Context Context Context

Often new Christians are introduced to certain “narrow” types of Bible study (memorization, Bible study guides, etc) without having any idea of what the Bible as a whole is all about. This causes several problems. First, someone could “study” the Bible for years in this fashion without ever really learning. Secondly, this ignorance is seldom dealt with because it is hidden behind an impressive array of Bible quotes. When a Christian quotes a passage out of Hosea from memory, it rarely occurs to others to wonder if he has ever read Hosea. If he hasn’t (as is frequently the case), he cannot know the context of the passage he quotes. This is because he learned it off a little white card and the card has no context. - Doug Wilson, As Somebody Somewhere Said…, Blog and Mablog

I remember when a friend first recommended that I memorize scripture, this was my very response. What about the context? I don’t recall the answer but I think the impression was that I was over reacting. Later I bought the white, pre-printed Navigator Bible verse memory cards and gave it a shot. I don’t think I did well. I do better at memorizing when there is context; I remember stories better than standalone sentences.

Here’s an example of the issue. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God.” Well, the first part of that verse does anyway. Who wrote that Psalm? Who is being address in that command? The context could make that a wonderful blessing or a large threat depending on who it is said to. The note from the Geneva Bible says “He warns them who persecute the Church to cease their cruelty: for also they will feel that God is too strong for them against whom they fight.” If that’s right, and I think it is, then is this really the promise you mean to claim? Isn’t more of a warning about how God will defend his people? That may be comforting for his people but it is at a cost to the nations.

To be sure, there is a place for the imprecatory psalms to be prayed by the saints, but I don’t think that is how most saints think of this one when they put the stickers on their cars or the vinyl on their walls. That isn’t to say that the intention isn’t true, we are called to rest in God in other places in scripture. Wouldn’t it be better to remember those instead?