The Big, Glorious Picture: A Context Study
These three verses that we’re going to look at are rich and valuable and not worth simply dismissing. But they are also used in many, many different ways and are often out of context. Let’s be clear: this is not a mandate to never use these passages in only one certain way. The last thing Christianity needs is more people trying to push living words into a small, man-made box. I do believe, however, that we should do our research – not only with these popular picks, but to always check and study the Scriptures on our own.
It is important to use our vast resources wisely, especially because so many people die for the sake of the Word of God. It is not a book that should remain untouched, but it should be treated with respect, reverence, and gratefulness. The Bible is inexhaustible and open to interpretation. This is often overwhelming and why some Christians choose to skim it or never open their Bibles at all. But we are still called to test everything, to search out truth, cling to His promises, and to come to at least a minimal understanding that equips us to share with others.
In trying to study and research the Bible (without getting hopelessly overwhelmed), I try to look at and think over these five components:
- What are the cultural traditions and ramifications in this story?
- How does it come back to the good news of the gospel?
- What words could I be misinterpreting because I am leaning too heavily on the English language?
- Look at the big picture. Who and what situations came before this? What comes soon after?
- How does the story end? How does this story impact me today?
Let’s dig deeper into the context of Exodus 14:14, Jeremiah 29:11, and Philippians 4:13 together with these questions in mind.
This story takes place right before God parted the Red Sea and protected the Israelites in battle. This verse is often quoted in trials of our own, to bring comfort and rest. Jesus tells us in the New Testament that there will be trouble in this world, and He tells us to come to Him when we are heavy-hearted. We are always invited to cast our anxiety on Him, grasp onto Him for new breath and new mercies. But sometimes, He calls us to rise up and take action.
The story continues.
There is a time for silence, prayer, and waiting. And there is a time to get moving and run on prepared, dry ground. The discernment in which way to go moment by moment must come from walking in the Holy Spirit, and listening to His call when He says, “This is my battle before yours. Rest, my child. This will bring me glory.” Or when He says, “Stop waiting. I will go before you, if you would only go. This will bring me glory that everyone would know that I am the LORD, and you are mine.”
Jeremiah 29 is a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles of Babylon after a false prophet came to deceive them. The exiles had been fed many lies and were living in tension. Jeremiah comes in to set the record straight: don’t be mistaken. Our God will not deal unjustly. He will provide, He will deliver, and He sees you.
Jeremiah 29:11 is used most often on greeting cards in seasons of change and scribbled underneath well wishes. Does the LORD know His plans for all of us, plans of goodness and not darkness, and a sweet future? Does that include where you go to college and what job you take next? Absolutely. But it’s not just about the future of your bodily life. It’s about a distorted relationship being restored. It’s about the fulfillment of His promises, even if it takes seventy years. He longs to be sought and found by His children. It’s about knowing a God that sees us in our waiting, hears us in our whining and struggling, and desires to bring us back. God is most definitely involved in our grander life decisions, but keep in mind: He is with us every step of the way, and even if we don’t get a full glimpse of what He is doing in our mesh of routine and spontaneity today, He has the grander plan in His hands and He is our prize.
Paul writes this letter in prison, held back physically by chains because of the gospel. He is sharing with the church of Philippi that he has found the secret of being content that starts with rejoicing and in prayer.
As you may know, this verse is often printed on workout tank-tops and in countless Twitter biographies.
I am convinced that God is in the even smallest nooks of our lives because He created them. He is with us in all things, as the verse says. This includes running and weight-lifting and test taking. But it also involves being content while living in hunger, or in the pit, and being well-fed on the mountaintop. Paul writes this because in Philippians 3:7, he says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
I am so grateful that in Christ the universe is held and that every story comes together in a perfect tapestry of glory.
May we become people that are hungry for righteousness, being continually renewed by communion and the study of God’s Word, knowing that He is all in all.