When I was your age, there was almost nothing I wanted more than straight legs. Okay, maybe a boyfriend. But straight legs were sure to help me get one, or so I thought.
See, I was born bowlegged. Apparently it runs in my family, and I was the one lucky enough to catch that gene. I was almost constantly aware of and insecure about the way my legs bent out at an unnatural angle from my knees down.
That’s why my heart absolutely sunk years ago when I read this verse in God’s Word:
Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? (Ecc. 7:13, emphasis added)
But then, another day, I read Luke 3:5, and my heart leapt. So there was hope for my legs!
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways (emphasis added).
Have you been pulling verses from God’s Word without looking at their surrounding context?
It wasn’t until years later that I realized that these verses had nothing to do with my legs! I was simply reading Scripture out of context. I had no idea how important it was to know what came before and after a verse, so I could figure out what the author actually intended to communicate.
Take Luke 3:5, for example. Here’s the surrounding context:
The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he [John] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Check out how Nancy Leigh DeMoss explains this passage:
In the ancient Near East, there was this custom that when a king would be coming to visit his people who lived in the outlying areas, he would send a forerunner in advance to announce that the king was coming to visit his people. That messenger, the herald, would prepare the way for the king’s entourage. It would be like we say today, “Rolling out the red carpet.”
The problem was in those days public roads were almost unknown. In many areas there were hardly roads at all. So the king would send a forerunner to clear away the obstacles, to make a highway, a thoroughfare for the king to come and visit his people.
[Luke] quotes directly from the book of Isaiah saying this prophecy is now being fulfilled with John the Baptist coming to prepare the people for the Lord to visit. The message of John the Baptist was a message of repentance. In preparation for King Jesus coming to this earth, God’s people were to remove every obstacle, to prepare a road in their hearts for His arrival.
Turns out, Luke 3:5 was never intended to give me hope that somehow my bowlegged legs would be straightened. Luke 3:5 was intended to give me hope that a Savior had come—not to straighten my crooked legs, but to straighten my crooked heart!
How about you? Have you been pulling verses from God’s Word without looking at their surrounding context? If so, I encourage you to begin the hard work today of searching for the author’s actual meaning by digging into the surrounding verses. God’s Word is filled with the good news of a specific message—let’s not miss it!