I longed for straight legs. Normal legs with knees that met in the middle. Instead, they curved out like two crescent moons, kissing at their tips.
Others noticed my legs. One day on the elementary playground, someone shouted, “Paula runs like a duck.” Those words reverberated in my mind from that moment on; I lived in nearly constant insecurity about my crooked legs.
Beware This Mistake Reading the Bible
That’s why my heart sunk the day I read Ecclesiastes 7:13,
Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?
Based on that verse, there appeared to be no hope for my legs.
But then another day, I stumbled across Luke 3:5, and my heart leapt. Maybe there was hope for my legs:
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways (emphasis added).
Years later I realized these verses had nothing to do with my legs. I’d made a big mistake reading God’s Word by ripping His words out of their context. Unbeknownst to me, the author intended one meaning (and only one) when he penned these passages. I needed to examine the verses that came before and after to discover the meaning before applying this truth to my life (rather than my legs).
Turns out, Luke 3:5 should not have given me hope that my curved legs would be straightened. Rather, John the Baptist was preparing a straight way for the Messiah to enter history. Not to straighten my crooked legs, but to save the crooked hearts of all who would repent and believe in Him for the forgiveness of their sins.
Practice Reading the Bible in Context with This Short Quiz
Practice not making this same mistake reading the Bible. Read these two verses in context, and then choose which option (“a” or “b”) the author meant. Ready, set, read it like it is.
Proverbs 4:20—23: “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Jeremiah 29:8—14: “This is what the LORD says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.'”
Answer Key to Quiz
- This verse speaks to so much more than romantic relationships. A father pleads with his son to treasure his wisdom and to fight sin wholeheartedly. The correct answer is “B.”
- In seventy years, God would free the nation of Judah from slavery to the Babylonians. God never promises us an easy life here and now, but He does promise forgiveness of sins, a restored relationship with Himself, and so much more to those who put their full trust in Him. The correct answer is “B.”
Great job! I hope you’ll keep at it; studying the context of a verse before applying it to your life, so you don’t make the same mistake reading the Bible that I did.
- To learn more about the original context, I highly recommend Star Meadde’s workbooks, “The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study.” While they’re written for teens, I found them incredibly helpful as an adult. Here’s Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4. Full disclosure: I will make a few pennies if you purchase any Amazon products I linked to in this post.
Yet Another Mistake Reading the Bible
How embarrassing. When I reposted this blog, I failed to carefully review the three quiz questions I created five years ago, and only after posting did I discover I was wrong about one of them. I made the mistake I warned others not to make. After slapping my forehead numerous times and dramatically telling Trevor I wanted to die of embarrassment, I pulled the quiz question immediately.
Obviously I wouldn’t have had to bring my mistake up, but I decided it served as a good reminder that:
1. It is possible to mean well and yet be wrong.
2. No one person has all the answers.
3. S.L.O.W. D.O.W.N. Read the passage carefully and prayerfully. Hurry breeds mistakes.
4. Don’t be afraid to consult a commentary or study Bible to read what others think.
5. Don’t be dogmatic about your views. You might be wrong.
I hope that’s helpful. Excuse me while I go eat some humble pie. 🥧
Paula (Hendricks) Marsteller is a compassionate Christian communicator.