Dear CSOPC brothers and sisters,
From the Pastor’s Desk
“Context, Context, Context”
Matthew 4:6, “[Satan] said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you.’’”
The Bible is a big book. It is a big book with one central theme – the redemption of God’s people by means of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible is God’s breathed out word (2 Tim 3:16); it is truth (John 17:17); indeed it is our life (Matt 4:4; Deut 32:47). Thus, it is critical that we read God’s word properly. In other words, it is important that we read God’s word as it was meant to be read. And one of the most basic, yet most important principles of faithful Bible interpretation is context. Every verse and every passage must be read and interpreted in context. To rip a verse from its context can have disastrous consequences. For our purposes in this devotion, I want to illustrate the danger of taking a verse out of context from Satan’s temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Matthew’s account of our Lord’s temptation, the devil comes to Jesus a second time and says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and, ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’” (Matt 4:6). In this temptation, Satan calls Jesus to demonstrate his power by throwing himself off the temple and calling his angles to rescue him. And to bolster his temptation, Satan cites from Psalm 91:11-12. However, what is noteworthy for our purposes is to realize that Satan does NOT quote the verse in its entirety. In other words, Satan takes a portion of Ps 91:11-12 and pulls it from its larger context. We will focus our thoughts on his quotation of Ps 91:11. Satan quotes the first half (Ps 91:11a) in his temptation of Jesus, “He will command his angels concerning you.” But he leaves out the second half (Ps 91:11b) of the verse and goes straight to cite Ps 91:12. The second half of Ps 91:11, which Satan conveniently neglects, reads, “… to guard you in all your ways.” Put simply, Ps 91:11 teaches that the angels protect God’s people as they walk the path of obedience and faithfulness to the Lord. Of course Satan leaves out Ps 91:11b – for he is tempting Jesus not to walk in the path of obedience to his father. Rather Satan is tempting Jesus away from the path of the cross and of faithfulness to his father. But Ps 91:11 specifically has reference to God’s protection (by means of his angels) of those seeking to walk the path of faithfulness. Satan cites Ps 91:11a to suit his purposes, but he neglects Ps 91:11b because it would contradict the very goal of his temptation!
Brothers and sisters, God gave us his word in a book. And we are called to be faithful servants of his word. As Paul says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). May we love the word! May we read the word! May we read the word rightly! May we read God’s word in context. May we mediate upon and live according to the word. May we say with the Psalmist, “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart … Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (Psalm 119:34, 37).