I once heard of a sincere Christian who was depressed and feeling that the Lord had abandoned him. He opened the bible and read that ‘Judas went away and hung himself’, in terrible distress he opened the bible again and read ‘go and do thou likewise’. The big question from this is: When we read the bible and a verse seems to jump out and speak to us – how do we know that it is the Holy Spirit applying that verse?
For the sincere Christian who wants to follow the Lord or may find themselves in distress with lack of assurance the best thing I can do (or one of the best) is to point you to a letter written by Andrew Fuller found in “Armies of the Lamb” (Edited by Michael AG Haykin Page 115). Fuller was writing to a distressed church member of the Kettering Baptist Church. In it he sympathises saying that he too (years earlier) found himself thrown too and fro as he read different verses from the bible. One time he read “16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips?Ps 50:16 – he said “..I was all dejection and durst not go upon my knees”. Fuller supposed that God was saying to him ‘you wicked man, how dare you read my bible and recite it!’
This is such a massive issue for us as Christians – how do we know when God is specially applying a word to us?
Fuller discovered a very important principle (and one that could bring freedom from fear for thousands of people). We can only be sure that God is especially applying his word to our heart when we have taken time to make sure that we are not misinterpreting the particular verse. In other words, we have to take time to look at the verse in its context and ask what it is really saying and ask ‘Now is that really applicable to me’. It is deadly to tear a verse out of its context and apply it to ourselves. Fuller said, to do this, was to create “…a fresh revelation”, it is making God say what he has not said.
Here’s an example from Fuller “Again the meaning of Psalm 50:16 is that wicked men (such as are described from verses 17-22) have no right to engage in teaching God’s word; but it does not follow from thence that because that passage was impressed upon my mind in going to prayer, I was a wicked man, and had no right to draw near to God, and take his name into my mouth”
The important point is that the work of the Holy Spirit is to illuminate what is already written – he is the original author and, therefore, the ultimate interpreter of the word – he won’t give you a meaning which is different from the original and obvious one.