Asp, Asparagus, Aspartame

Context is important. If you hear a woman screaming in the hospital, it makes all the difference whether she is in an oncology unit or Labor and Delivery. Failure to consider context in that moment will inevitably lead to a misinterpretation of reality. Both are screams of pain, but one is of death and the other of life.

Likewise, we need to consider context every time we pick up our Bible. Correct interpretation of truth is at stake. Is this your approach to the Bible?

When you use the encyclopedia you simply turn to the entry you are interested in, say “Asparagus.” The fact that the entry before “Asparagus” was on “Asps” (cobras) and the one after it was on “Aspartame” (an artificial sweetener) is irrelevant. In fact, you don’t even look at them, unless you get bored with reading about asparagus.

Imagine reading a novel in the same way: you open the book up halfway through, and read the third paragraph down. Try it if you like. We can guarantee it won’t make much sense. You don’t know who the characters are or how the plot is unfolding; you have no idea what is going on. That is why we read a novel from beginning to end.

(HT: Unashamed Workman)

The Bible isn’t exactly like a novel. But it is much more like a novel than an encyclopedia. If we are to interpret the Bible accurately, we will need to understand the difference. Being aware of the context surrounding the verse(s) under consideration will often make or break our interpretation.

So the next time you pick up God’s word, remember. Remember that the text you are reading is part of a larger section (almost always); that section is contributing to an overarching point being made in the book (e.g., all the sections of Mark’s Gospel are telling the good news of Jesus as “the Son of God” [1:1]); and that book is located somewhere in the grand biblical storyline of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation.

Sometimes you can grasp the context with little effort. Other times further reading and reflection will be required. At all times the effort is necessary.

Understanding the verse(s) you are reading within the context of the entire Bible won’t make you an infallible interpreter, but it will make you a better one.

Seven Eight

What a joy to discover Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo)! Where have I been? Seven Eight is a remarkable piece written in 7/8 time. Try to count it! The song consists of three tracks, each one played by Ola and laid on top of each other.

Breaking Good

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I don’t regret the 90 seconds it took to read the following Q&A on God’s creation and providence. I don’t think you will regret it either. If you are in Christ, everything is breaking good.

Q. What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?

A.  That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ the Son.

I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon me in this sad world.

God is able to do this because he is almighty God and desires to do this because is a faithful Father.

Q.  What do you understand by the providence of God?

A.  The almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty–all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.

Q.  How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?

A.  We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love.

For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.

(Q26, Q27, Q28, Heidelberg Catechism)

From Miracle to Providence

“Miracle rather shakes up our mental composure, reminding us that this world does not just drift along on its own, but is the place where a great person lives and acts. And that person’s influence is not only local and temporary. The God who brought...

Miracle rather shakes up our mental composure, reminding us that this world does not just drift along on its own, but is the place where a great person lives and acts. And that person’s influence is not only local and temporary. The God who brought the plagues on Egypt and divided the sea must be no less than the God of all nature. It is thus that our minds move from miracle to providence. (John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 275)

I love two things about this quote. (1) I think it’s right that our minds move from miracle to providence. If God is extraordinarily in control of nature, then he must be ordinarily in control of it too. (2) The description of the world as “the place where a great person lives and acts” is beautiful. God’s involvement in the world is not mechanical but personal. And if personal, then purposeful.

One Grand Providence

To the dim and bewildered vision of humanity, God’s care is more evident in some instances than in others; and upon such instances men seize, and call them providences. It is well that they can; but it would be gloriously better if they could believe that the whole matter is one grand providence.

George MacDonald