When we receive an email or letter from a someone we know and care about, we usually read the entire letter in one sitting. The Bible is full of letters, long ones, short ones - but all letters from God to His children.
As we read God's letters, His Word, we need to be careful not to just read one sentence and make a personal application immediately from it. We should read the context of the letter - or even the context of the section that a "sentence" or verse is in.
I believe God meant for us to do more than read a chapter in the Bible and look for one verse that we can write a nice journal on. God will use individual verses or sentences for us to apply, but we need to be careful that we don't take sentences our of context. Remember, the Bible was not originally written with chapter or verse numbers. It was added later in history for us to make better reference to areas of His Story.
Here are some Interpretation principles that you can use to enhance your relationship with God and His Story! (derived from my Bible class with Dr. Gary Manning, Pac Rim Christian College)
- What did this verse (considering the overall context of the story or section) mean to the original hearers or audience? * Read carefully around the verse, considering the context, the story.
- What are the differences (in culture, their times, government, situations, etc) between the original audience and us?
- What is the "God Principle" in this verse (considering the overall context)?
- What are some specific ways we can apply this "God Principle" to our lives?