Is this Verse For Us?

It has been a trend with many Christians to single out a verse here or select a few verses there and apply them to the Body of Christ, themselves or even their family on a personal level.  I have lost track of the countless times that I have walked into someone’s home to find Jeremiah 29:11 (you know… “For I know the plans I have for you…”) posted on some refrigerator or on a plaque somewhere in the living room.  The question is…why do Christians do this, and is this sound Biblical interpretation?

Let’s take a closer look at the Jeremiah 29 passage for example.  First of all, Jeremiah isn’t spouting off some sound parameters for the everyday believer.  No, he is writing a letter to a specific faction of people.  Just a cursory glance at the very first verse of this particular portion of Scripture will reveal to the reader very quickly who Jeremiah is addressing:

 “Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Can this be any clearer?  Jeremiah is not writing to or talking about anybody other than those in Jerusalem who were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar to the region of Babylon.  It is not written to some individual or family in the 21st century.  It is not written to us in the Body of Christ.  It is a letter written to encourage and warn those of Israel of God’s plan for them.  The next few verses, four-nine, are instructions from God for “the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon,” about how to live in Babylon while in captivity.  Of course, all of this is ignored by those who want to jump right to verse eleven and claim that God has plans to prosper the believer.  Yet, if we read verse ten along with verse eleven and even then through verse fourteen, we find complete congruity with the rest of the passage:

10 “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans that I [h]have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 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 search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your [i]fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

Does this make any sense for the Body of Christ or any individual believer in their modern city today?

Then why do so many Christians fall into the practice of ignoring the context of an area of Scripture?  I believe one reason is that due to the chapters and verses in our modern Bibles; we have forgotten the way the original autographs were compiled.  They were not written with chapters and verses in them, and the chapters and verses in our Bibles today certainly were not Holy Spirit inspired.  Now, before the reader gets all bent out of shape, I am very grateful for the hard work put in by the Biblical scholars who gave us this format in our Scriptures.  It is way easier to study and put together articles like this with quotes from particular portions of the Bible.  But, when studying our Bibles, we need to recall the original intent, and it was not to just read a sentence here and a sentence there and decide which one fits our needs best.  No, most of Scripture is either written in letter form to a specific person or group, or it is written as a history book.  If there are instructions or values that apply to everyone, like “thou shall not murder”, then of course we pay attention to it.  But, to read that a letter is obviously written to a group of people who have absolutely nothing to do with us today and then claim that this passage is for us is irresponsible, if not lazy-which is my second reason why people do this “verse theology”.

I believe that another reason why Christians rip verse after verse out of context for their own purposes is due to a lack of motivation to actually study the word of God.  2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to study to show thyself approved of God”.  The instruction by the Holy Spirit is not to read, but to study.  The dictionary defines study as “application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge, as by reading, investigation, or reflection.” We are to investigate God’s word to find out all the wonderful precepts that God has for us.  By doing this, we would eliminate the error of claiming someone else’s mail.  Think about it, would anyone do this with an email?  Would you read someone else’s email and pick one sentence that you like and say that it is written to or about you?  Of course you wouldn’t, yet that’s exactly what the average believer, and unfortunately some Pastors and teachers, are doing today.  Or how about going to your next door neighbor’s house and finding their will and claiming that a sentence in the will with instructions for leaving an inheritance for their children is actually written to you?  Would we do this with any other book about any other subject?  How about science? Would we read a chapter about oxygen and apply those properties to, say, hydrogen or nitric oxide?  What about math?  Should we read and apply the instructions about long division and incorporate them into the chapter on subtraction?  Or how about history?  Do we read the account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and think that JFK was shot in a theater?  We don’t do this with any other compilation of writings on the planet.  No, for some reason, man has taken upon himself to tell God what He meant in His word and to whom was it meant.

That last reason I believe that Christians claim parts of Scripture for themselves is that they want the prosperity part of God’s word, but they want to ignore the judgment or warnings laid out for us in the Bible.  Just look at the latter part of the Jeremiah passage.

“16 for thus says the Lord concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your brothers who did not go with you into exile— 17 thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, I am sending upon them the sword, famine and pestilence, and I will make them like split-open figs that cannot be eaten due to rottenness. 18 I will pursue them with the sword, with famine and with pestilence; and I will make them a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse and a horror and a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, 19 because they have not listened to My words,’ declares the Lord, ‘which I sent to them again and again by My servants the prophets; but you did not listen,’ declares the Lord.”

I don’t see anyone putting these verses on any embroidery and hanging them in their home.

My fellow Christians, let us study God’s word thoroughly and claim what is written to us and leave the rest for our learning.  We are to use the whole counsel of the Scriptures, but let’s do it with wise discernment.  I leave you with a quote from Miles Coverdale which he inserted in the prologue to the 1535 Coverdale Bible…

“It shall greatly help thee to understand the Scripture, if thou mark, not only what is spoken or written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goeth before and what followeth after. 

Sounds like excellent advice for all who care to indulge in the treasure trove, which is the word of God.

Article written by Paul D. Pedro

Oakdale, Minnesota

Copyright 2014

Any emphasis, italics or underlining was done by the author

2 Comments

  1. Jenny
    Posted September 29, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Amen. I’m glad that there are intelligent men of God explaining this to the Body of Christ. I have recently heard on a Christian radio station another explaining this verse and the reason it is not meant for us. However, I only caught the tail end of it and could not for trying find out who the speaker was. I am baffled by the misapplication Christians can make for scripture and then the offense they take when it is pointed out to them. When I understand that the Body of Christ is promised persecution and I realize that I don’t really know what this entails or what it really looks like in the US (at least, not yet), I am so truly thankful to God for the peaceable and relatively undisturbed lives we are able to lead here as Christians.

    I’d like to add that another reason Christians tend to pick and choose what they are going to apply is that they do not properly understand or apply II Timothy 3:16 – (16) All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (17) That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

  2. Paul
    Posted September 29, 2014 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your kind words, Jenny.

    Paul

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