Context matters! Many Bible readers read promises such as Jeremiah 29:11 or Exodus 14:14 and memorize them as personal promises to us today. But this is not a helpful way to read the Bible.
Stand to Reason recently published a great post about how to know whether a certain Bible promise applies to us. In this post, Amy Hall explains how to consider the context of the original text and audience, and she suggests we figure out what that promise in that context revealed about God’s character. Then we can consider how we can rest in that aspect of God’s character today. This doesn’t mean the exact promise still applies, but that God’s character is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The post demonstrates how to consider the context to discover the main point so we may apply the main point and not all the details. Here is a taste:
Always look for what you can learn about God through His dealings with human beings throughout the Bible. When God makes promises about who He is, that always applies. When God promises to give something specific, look more closely at the context to see if He’s promising it in a unique situation (or under the terms of the Mosaic Covenant).
Here’s how I would apply that approach in the case of Jeremiah 29:11. In Jeremiah 29:11, we learn that God cares for His people and doesn’t abandon them, and that He hasn’t abandoned them even if it seems everything has gone wrong in their lives. We see that His good purposes are still moving forward, even when everything looks grim. This, we can cling to, because it’s an understanding of God’s character, which doesn’t change. What we can’t cling to is the specific outworking of God’s character in that unique biblical situation. That is, in that particular situation, God’s goodness and wisdom decreed that He would bring back those who were exiled to Babylon, saying, “I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations.” But in a different situation, God’s goodness and wisdom may decree something different. John the Baptist was beheaded, not released from jail (Matthew 14:1–12). Stephen was stoned, not saved (Acts 7:54–60).
For the rest of the article, check it out!