To get the most out of what we read in the Bible, there are several things that we need to take into consideration (especially in the Old Testament) to rightly divide what we read. Understanding how to filter God’s Word through context is necessary if you want to get to see His plan of redemption at work in what you read.
We need to understand the context of:
- Who is speaking what to who and why?
- The times that the people lived in (such as their location, manners, sayings and customs).
- Are the words literal or is a “Figure of Speech” at play?
- The rest of the chapter and book – not just what the individual scripture(s) say.
- The known truth revealed in the message of the Bible as a whole (there is only one Salvation message – plan of redemption for mankind).
- The Covenant the people were under (are they under law, under grace or before the law?)
- Their world-view of God (their understanding of Him at that time).
To understand this can make a considerable difference to what we read!
Many do not realise that the Bible was written with progressive revelation and filtered through the people’s knowledge of God. This meant that many in the Old Testament did not know everything that we now know today about Him. When they would seek Him and cry out to Him for help, He would then reveal Himself to them. And if they listened He could show Himself strong and deliver them in that situation. However, their knowledge of His nature was very limited. So they did not know the fullness of what we now know today!
In Hosea 4:6 (NKJV) God says: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. The (NLT) makes this scripture even clearer by stating My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me. How sad!
Proverbs 29:18 (Amp) tells us that Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish. I love how the (Msg) interprets this verse: If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves;
but when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.
Today we are so incredibly blessed to have the Bible so that we can read the accounts of those who have gone before us and give us insight (and hopefully hindsight) so we don’t make the same mistakes. We have God’s plan of redemption for mankind revealed to us throughout the whole Bible. And as you learn how to rightly divide the Word of truth you will see this plan within every book!
If we want to know how to apply what the Bible says to our lives today, then we need to filter everything we read through the New Covenant. This can be found within the New Testament books from Romans to Jude.
And most importantly we also need to know Jesus and His Finished work. If we don’t understand all of this then we will miss the truth of what God has for us today.
When reading through the Old Covenant, always remember that we have a better Covenant based on better promises! Jesus came to reveal grace and truth to us!
John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
The word Truth in Greek is aletheia and means: reality, things as they really are. Moses, the judges, prophets and Kings did communicate truth but the truth that Jesus revealed wasn’t known before. The next verse in John 1 gives us some insight into this new truth that Jesus brought:
John 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
Only Jesus has made the Father known! Everyone else before Jesus did not know the true nature and character of God like Jesus did. Jesus and the Father are one! Jesus is also the image of God! And we see throughout the Gospels that Jesus revealed that God is good and that He was not the author of death, sickness, disease, murder, or the one who was destroying men’s lives.
When you understand the true nature and character of God and know how to filter what you read in the Old Testament you will realise that God is always, only and ever good!