Many of us are familiar with daily devotional books which provide a meditation on a verse or short passage of Scripture. Many of these devotional books are good and helpful. However there can be a danger that needs to be considered. In taking a single verse or a few verses we need to check and make sure the devotional writer is not taking the passage of Scripture out of context. It’s very easy to do this. The larger context of a verse or short passage is important for the larger message God wants to convey. This danger of taking a single verse out of context is vividly portrayed in the Devil’s temptation of Jesus in Matthew chapter four. Here is the second listed temptation from Matthew 4.6:
If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you;” and “on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
The Devil is quoting from Psalm 91.11-12. He gets the words right but he misses the meaning. He is attempting to get Jesus to test his Father. But the entire Psalm is about trusting God—not testing him! Consider a few verses from Psalm 91 that provide the context:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” (vv. 1-2)
For you have made the Lord my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place. (v. 9)
These verses provide the crucial contextual clues that show that God himself is to be trusted. He is the refuge and fortress that can be trusted. The Most High is the God of authority and refuge. Psalm 91 is a song of confident trust in the Most High God—it is no a challenge to do foolish and sinful actions in order to test God!
Jesus saw through the temptation of the Devil and his misuse of Scripture. He knew the whole point of Scripture was to promote trust and faith in God—not challenge or testing. This is why is simply responds with a Scripture passage of his own:
You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. (Deuteronomy 6.16)
Although it is simply one verse, Jesus has correctly understood it and applied it to his situation. We need to do the same in our Bible reading. Beware the Devil’s devotional readings. Always and ever your reading should lead to trust and faith in God.