus may 
have died in the N.T. Gospels, but He was leading Israel in the O.T.  
And Paul says the household of God is built on the prophets. Back in 
his time the O.T. was called the "Law and Prophets" (Mt22:40, Ac13:15, 
24:14, Rom3:21) The Law was given "by the hand of Moses" (Lev10:11); 
Moses the 'prophet'. Thus, the "Law" is also of the "prophets", in
addition to the books usually called "the prophets". Thus, Paul is
shortening the titles. The "prophets" is the O.T., and the "apostles"
is the N.T. The household of God is based on both the Old -and- New
Testaments. And other than those pre-cross animal sacrificial rituals
which Hebrews explains were done away in Christ, the N.T. establishes
the O.T. Law.

When I studied music at university, every music major was required to 
take "Theory"; the study of melody, harmony, chord progressions, etc.
Now, for education majors and music 'minors', that was all they had to
take. But if a person was a 'performance' major, they also had to take
"Counterpoint". Where Theory was based on the Bach era and beyond,
Counterpoint was based on Palestrina and prior. Counterpoint did not
have so much to do with "vertical" chordal relationships of notes, but
of the "horizontal" melodic relationships. Now, in the order of things,
Theory was taken first, for two years; and -THEN- Counterpoint was
taken.

Now, without boring you non-musicians, when I took Theory, there were 
certain "rules" on how notes were to follow each other, how some notes 
needed to be either sharped or flatted, depending on whether they were 
"leading" to a -higher- or -lower- note (For you musicians, the various 
types of "leading tones"), and care regarding things like successive 
4ths, 5ths and tri-tones. While I studied theory, and got good grades,
and learned the -rules- for "leading tones", there was just -something-
'missing' in my mind of understanding. Then came counterpoint. A much
more "boring" class. But guess what... when I took Counterpoint,
suddenly that 'veil' of cloudiness regarding leading-tones was lifted.  
It all made perfect sense. And once I had studied Counterpoint, I 
wondered to myself why they didn't teach it 'first', -before- Theory.  
If they had, a lot of things about Theory would have made more sense, 
-while- it was being studied, and would have been easier to understand.

Many people study and read only the N.T., and come away assuming they
know-it-all. But the N.T. is based on the O.T. Without the O.T. there
could never be a N.T., just as Bach would not have existed as he did
if Palestrina hadn't preceded him.

So, while we speak of the "context" of a topic within a certain
chapter, not picking out individual verses at random, but taking them
in the context of the whole chapter...and the chapter, in turn, in the
context of the entire book/epistle; so, too, the N.T. by itself is
out-of-context, unless one also knows the O.T.

So, what are we seeking to understand here? A lot of people feel "lost"
in terms of understanding the O.T. That is because they have never
-read- the O.T. Or if they have, they have only read certain key
passages like Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Proverbs and maybe Daniel, or 
something. Most of you probably think Numbers is rather boring, right? 
Or Leviticus? Well, please stay tuned for the next Portion. There is a
little nugget out of Numbers we will take a look at, from out of one
of its 'boring' repetitious passages.

So, what is the whole point of this Portion? If you've got that little
box of verses, and you only merely read a verse-a-day...throw it out!
Be sure you have an -actual- "Bible", and start reading it. Read entire
books, chapter-after-chapter, verse-after-verse. If you happen to 
point-your-finger at a verse and wonder about it's meaning, don't stop 
with -just- 'that' verse...read what comes before and after. Usually, 
the "context" will explain it. And don't just stop with -a- 'chapter'.  
Remember, the original texts were not written with chapter-and-verse 
number designations. They typically went from begin-to-end of the book.  
True, there are divisions within many books, which their -own-
'context' makes evident. But the only way you will understand it is to
-READ- it.

As we are beginning a process of studies for Believers and so-called
Baby-Christians, it is impossible for me to feed you nearly enough to
grow by. And if some catastrophe were to completely shut down the 
Internet system, where would you be? 

Thus, my exhortation to you, as Paul exhorted Timothy, "..give 
attention to READING, to exhortation, to DOCTRINE.." (1Tim4:13) Get out 
your Bibles and -READ-. And if you eventually finish reading 
cover-to-cover, start over and read some more. I've been reading the 
Bible thru from cover-to-cover, in various orders and reading schedules 
over the years ever since I was barely old enough to read. I'm now 53.  
I could not possibly suggest how-many times I've read it through. I 
don't know.  But as I go through in this current VW-Edition project, I 
am discovering soooo many little precious gems I had never seen before.

Do not assume that, just because you finished reading the entire Bible
thru once, that now, you know-it-all. You don't! -KEEP- reading! And 
the Holy Spirit will feed you.

"Your Words were found, and I ate them; and Your Word was to me the joy
and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Jehovah, God
of Hosts." (Jer15:16)  "I have not departed from the Commandment of His
lips; I have treasured the Words of His mouth more than my prescribed
[food]." (Job23:12)

Amen!