Monday, October 22, 2007

Bible verses used out of context

This is a major issue in the Evangelical World today this mis use of verses. Years ago when I had not been in the faith very long several people I knew kept using the verse Jeremiah 29:11.
Here is what it says in the NIV (by the way I am not an NIV fan but when this verse is used out of context it is almost always from the NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Now back then I had very limited knowledge of the Bible as a whole, however I knew one thing from the start that you could not just put your finger on a verse and claim it as 1- applying it to you 2- use it to justify whatever your circumstances where 3- read one verse without reading the other verses, chapters, books and the context. I knew this because in my understanding of the Bible it was a book of all sorts of writings and I had to understand it from what the Author Intended not what I wanted to get out of it. So when I heard this verse used I simply read the verses before and after and here is what I found.

8 Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them," declares the LORD.

10 This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. [a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."

Now I think a plain read from verses 8-14 shows who the verse applies to and at the very least it is not ME! We can see that God is speaking through Jeremiah to the Israelites. Now if this did apply what about the rest of Jer 29? Does that apply? Lets look.

15 You may say, "The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon," 16 but this is what the LORD says about the king who sits on David's throne and all the people who remain in this city, your countrymen who did not go with you into exile- 17 yes, this is what the LORD Almighty says: "I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like poor figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth and an object of cursing and horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. 19 For they have not listened to my words," declares the LORD, "words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either," declares the LORD.

20 Therefore, hear the word of the LORD, all you exiles whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. 21 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying lies to you in my name: "I will hand them over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will put them to death before your very eyes. 22 Because of them, all the exiles from Judah who are in Babylon will use this curse: 'The LORD treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned in the fire.' 23 For they have done outrageous things in Israel; they have committed adultery with their neighbors' wives and in my name have spoken lies, which I did not tell them to do. I know it and am a witness to it," declares the LORD.

Message to Shemaiah

24 Tell Shemaiah the Nehelamite, 25 "This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You sent letters in your own name to all the people in Jerusalem, to Zephaniah son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the other priests. You said to Zephaniah, 26 'The LORD has appointed you priest in place of Jehoiada to be in charge of the house of the LORD; you should put any madman who acts like a prophet into the stocks and neck-irons. 27 So why have you not reprimanded Jeremiah from Anathoth, who poses as a prophet among you? 28 He has sent this message to us in Babylon: It will be a long time. Therefore build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.' "

29 Zephaniah the priest, however, read the letter to Jeremiah the prophet. 30 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:

Nope in fact we know who the audience was and why Jeremiah was saying it. Now there are principles that we can look at through right contextualizing and understanding of the text. We look at this from the Historical Grammatical Method and see that there was clearly a warning from God, we learn that God is merciful and just, etc. In fact this passage is full of fantastic insights on how God dealt with his people. I love how it talks about dealing with false prophets. But nothing here is about you or I claiming a promise of God here. The promise in Jeremiah 29:11 was to those specific Israelites.

We are going to look at more verses that are improperly used here in the next few weeks. But this is very important because we need to be like the Bereans and search the scriptures. The only way false teachers and false gospels and false prophets get amongst us and are then labeled Christian is if we cannot rightly understand the Word of God.

To read more on this see Never Read a Bible Verse by Greg Koukl


Del said...

Thank you for this post. I appreciate your study and insite. I agree that until we study the word of God that its true context and meaning cannot be revealed to us. I look forward to studying with you on future postings

blog writer said...

Thank you for posting this! I have a little devotional I read constantly when I am depressed about still being single. This verse is used ALL the time. One night I decided I wanted to see how it was worded in my Bible. I was shocked to find out God had directed those words at a specific group. thank you for posting this so I know I'm not alone in believing this verse is widely used out of context.

Anonymous said...

great post! i just found your blod and i love it! Again, amazing post!

Unknown said...

Let's define Israelites, and the 10-lost tribes are also "The Israelites"... so this prophetic plans could also be applied to any of them whereever they are and however their appearance may look like today (after the long time mixed marriages and increase in number there, thus multiply greatly among some nations)... be they in Asia, Europe, Africa etc. etc.

They might even don't know that they are actually one of the lost Israelites today because they did faithfully follow the mixed marriages to the letter to increase in number whereever they were carried into and because of that, they remain one of the beloved and blessed ones, even unknowingly by themselves today.

G-d bless.

Unknown said...

Please note the "to the letter" literally and/or non-literally that,

G-d bless!!