Understanding Context

Quoting scriptures to provide comfort in a time of need is almost second nature for us. It is one of the reasons why we memorize scriptures.

There have been a lot of things going on in my life and I have been feeling overwhelmed. On top of the problems here at Kiwanis, my son was in surgery to repair an inguinal hernia! I know they do these operations a lot but things do go wrong – it had happened to me. I was on my way to an international health technology assessment in Sorrento, Italy but was still visiting a company in Philadelphia. We had gone to Chinese restaurant when I became very ill – my gall bladder became inflamed and ruptured. I was rushed to hospital for a cholecystectomy. Two days later I was on a flight to Rome – I could not miss this conference! I remember how much it hurt and the surgeon saying that I was crazy, surely I know the risks.

Yes, I was very much aware of the risks and I knew all about the pain. My son is now about the age I was then. So I very much wanted to be the one to take and fetch him from hospital! And to warn him about the risks, not to start working too soon.

Then I recalled some years ago in Port Moody; he and a friend tried to take a shortcut up some rocky terraces in the dark. He fell and broke his forearm rather badly. It was well past midnight but I was glad to be able to take him to the ER. But I was not able to this time 🙁

With all this going on in my head, Father’s words written by Isaiah came to mind:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand
.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Wonderful words! It certainly helps to memorize scriptures so you can recall them when in need. But what did Father have in mind when he said those words? It might surprise you.

Father has an amazing plan that He has been working on for millennia. See the context in the previous verses.

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham my friend,  I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you.

(Is 41:8-9)

Remember the days of old; consider the years long past. Ask your father, and he will tell you, your elders, and they will inform you. When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He divided the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the LORD’s portion is His people, Jacob His allotted inheritance…” (Deut 32:7-9)

Part of Father’s plan is to work with a specific nation, that will be contrasted with the rest of the nations (gentiles) that are governed by Satan. Somehow, Father could look way into the future and select a man who would become his nation – that man was Abram. I say “somehow” but there is no somehow, Father is God Almighty! To make the point, Father chose a man and a wife who were way past childbearing age and changed his name to Abraham – father of many nations.

So now our text is addressed to Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, who Father also gave a new name, Israel, because he had dared wrestle with Father. This will be the name of the nation Father is working with.

See in vs14 “Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”

Ouch! Imagine being called a worm? But it is said in love, to stress how small a nation they were Even though they are small compared to all the gentiles (nations) against them, Fatherd is on their side.

I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
    and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
    and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert
    the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
    the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this,
    that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
” (Isaiah 41:18- 20)

Father then challenges Satan to predict the future:
Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen.
Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome.
Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods.
“(Isaiah 41:22- 23)

Satan is brilliant, he is not called Lucifer (bringer of light) for nothing. No he cannot foretell the future but he can read the bible just like we can and he knows the outline of Father’s plan.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

But what Satan is really good at is understanding human nature, he has been using that knowledge to deceive people with cunning lies. If he can keep the truth from people he might yet get them to thwart the Father’s plan after all.

So is quoting scripture out of context, really helpful. It probably has no bearing on your current situation, or the outcome that you hope for. But remembering that God Almighty is our Father, that he loves us, of course things will work out for our best, not because of the words we are quoting, the have no magic in them, but they remind us of who our father is, and we know his nature “God is love” (1 John 4:8)

So go ahead and memorize also “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”. (Jeremiah 29:11)

No surprise there, the words are also addressed to Israel, Father’s chosen nation. For the reasons discussed above, these words are always encouraging. But for a deeper reason, if we accepted that Joshua was anointed king of the kingdom of the Father, and that by letting himself be murdered by Satan’s people he showed the he was the “lamb of God”, we are “children of God”. We are then grafted into the olive tree, part of Israel.