“For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone” (Psalm 86:10, KJV).
Con·text (‘kän-,tekst): “the circumstances that form the setting for a statement or idea, by which it can be fully understood and assessed; the parts that immediately precede or follow a word or passage and help to clarify its meaning.”
Information is shared through words. A sentence or paragraph’s full meaning and intent are not just the sum of the words and their definitions. More importantly, it must also include consideration of the setting surrounding the text—or the context. We can often guess the definition of an unfamiliar word by looking at its use in context. Likewise, words taken out of context may convey a meaning significantly different than what was originally intended by the speaker or author. It is said that the three most important things to consider to interpret a Scripture text accurately are: context, context, context.
Consider the word selah. It is a word in Scripture that stands alone. It’s a complete idea all by itself—a one-word imperative. Its surrounding context does not impact it as it doesn’t depend on other words to clarify its meaning. The word is repeated many times in the Psalms and is widely thought to mean “stop for an interlude” or “pause here and meditate.” But, although it is assumed to be a musical notation, its actual meaning remains uncertain.
Consider a similar word, higgaion. Like selah, it stands alone. A complete thought without context. But, unlike selah, which is mentioned seventy-four times in the King James Bible, higgaion is only mentioned (untranslated) once—in Psalm 9:16.
“The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah” (Psalm 9:16, KJV).
Here’s a word that is evidently placed there to be read and understood, but its meaning is locked—obscured by its own completeness. The surrounding verbiage does not even hint at the meaning of higgaion. Like selah, it is assumed to be a musical term, but that assumption cannot be confirmed. Each word—selah and higgaion—remain a mystery and stand alone.
“In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1, KJV).
God has always stood alone. “There is none beside me. I am the Lord” (Isaiah 45:6, KJV). He has existed in solitary glory—His power and presence unobserved—His essence an inscrutable mystery. Somewhat like the word higgaion. “The world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” To the world, God was as incomprehensible as higgaion.
Until…“the Word became flesh.” In the context of Bethlehem, the indescribable and incomparable Word suddenly translated itself into humanity.
“In the beginning…” God began to reveal Himself to His creation. From the Garden of Eden onward, the glory of God was declared to man through nature. God then initiated conversations with Adam and Eve, instructed Noah to build an ark, made promises to Abraham, and spoke to Moses from a burning bush. Through the centuries, more and more information was passed from God to man—first orally, then in written form—but the visual image of God remained, at best, blurred.
Until one night, “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,” and “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” From that moment when the Light broke through, the invisible became visible with glaring brilliance, and the image of God was revealed.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them” (Isaiah 9:2, GNT).
When God became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, a new understanding burst into sight! God provided His own context and was now one of us. By His amazing grace, He allowed us to know Him and identify with Him in context:
- Through FAITH (Philippians 3:8-10),
- through His BLOOD (Ephesians 2:12-14),
- through His WORD (James 1:18,21),
- through His NAME (John 20:31), and
- through His SPIRIT (John 14:17, 16:13).
God is not revealed by what man has to say about Him, but by His own will, in His own Word.
It is written in Ezekiel at least sixty-three times: “[They] shall know that I AM the Lord.” From before the foundation of the world, God graciously intended for us to know Him—in real–time—in context!
PRAYER: Dear God, You drew near to us so we could draw near to You. When You became flesh, You came into our context, and Your unapproachable glory and grace became personal. Thank You! Amen.