Yesterday we had a wonderful day of long, soaking, summer rain. Sure, it was a little bit humid, and is again this morning. It may have been a little inconvenient, as it may have forced you to alter the plans you had for the day. But I think everyone was happy with the rain. The dry ground soaked it up. Puddles formed. The dust has disappeared for a day or two. Everything looks that little bit greener and fresher, just for the removal of the dust, even if there no more green has actually appeared yet.
We all love summer rain.
Unless it was a month ago. In the harvest. The same sort of rain then brought tales of hardship and difficulty, worry about whether the crops would be downgraded or lost, and not much in the positive column.
And the difference is purely context. The context of the rain a month ago was the middle of harvest, after a year of unusually late rains, and almost lost crops. The context today is after the harvest is over, after all the urgent sheep work is done, and the time when a lot of farmers have a break.
The same thing – summer rain – carrying two different meanings depending on the context it appears in.
Which reminded me about reading the Bible. With numbered chapters and verses, its easy to think only in terms of small snippets of scripture, devoid of context.
While some may stand alone fairly well (“for God so loved the world he sent his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16). But others don’t (“If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14, or “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).
The problem with taking verses out of context is that we apply things that were said to a particular people at a particular time, and apply them straight to ourselves, ignoring the context they appear in. We also run the risk of deciding just what it is that God is promising us when we do that context-less verse quoting, and it usually ends up in some sort of material prosperity or success style.
God’s word is life changing and life giving, as it is the message of the hope of salvation from judgement through the grace of God by the death and resurrection of Jesus, received through faith alone. That is the message to everyone in the world – the promise what we will all spend eternity in the presence of our Creator, Lord and Saviour, through trusting in Jesus. And every time we take a verse out of context to make our hope something else, or make God into something else, we are at risk of trusting someone or something other than Jesus to deliver a promise God has not made to us.
As you enjoy the summer rain, let it remind you how important it is to read God’s word and not just rely on the sound-bites that make us hope for things other than salvation with Jesus.