What Is Your Favorite Verse?
“What is your favorite Bible verse”? is a common question in church circles. I’m sure most all of us have been asked to answer that question or have been given the opportunity to share a favorite scripture in a class or during a testimony time. How many of these special verses are underlined in our Bibles or have notes written beside them in the margin? The sincere Christian knows the value of the word of God, that it is our greatest weapon in confronting the flesh, the world, and Satan as well as our surest source of comfort, guidance, and strength. It is the “lamp to our feet and the light to our path” and I have, “hidden [it] in my heart that I may not sin against you.” I would venture to guess that the majority of us have scriptures gracing our homes in the form of doormats, mantel decorations, framed artwork, refrigerator magnets, embroidery pieces, couch throws, etc. We see the value of the word of God and we want these things to be a reminder to us and a testimony to others of the importance of scripture for our lives.
There can be a danger though in searching out verses for a particular need or pulling out a verse from a passage as a “stand-alone” scripture. Not knowing the greater context of a scripture can lead to poor interpretation or misapplication of a verse or it can keep us from reaping the full impact of that verse for our lives. As we study the Bible we should be careful to study a section as a whole in order to see how each verse fits in that context. As we look at what is being said we should ask ourselves some questions such as; who is writing this, to whom is it being written, what are the circumstances in which it is being written, what possible cultural elements are there that affect the writing, what is the overall purpose of the passage, what greater truths are being taught, what style of literature is it, is this directly or indirectly applicable to Christians today…? The answers to these and other questions can help us to have a fuller grasp of scripture. Most books of the Bible were meant to be read as a whole. There is a story line, so to speak, from beginning to end. To pull a verse out to stand on its own, apart from the larger context, can lead to inaccurate interpretation of that verse or cause us to miss the full intent of that section of scripture as a whole. Some verses do stand out and are key in that section of scripture, but just as every link in a chain is necessary for the chain to remain intact, that verse must be seen in its greater context for the fullness of meaning to be understood.
As we look to the Bible we know that, “all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” It is the Christian’s single source for everything pertaining to time and eternity. It is the spiritual food that sustains us. “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life…” (Deut. 32:47). As such, we must be students of all of scripture. We must take all of God’s word and seek to apply it to our lives, not to limit it to just certain portions or types of scripture.
Finally, in considering our favorite verses, I would like to relate something from my own experience that has affected how I read the Bible and has reshaped my perspective. A few years ago I was challenged to consider the general focus of my favorite verses? Are they more man-centered or God-centered? I had to admit that they were more me-centered. The focus was on how I benefitted from God. That is not to say that those verses are any less God’s word and that I should not hold them dear, because I do, but if that is my primary perspective of scripture, there begins to be an imbalance. I will tend to see the Bible as all about me and not about God. The Bible is primarily about who God is and what He has done. That is the greatest significance of scripture. As I was challenged to seek after knowing God as the principal objective in my reading of scripture rather than primarily how I benefit from Him, I began to have a number of new verses added to my favorite’s list. I began to read the Bible for the purpose of knowing God and for what my response to him should be rather than primarily for what God’s response is to me. We are to be worshipers of God and if there is anything the Bible purposes to do, it is to lead us to that. He is the treasure then of scripture and the “pearl of great price,” to be sought. As God himself comes to be my objective, it reshapes how I see the entirety of the Bible and thus how I see all of life.
So I guess it boils down to perspective. All verses are “God-breathed” and have significance and are to be believed and applied. The point is to do our best to understand those verses as they fit into the whole of scripture and to always turn our eyes Godward first as we read, because this book is primarily about Him. The psalmist points us in that direction in Psalm 27:8 where we read, “When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.” May God himself be our objective and may he, “Open [our] eyes that [we] may behold wondrous things out of [His] law.” (Psalm 119:18)