Do you read the Bible with a “me” focus? Ultimately we want to understand what we’re reading and bring our lives in conformity with what the Word says. But that’s not the “me” focus I’m talking about.
I’m talking about a “me” focus that ignores the original intentions of the biblical author and the circumstances of the writing, heading straight for my personal application.
For instance, say you read Jeremiah 29:11—“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” As you pass over this verse, you immediately apply it to your life. God has a plan for me. He doesn’t want anything bad to come to me and I have a hope and a future in Christ. I’m not saying those things aren’t true, but is that really what this verse is saying?
This verse was written to a group of people living in exile in Babylon. They left as captives of war and now had formed their own communities under the rule of the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar. God, through Jeremiah, was calling them to seek the welfare of their new city and their captors. He was promising them that after the exile they would return to the land of Israel. It was a temporal promise that was fulfilled in their time. The promise was for them, not for us.
By taking the focus off of “me,” we can better understand what the Bible says and only then can we begin to apply it to our life. In this case, even though the promise was fulfilled, does it not point to a greater reality that God takes care of His people? Instead of claiming this verse as a future promise for us, we should claim it as a past exhibition of God’s faithfulness and a reminder that God will continue to be faithful to us in the future. This promise in Jeremiah 29:11, a temporal promise, prefigures the kind of promise we have in Christ, specifically Romans 8:28-30,
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.