LEVITICUS ~ A Super-Short Summary (and a Less-Than-Super-Short Summary)

LEVITICUS - Dipping our toes into Leviticus. A Super-Short Summary and Less-Than-Super-Short Summary (Welcome to the Bible series) via www.JeanWilund.com

3. LEVITICUS

You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. ~ Leviticus 20:26 ESV


Super-Short Summary:

In Leviticus, God calls Israel to be holy as He is holy, exposes mankind’s inability to reach His standard, and points to the solution in His Son Jesus.


Less-Than-Super-Short Summary:

The essence of Leviticus is God’s holiness.

Holiness is something or someone set apart from what is unclean/unholy and devoting it instead to what is pure.

Through a series of laws, rules, and regulations, God called Israel (Leviticus 20:26)—and later Christians (I Peter 1:15)—to be holy as He is holy. That’s extreme holiness. (Actually, holiness can’t be less than extreme or it’s no longer holy.)

God’s call was a problem for Israel because not even they, God’s chosen people, stood a chance at reaching His standard of holiness on their own. (I refer you back to Genesis and the born-with-sin problem Adam and Eve passed down.)

God’s promised solution would come through His perfect Son Jesus Christ, but Jesus wasn’t coming in their day. They needed a temporary solution. Leviticus details it. (And by “details it”, I mean DETAILS it. That may be what’s kept Leviticus from becoming the next blockbuster movie—or even a made-for-TV movie.)

Laws, Rules, & Regulations

Leviticus overflows with laws, rules, and regulations to lead Israel into holiness.

Tradition says God gave Israel 613 laws. (And we thought it was impossible to keep all Ten Commandments perfectly. It is.)

God doesn’t introduce every one of His laws in Leviticus. (The Ten Commandments don’t even appear until the book of Deuteronomy.) But He gives us a good glimpse of what it means to belong to a holy God.

As complex as they were, Israel needed God’s laws because He was now living among them. Just as we teach our children the rules for handling fire so they don’t get burned and die (Don’t touch!), Israel needed to understand how to approach God so they didn’t come the wrong way and die. (Mankind’s sin and God’s holiness don’t mix.)

The Offerings

One of the ways Israel could live in the midst a holy God was through the giving of five major offerings: the burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, and guilt offering (Leviticus 1:1-6:7).

The offerings helped the Israelites receive forgiveness and worship God. They also taught them more about God’s nature and pointed to Christ.

The Holy Festivals

Besides the five offerings, God required Israel to observe seven holy festivals: Sabbath, Passover, Firstfruits, Weeks, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Booths (Leviticus 23:1-25:55).

We’ll discuss the offerings and festivals another day, but for now, understand that besides keeping them safe in their sinful state in the presence of a holy God, each taught them important truths about God’s nature and what Jesus would do in the future.

Clean and Unclean

Leviticus talks a lot about clean versus unclean (Leviticus 11:1-15:33).

God wasn’t referring to the need for a bath. These terms indicated whether the people were prepared and allowed to approach God (Clean) versus unprepared and prohibited (Unclean).

It also referred to whether an animal was permitted to be eaten (clean) or not (unclean).

Perhaps this analogy of my youngest daughter, a certified skydiver, will help explain what it meant for the Israelites to be clean or unclean:

Clean and Unclean Skydiving

While my daughter was getting her skydiving certificate, her instructors required her to follow specific rules and wear the prescribed equipment before they would deem her prepared and allowed to hurl herself from a plane. She was clean.

If she didn’t jump again within a certain number of days, however, it didn’t matter if she followed the rules and wore the right equipment. They’d deem her unprepared and prohibited from jumping. She would be unclean. 

Once she took the required refresher course, followed the rules, and wore the proper equipment, they’d pronounce her once again prepared and allowed to plummet from a plane toward the ground at about 120 mph with only a thin piece of fabric to keep her safe. She would once again be clean. (Crazy, but clean.)

Likewise, the Israelites had rules to follow. (Apparently 613 of them).

If they broke certain rules, God deemed them unclean. But after they performed the proper rituals, the priests could once again pronounce them clean and they could approach their holy God.

(Leaping from a plane without a parachute is safer than approaching a holy God the wrong way. The chilling story of Nadab and Abihu can attest to that—Leviticus 10:1-20).

The Priesthood

With all the offerings God required the Israelites to bring, the number of ways they could become unclean, and the important festivals they were to hold, the Israelites needed help. Thus, God instituted the priesthood, which we saw in Exodus (Exodus 28:1-29:46).

The priests served in the tabernacle, taught the people His law, and prayed for God’s guidance.

There were many priests but only one high priest. In Leviticus, God ordained Israel’s first high priest, Aaron ( Leviticus 8:1-10:20). Aaron was Moses’ brother.

God allowed only the high priest to enter the Most Holy Place (AKA the Holy of Holies) because God’s presence dwelled there over the Mercy Seat (God’s throne).

The high priest entered on the annual Day of Atonement. This most important day centered around the high priest and two goats. One goat paid the price for the sin of the nation, the other carried their sin as far as the east is from the west (Leviticus 16, Leviticus 23:37-44).

On this day, more than any other, the high priest portrayed a vivid picture of Jesus. But he wasn’t a perfect picture.

The high priest had to step through the curtain into the Most Holy Place with the blood sacrifice every year. Jesus’ death removed the curtain forever. He died one time for all time for all sin.

The Rewards of Leviticus

The book of Leviticus lies unread by many a Christian, its pages as crisp as the day they bought their Bible. It’s touted as the book few want to read. After all, it talks of bodily discharges, scabs, and other unsavory stuff.

But anyone who ventures into Leviticus and looks for Jesus will find treasures. Powerful pictures of Jesus, His plan of salvation, and how Christians ought to live to resist sin rise from its pages.

Leviticus may never become your favorite book, but it rewards any who choose not to thumb past it, but rather to linger in it.

At the very least, it will make you grateful to Jesus for fulfilling the law and bringing an end to the sacrificial system.

Jesus was and is the final sacrifice. Perfect in every way. Amen.

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EXODUS ~ A Super-Short Summary (and a Less-Than-Super-Short Summary)

EXODUS - A Super-Short Summary and Less-Than-Super-Short Summary (Welcome to the Bible series) via www.JeanWilund.com

2. EXODUS

“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
~ Exodus 12:13

Super-Short Summary:

In Exodus, God shows what it looks like to be rescued from slavery to sin and the dominion of evil and raised to new life into the freedom and service of a loving and perfect Ruler.


Less-Than-Super-Short Summary:

Exodus begins where Genesis ended. The family of Israel was still living in Egypt, but Jacob and his sons had long since passed away.

The new Pharaoh didn’t remember Jacob’s famous son Joseph and all that he did for Egypt. He only noticed their massive size. They’d multiplied like stars in the sky.

He feared Israel might rise up against him, he enslaved them.

Moses, A Baby Born to Save

Exodus 1-10 – Exodus tells the dramatic account of how God chose Moses, an Israelite baby named by the daughter of the man who wanted him dead.

God chose Moses to save God’s people from slavery to Egypt. (Do you see a picture of Christ? A baby born to save people from slavery to sin – not to Egypt.)

The circumstances of Moses’ birth and childhood were remarkable.

The events that led him to run for his life and settle in Midian were disturbing.

And his call by God from inside a burning bush to return to Egypt was one of the greatest moments in history. And included one of my favorite verses.

FAVORITE VERSE: God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” ~ Exodus 3:14 NASB

God let Moses (and us) know that He is, has been, and will always be everything Moses needs (we need) for every moment.

Moses returned to Egypt and told Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Pharaoh said, “No,” so Egypt suffered ten terrifying plagues. God planned them to prove their gods weren’t gods at all.

The Blood of the Lamb Set Them Free

Exodus 11-13 – The final plague gave a dramatic picture of Jesus on the cross.

God told the Israelites to apply the blood of a perfect lamb to the top and sides of their door.

(If you picture the blood applied to the door, you can imagine Jesus on the cross. You can see the blood that dripped from the crown of thorns pressed onto Jesus’ head by the Roman guards. You can imagine the blood from His hands, which were nailed to the cross.)

The Israelites then were told to eat the Passover dinner inside their home and wait, ready to travel.

At midnight the LORD came. If He saw the blood on the door, He passed over the home, and the firstborn son didn’t have to die. (Just as God’s firstborn Son Jesus died on the cross in our place for our sin, the lamb of God died in the place of their firstborn sons.)

If the Lord didn’t see the blood on the door, death came. The firstborn son had to die, even in Pharaoh’s own home.

Pharaoh told Moses to take his Israelites and get out of town. So Moses did.

He followed the Lord, who led them from inside a pillar of clouds in the day and a pillar of fire at night. (Imagine how terrifying that must have looked.)

Through Giant Walls of Water

Exodus 14 – Even with all the miracles God had done in Egypt, the Israelites weren’t prepared for what He did next.

God parted the Red Sea. (Yes, really.)

The Israelites walked between two giant walls of water. They crossed over to freedom on dry ground.

Their passing out of slavery through the water and back out into freedom is a picture of the Believer’s identity with Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection to life.

After Pharaoh let all his free labor go, he flip-flopped his decision and ran after them with his army. (The man just won’t learn.)

But he lost that final stab at keeping Israel enslaved when the Red Sea crashed back into place over them. (Israel had already made it safely to the other side. Whew!)

Into the Wilderness

Exodus 15-23 – Moses led Israel into the wilderness on their way to a beautiful land of their own with God as their loving and perfect Ruler.

He soon discovered that despite having just been set free, they were an ungrateful, grouchy lot. (In other words, they acted like humans controlled by the sin in their hearts – like us.)

In the midst of their whining and rebellion, God gave them His Law – the Ten Commandments and a whole bunch of other rules. They served to reveal the sin that lurks in mankind’s heart and their hopelessness without a Savior.

The Tabernacle

Exodus 24-40 – Exodus ends with God giving Moses directions for building a Tabernacle, so He could live among them, and the Israelites building it.

The Tabernacle was a large portable tent (think portable church) where the priests and high priest brought God the sacrifice for sin. God’s presence would live over the Mercy Seat in the part of the Tabernacle known as the Most Holy Place. (That makes perfect sense, right?)

Exodus Shows Us Jesus

The Tabernacle and sacrifices gave Israel (and us) a powerful picture of the mercy of Jesus, our high priest, who came down to live among His people and sacrificed Himself to pay for our sin.

In fact, God used every one of the Israelites’ escapades to point to Christ and expose the truth about the nature of their (and our) heart, as well as His amazing faithfulness, grace, and mercy.

When we look closely at the Israelites, we see a startling reflection of ourselves. We’re equally inclined toward going our own way – the way of sin. But God continually drew His people toward Himself, and He draws us, too. Will we listen better than they?

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Genesis ~ A Super-Short Summary (and a Less-Than-Super-Short Summary)

Genesis - A Super-Short Summary and Less-Than-Super-Short Summary (Welcome to the Bible series) via www.JeanWilund.com

1. GENESIS

“In the beginning, God created…”
~ Genesis 1:1

Super-Short Summary:

In Genesis, God created mankind to know and enjoy Him forever. But since we’d rather be our own God than serve the one true God, sin entered the world and set in motion God’s perfect plan of salvation through His chosen people Israel.

Less-Than-Super-Short Summary: 

Genesis introduces the world as God created it and sets the stage for everything that follows.

We meet God’s beloved Adam and Eve, the first man and woman.

God’s enemy Satan then slithers onto the scene and believes he’s bested God by tricking Adam and Eve into rebelling against Him.

Adam and Eve’s disobedience ushers sin into the world and destroys man’s relationship with God.

But God…

Fun Fact: “But God…” is one of the best phrases ever. No matter how we mess things up, God is always able to rescue us. “Man sinned, but God…”

When Adam and Eve sinned, Satan no doubt thought he’d won, but God set him straight.

Before God had even created this big terrestrial ball we call home, God had already planned to use Satan’s prideful heart against him. Along with Adam and Eve’s rebellion, God used Satan’s evil plot to set His great plan for man’s redemption in motion and seal Satan’s eternal doom.

In Genesis 3:15, God speaks to Satan and promises He’ll send a Savior who will redeem man and destroy Satan.

And I [God] will put enmity [hostility] between you [Satan] and the woman [Eve], and between your offspring and hershe [Jesus] will crush your [Satan’s] head [God promises Jesus will deal a fatal blow to Satan one day], and you [Satan] will strike his [Jesus’] heel [Satan will strike a NON-fatal blow when Jesus dies on the cross for our sin but He’ll rise again].”  ~ Genesis 3:15, NIV

All who trust in the promised Savior, Jesus Christ His only Son, receive forgiveness from sin and new life in Him forever, free from even the possibility of sin. One day. (Clearly not yet.)

Adam and Eve’s Family

Genesis follows Adam and Eve’s family, and things get worse fast. (The first murder was fratricide.)

Their descendants become so evil God brings judgment through a global flood. But He saves Noah and his family because Noah believes and obeys God.

God reconfirms His promise of a Savior and creates a nation for Himself through a childless man named Abraham. God chooses this ancient man and his geriatric wife, Sarah, to birth a nation through their son, Isaac, in the land of Canaan.

But first, barren Sarah gave Abraham her maid, which resulted in a different son, Ishmael, but not the promised son, Isaac. Sarah eventually had Isaac, just as God promised.

In a powerful picture of God the Father offering His Son Jesus Christ on the cross, God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

Abraham set his heart to obey because he believed God would raise Isaac — the promised son — back from the dead if necessary.

God credited Abraham’s faith as blamelessness, and God didn’t require Abraham to actually sacrifice Isaac. Instead, God provided a substitute for the offering for sin — and another picture of Jesus Christ.

Isaac grew up, married Rebekah, and had twins boys, Esau and Jacob.

Jacob and His Twelve Sons

Like Isaac, God chose Jacob to be the son of the promise before he was born, obviously not based on anything the boys had done.

Jacob turns out to be a cheater, but he loves God. Esau doesn’t cheat, but he doesn’t care about God’s promise.

Jacob marries and has 12 sons – the 12 tribes of Israel. Some aren’t the greatest guys on the planet.

They sell their brother Joseph into slavery in Egypt, but God was with Joseph, and his life gets way more interesting – as does theirs. The dramatic events move the family to Egypt, and that’s where they are at the end of Genesis.

God Gives Us a Picture

Through the family of Israel, God shows us what it looks like to belong to Him rather than to the world. And He gives us glimpses of the promised Savior, Jesus.

God also shows us the shocking depth of evil in man’s heart through the fantastical, yet true, events.

Genesis’ mindboggling stories confirm and reconfirm that, unless we set our hearts on following Him, we’d rather be our own God than serve the one true God.

Throughout Genesis, mankind shows sin ruling their hearts as they try to rule others. Yet God proves He rules supreme. He orchestrates events with precision to reveal mankind’s (and our) desperate need for a Savior and His ability to keep His promise to send Him.

God’s Promise in Genesis Fulfilled

God promised a Savior in Genesis 3:15. His chosen people, Israel, looked forward to the fulfillment — Jesus’ coming — but they didn’t see it in the days of Genesis.

At the right time, though, God fulfilled His promise. We get to read about it in the four books known as the Gospels, which are books #40, 41, 42, and 43. It’s going to be awhile before we get there.

Fun fact: The word gospel means “good news.” That’s an understatement.

The Gospels record the birth, death, and resurrection of God’s Son Jesus Christ.

That’s not just good news. It’s the best news.

The next book in the Bible is Exodus. Stay tuned!

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The 66 Books of the Bible in 37 Words

The 66 Books of Bible in 37 Words (Welcome to the Bible series) via www.JeanWilund.com

Dipping Our Toes Into Each Book of the Bible

To dive in and fully explain each book of the Bible would take, well, a book. Instead, we’re merely going to dip our toes into the 66 books of the Bible, not bathe in them.

I’ll give you a super-short summary of each book followed by a less-than-super-short summary.

But first, let’s consider the overarching message of the entire Bible.

Here’s what the Bible is about — its main message — in 37 words:

God created man so that we may glorify Him by knowing and enjoying Him forever. This was only made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit.

Stories versus Purpose

Everything within the pages of the Bible either points forward, backward, or at Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, which He endured in order to set us free from sin and make us alive to Him. Forever.

As you read through the Bible, keep in mind that every book is another facet of this overarching story.

The purpose of each book is to serve as another part of God’s plan of salvation, in its own unique way.

For example, Genesis chronicles some of the most fascinating events in history – the creation of the world, a global flood, and a brother sold into slavery becoming second in command of the greatest nation on earth.

The stories are important and amazing, but Genesis’ purpose isn’t to tell the history of the world. That’s not what it’s about.

Genesis contains world history, but it’s not about world history.

Perhaps the following example will clarify.

The Proposal

When a man proposes to his beloved, no matter how he words his proposal, it’s about “Will you marry me?”

He may tell her about the first time he saw her, when he realized he loved her, and how she’s changed his life. These wonderful memories lead up to and support the purpose of his many words, but they aren’t the purpose.

He’s not just reminding her why and how much he loves her. He’s convincing her she ought to say, “YES, I’ll marry you!”

All 66 books of the Bible contain unique stories of the history of the world, its future, and God’s workings throughout time and events. But that’s not their purpose.

The Purpose

The words contained in each book support The Purpose, which is that God created man so we may glorify Him by knowing and enjoying Him forever, which was only made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit.

I’ve tried to keep this purpose in mind as I give you a super short summary and a less-than-super-short summary of each book of the Bible.

Shall we start at the very beginning? I’ve heard it’s a very good place to start.

We shall, but you’ll have to wait until next time.

Until then, remember:

God created man so that we may glorify Him by knowing and enjoying Him forever. This was only made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit.

I hope this truth encourages you. And I hope that you’ve embraced it, for there’s literally no other way to God than through Jesus Christ.

It’s only after we accept the salvation Jesus bought for us on the cross that we can know and enjoy Him forever.

We can know about Him, but we can’t know Him apart from a relationship with Him, which we only receive by God’s grace through our faith in Christ.

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Dine, Don’t Snack, on Scripture ~ Welcome to the Bible: Chapters and Verses Bring Convenience and Challenges ~ Part 3


Does this ever happen to you?

Life gets busy. Too busy to do much more than the most urgent, like drink coffee so you can do everything else.

Reading the Bible falls off your plan for the day.

And the next day.

And the next.

Ugh.

You move through the week and lament that you haven’t had time to read your Bible. But you don’t do anything about it.


It used to happen to me a lot.

Then a well-meaning friend encouraged me to simply read a verse or two each day saying, “It’s better than nothing.”

Brilliant.

Instead of sitting down for an extended time of reading a few days a week, I faithfully read a verse or two every day.

It was better than nothing.

Or so I thought.

Over time I noticed my relationship with God growing more and more shallow.

I didn’t know why. I missed the connection.

The Enemy of Best

It seems logical that a verse or two is better than nothing. But sometimes better is the enemy of best.

Imagine a pediatrician saying to the mother of a toddler, “You’re busy. It’s ok if you just feed your child a couple of bites of food a day. It’s better than nothing.”

Technically, the doctor would have a point. Two bites are better than no bites. But it’s not best.

Making time to feed children just enough food so they don’t starve to death is better than not making time to feed them at all. But this better situation is no friend of the child’s best.

Taking time out of a busy schedule to feed children well every day so they can grow strong and healthy is always best.

Surely every pediatrician would agree.

Chapters and Verses Entice Snacking

Because the Bible has been divided into chapters and verses, it’s easy for us to stop reading at the end of a verse.

The man-made divisions hint at a break in thought or action and make it easier to stop reading, but this isn’t the best way to read.

We don’t need to go back and remove the chapters and verses from our Bibles. We just need to resist the temptation to snack on Scripture rather than dine.

Should We Abandon All Snacking?

Snacking has its place – both in food and in verses.

Every day I read, pin, like, and heart memes of Bible verses on Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram.

And some days there really is no time for me to read more than a Bible verse meme. Let’s don’t abandon all spiritual snacking.

And certainly not edible snacks. I count the minutes until my 4:00 pm coffee and snack time. Sometimes I have it at 3:00 pm.

Hot chocolate chip cookies or fresh blueberries with a mug of coffee = Happiness.

But if the only food I ate every day was my 4:00 pm snack, my health would fail no matter how healthy my snacks are.

When scriptural snacks were my only source of spiritual nutrition, my relationship with God grew small. My faith, wimpy.

But once I began reading the Bible in all-you-can-eat buffet portions (and in context), my understanding of God and His character expanded. My walk with Him took off.

Imagine that.

My love for and faith in God hasn’t starved since. And they’re still growing as I keep dining on large servings of Scripture rather than snacking.

BTW, there’s no magic formula. No one can tell you how many verses are enough — except God. Let Him lead your time in His Word.

Is It Ever Good To Study Just a Verse or Two?

Absolutely.

It’s a great habit to dig deep into individual verses. To get to the marrow of its meaning.

I’m currently working my way through Romans. One verse at a time.

It’s taking a long while, but I want (need) to understand it better. So I focus each day on a few passages while remembering that reading verses in isolation rather than in context can lead to misunderstanding God’s message.

As I study Romans verse by verse, I also read a chapter or two to let the bigger picture of Romans soak into my mind. And I read other books of the Bible as well.

We shouldn’t become legalistic about our daily reading. It’s not a measure of our spiritual worth. We don’t win points with God when we read. Nor does He hand down demerits when we miss.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1 ESV.

No condemnation. None.

But God’s Word blesses us – changes us – when we read it.

You may have to force yourself to read it at first. But eventually, if you read the Bible in order to know the God of the Word, you’ll begin to long for the Word of the God.

Time in God’s Word will become as enticing as that morning cup of liquid heaven. (That’s coffee for me. I don’t know what you strange non-coffee drinkers enjoy.)

No Time? Pray and Make Time

Life is busy. It’s not likely to slow down.

Deal with it. (Was that too harsh? Sorry.)

Pray and ask God. He’ll make a way for you. He may wake you early to read. Or He may open up time for you to read during the day or evening.

We should all ask God to make us aware of the time we already have that we may be misspending watching TV, piddling on Social media, or catching a little extra shut-eye.

Trust God to enable you to accomplish all you need to do each day. Then walk by faith and make time for reading your Bible – even if you don’t think you have time.

God will provide all you need. But you have to trust Him by sitting down with your Bible.

Don’t wait for Him to sit you down. You’ll probably enjoy it more if you voluntarily sit down rather than having God sit you down.

My mom once told me I was too busy. “You need to drop some of your activities,” she said. I told her it was impossible. A couple of months later I had to have surgery. Somehow everything got done without me. She smirked, and I dropped some of my activities. I got sat down, and I listened.

Just as you’d make time to serve a child three full meals a day, make time every day to serve yourself one full meal of spiritual nourishment from God’s Word.

REMEMBER: Chapters and verses can encourage snacking on Scripture rather than dining. Make time to serve yourself a full meal from God’s Word by reading large portions of Scripture every day.

The Word of God Endures Forever

Chapter and verse divisions may not last, but the Word of our God will stand forever.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
~ Isaiah 40:8 ESV

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Welcome to the Bible: Chapters and Verses Bring Convenience and Challenges ~ Part 2 ~ Context Matters

Welcome to the Bible: Chapter & Verse Part 2 - Context Matters (www.JeanWilund.com)


God Inspired the Bible. Man Added Chapters and Verses, And a Few Challenges: Loss of Context.

I’m thankful man added chapters and verses to the Bible. I’m also thankful I learned about the challenges that come with them.

Last time we looked at the first of three challenges that come with breaking up the divine text into chapters and verses. (There may be more challenges, but these are the three that stood out to me.)

Today we’ll look at the second of those challenges.

1. The Bible’s chapters and verses are handy man-inspired tools, not God-inspired division.

2. Man-inspired chapters and verses can lead to misunderstanding the God-inspired text through loss of context.

3. Chapters and verses can encourage snacking on Scripture rather than dining.


Loss of Context

Chapters and verses cause us to pause.

Sometimes those man-made pauses indicate a change in thought, time, or events. But not always.

Remember, originally, the first word in each chapter or verse was just the next word in the book or letter. They weren’t written with the mindset that they’d be broken up into chapters or verses.

When studying a passage, we need to look before and after the passage to avoid misunderstandings.

BIBLE STUDY TIP: If a sentence begins with a “look-back word” like “And” or “Therefore,” be sure to look back at what came before it.

BIBLE STUDY TIP: When you see the word “therefore,” ask yourself what the “therefore” is there for?”


Example #1: Colossians 2:21

Forbidden or Free

“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” ~ Colossians 2:21

Colossians 2:21 seems to teach us what we shouldn’t do.

Until we read the verse right before it.

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules.” ~ Colossians 2:20

Rather than Paul encouraging physical self-denial, he’s actually preaching freedom from man-made rules—freedom in Christ.


Example #2: Luke 21

The Poor Widow — Commendation or Condemnation?

And He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on” (Luke 21:1-4, NASB).

Most teachings I’ve heard on Luke 21:1-4 never mention the context. They don’t even seem to consider chapter 20 or the verses after Luke 21:4.

The focus most often falls on the poor widow’s generous giving, teaching that Jesus is commending the widow and instructing us to give as generously.

But, when we read this passage in context, we can see an alternative meaning.

Luke 20:45-47: And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

Verse 45 begins with the “look-back” word “And,” so we need to keep looking back to get the full meaning.

From the beginning of chapter 20, certain religious leaders attempted to trick Jesus into condemning Himself. They came to Him under the pretense of wanting to understand truth, but Jesus exposed the true motive of their hearts.

Jesus warned His disciples of the leaders’ evil intent and ways, mentioning they “devour widows’ houses.”

It’s right after these warnings that Jesus pointed out the poor widow as she placed her last coins into the temple box. She gave all she had left to survive on.

Jesus commented only on what she gave. Nothing more about her. Nothing about her attitude. Only that she gave all she had left to survive on.

Then He immediately talked about the Temple and warned about being led astray by false teachers and leaders.

And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. ~ Luke 21:5-8


Two Interpretations

Is Luke 21:1-4 a teaching on giving generously or about abuse of the poor by religious leaders?

Is Jesus commending the poor widow or is He condemning the disreputable leaders?

I’ll leave it to the Biblical scholars to debate the correct interpretation of this passage. My point is that when we look at passages in isolation rather than context, it can lead us to see the message of the passage differently.

For more insight check out these links:
Does God Wants Us To Give Everything by Grace To You
Abusing the Poor by Grace to You
Jesus and the Widow’s Offering by Bible.org
Giving, It’s a Good Thing by Calvary Baptist Church
Luke Part 45: Games People Play Part 3 by Matt Chandler
The Widow and Her Two Coins: Praise or Lament? by Boston Bible Geeks


Context Matters

The division of chapters and verses makes studying and memorizing the Bible much easier, but remember to read it in context.

REMEMBER: Man-inspired chapters and verses can lead to misunderstandings. Read Scripture in context, not in isolation.


(For more information check out Don Stewart’s article Why Is the Bible Divided into Chapters and Verses? on www.blueletterbible.com.)

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