Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Where's The Backdrop?

Imagine spending twenty dollars on a ticket to see a play. You get there, excited to see what entertainment is in store for you. The curtain opens, the opening lines begin, but you soon realize that there’s no backdrop, no set, and the actors and actresses are in street clothes...no costumes…it’s just a story, a raw script. If the acting is phenomenal, you might get what you paid for, but it’s really difficult to enjoy and understand without the proper setting. Oftentimes the backdrop and costumes help explain the story, the characters, etc. It would lengthen a play significantly if the actors had to explain everything to the audience without these tools.

In some ways, the same can be true of God’s Word, though it will NEVER return to us empty or void. This great treasure is given to us. We open it and read a wonderful verse, maybe a common one that gives us reassurance or peace. Or maybe we've been encouraged to look up a particular verse. We read it and are given insight, but often we miss the full blessing and effect of it because we don’t understand the setting or the characters. Let us take a common passage and explore this idea together:

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:28-31
Every time I read this verse, I am humbled, comforted and blessed. However, when I read some of the notes in my study Bible and went back to the beginning of the chapter, I was even more so. By the time I got to this verse, I was truly enlighted and invigorated. The cool thing is that it didn't even matter that I don't have a theology degree. If I were to listen to a Bible teacher instruct on this verse, I’m sure I would learn a ton; however, I’m talking about reading the Bible through my brain, and I’m an every day person with limited education on the background of His Word. That said, with only a few extra minutes, this is what God taught me about this very special passage in Isaiah.

In the notes of my Study Bible it explains the historical context of the chapters that precede this one. I’m not going to go into that, because one fact would lead to another, but the gist of it is that God has allowed “His people” to go through much hardship…war, battles, death, illness…in chapter 40, he allowed Isaiah to provide comfort to them by reminding them of these three things: 1. Who we are, 2. Who God is, & 3. What God gives to those He loves.

Verse 6 of chapter 20 says that “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.” What a beautiful setting to this story!

It goes on, (vs 7 & 8) “The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.” Now we know who we are in light of who God is---the ornamental kind, but grass nonetheless. I can picture Him reaching down His hand gently, picking me up in all my “grassiness,” and whisping me where He wants me to go next.

Then it continues to give us a picture of who God is: (vs.13 & 14) "Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed Him as counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten Him, and who taught Him the right way? (vs.18) To whom, then, will you compare God? (vs. 25 & 26) To whom will you compare Me? Or who is My equal? says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? (It is) He who brings out the starry host, one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”
Isn’t this an amazing backdrop for us to see? Throughout all of Scripture, since it is said to be “God-breathed,” He is that backdrop indeed!
This picture of who we are in light of who God is sets us up for the popular passage in verses 28 through 31. Just as we begin to get a grasp on the story, the grand finale of this marvelous play full of beautiful scenery, imagery and interesting characters is revealed to us. We get to see what God, this incredible, One and Only Deity, gives to those He loves, even though we are likened to the grass that withers and fades. Only God would love and comfort us in our smallness, you know?

Doesn’t all that background give a fresh and fuller meaning to the familiar verses we started with?
HE is the everlasting God.
HE is the Creator of the ends of the earth.
HE never tires, never runs out of energy.
No one can fathom what HE understands.
Only HE can give strength to the weary and power to the weak.
When we hope in HIM, the One who never stumbles, we will have renewed strength.
HE will make us part of the scenery as we soar on wings as eagles.
HE will make us part of His drama as we draw on His energy, walking without becoming faint.
Now that’s a play I’d like to pay my twenty dollars to see acted out on stage. I challenge you when you hear a beautiful verse or feel conviction about a passage of Scripture to dive in and research the background, the context, the history, the setting. Let God help you grasp the fullness of His Word through the power of His Spirit which searches even the mind the God.

Let's ask Him to open our eyes, sharpen our minds and help us to hear all that He would have for us to know. He will reveal to us what insight we can handle at the time, because He knows what we need more than we even know ourselves. I pray that each time we read His Word we can visualize Him as the magnificent Backdrop of every story and teaching, the Breath behind the characters, and the One worthy of all the applause and glory.

Open the curtains now, Lord. We’re ready to get a glimpse of You.

14 friends shared a comment:

HisFireFly said...

Yes, Lord.. I'm ready for ALL of Your drama to unfold, in power and purpose for Your glory sake!

I don't want little scene clips, Lord, I want the whole play!

Great post!

Joanne Sher said...

Oh - I LOVE this perspective, La! It's so true that having the history...the backdrop of God's Word can make the meaning much deeper, much more personal. Wonderful post.

Hillary @ The Other Mama said...

You are like a cheerleader! I can see you with a megaphone! This is awesome. Thank you so much for the spiritual pep talk today!
I have learned over the years, too, that part of the mystery and wonder of the Bible is that God has different meanings in it for you at different times of your life. Where one time the surface verse might have been enough for your needs, but then you see a whole new meaning years later- that takes you deeper into His word.
I love it!!!
Thanks, LL!

Denise said...

I love you, and your very encouraging heart.

Lori Laws said...

Beautiful Lauralee! Just stepping back and trying to visualize how things were at the moment the Words that our God spoke, gives us a new appreciation and perspective. And each time we do that we get a different glimpse of how great God is!

Hugs and blessings!

hip chick said...

I once did a bible study on Isaiah and this verse was towards the end of our study. I remember that it was the first time I had read it and I was so touched by it. I still am.

Shelby said...

Great post, LauraLee. I know that whenever someone quotes a verse, I generally have to go at least read a few verses around it just to make sure I'm "getting it" in context. And I like your idea of going a bit deeper yet!

Irritable Mother said...

Ah, yes, the WHOLE story!
Truly, God's Word speaks - but it says so much more when we understand the background.
I am on my second time reading through the Bible chronologically. What a great adventure this is - and an opportunity to gain more of that understanding.
Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts!

LisaShaw said...

Praise the LORD! Bless you for the encouragement and powerful sharing. May the LORD be glorified in and through it. You're always a blessing!

Hugs and love

Karen said...

Just wanted to stop by and say hi. Sorry I haven't been around recently. It's been really busy and then my blog was temporarily down for about a week. Thank goodness my blog is back up! Yay! Anyway, I hope you have a great week!

Take care,

Debra said...


I often say "The canvas that God is working on in my life is full of His brush strokes and I can't wait to see the picture of what He is painting"....I get glimpses here and there...

The backdrop, His Word, the beautiful sky...the ocean...the flowers...the grass....He is an amazing artist! I can't wait to be filled with the full knowledge of what He has for me! More Lord...More of You!

Great perspective, my friend. Blessed my socks off!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

LOVE this so much! LOVE being a student of God's Word, fried brain and all. We can do this thing, and with a very few good study guides close by (I happen to think everyone could benefit from having a good study Bible) and God's Spirit living within, we can know our God more fully and unlock some of the mysteries of his Word.

Let's be students together...


Laurel@FromMyHeartToYours said...

LauraLee, I LOVE this verse! Praise God.

I wanted you to know that Monkey's tests came back today - the markers showing inflamation in the blood, are coming down and we're 48 hours fever free!!! HE is SO faithful...Thank you for your prayers friend.

Billy Coffey said...

That was WONDERFUL, Laura Lee!