Just for fun, let's begin today with a short test of your eye-brain coordination. Ready?
Take a look at the image shown here, which is just a tiny snippet of a photograph I took recently. What do you think it is?
Keep thinking (and no fair scrolling down too far while you think!)
Okay. Did you guess that this is a close-up of a bit of sky? Or maybe the ocean? If you guessed either of those things, you were wrong.
Actually, that is a close-up of a snowy field. Amazing, isn't it? Who knew that snow was so dark, and so blue! A little bit later on I'll show you the actual photograph, so you can see it in context.
And really, context is the issue I wanted to talk about today. This year I picked up an old hobby that I left behind years ago...painting. (You can view some of my artwork here: Glimpses of Eden.) Because of that, I've been paying a lot more attention to light and color than I normally do. I've found that there's an interesting difference between what your eyes see, and what your brain interprets.
Here's the picture, so you'll have something to look at while you read:
When your eyes view the bottom of the picture, they see dark blue, but somehow between what your eyes are seeing, and what your brain interprets, you don't consciously think that you're looking at something that's grayish-blue; your brain says, "Oh! A white, snowy field!"
In fact, if you compare the color of the field (even the part that's not shadowed by a tree) to the color of the house, you will realize that there is nothing white about what you're seeing!
What a difference context makes. And context makes a huge difference in the way we read and understand scripture as well. This is why, as I've been traveling to churches this year, I've been encouraging people to read God's Word in such a way that they get the big picture -- the full context of what God is saying to us. When we only read it one verse at a time, we can easily be deceived into thinking it says something that it really doesn't, just as you might have been deceived by the little snippet of a photo at the top of the page.
When I start out painting, I need to understand the full context of the scene first, and then, after fully understanding what I'm looking at, I can then focus on the details of the colors and the shadows and the highlights.
In the same way, if you plan to study a book of the Bible verse by verse, be sure to take the time to read the whole book first -- maybe even a few times. Getting the big picture will help you understand what you're looking at, and it will help prevent you from misunderstanding and misinterpreting the smaller bits.