The Importance of Bible Context

Do you look at the context of a Bible verse when you read it? Often, I think we read a verse and accept it at face value. The more I write, the more I find myself digging deeper to understand the meaning behind something. When we know the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, the whole meaning can change. As I participated in a Bible Study called “That the World May Know,” by Ray Vander Laan, the context of a famous Bible passage changed my thinking. Let’s look at what I learned regarding the 23rd Psalm.


1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

    for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk

    through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

    for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

    they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me

    in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil;

    my cup overflows.

6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me

    all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord


Psalm 23
The Importance of Bible Context

Green Pastures

This beautiful passage was penned by David. The poetic thoughts bring peace and comfort to many people, especially at times of significant loss. As I read it, I picture walking beside a babbling brook with lush green vegetation all around me. Life flows smoothly, and I want for nothing. But is that the message David is trying to convey to us? Does following God mean we will experience an easy life? Let’s dig a little deeper to understand the context of this message.

I want to focus on the second verse, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.” First, let’s begin by looking at the landscape from these Biblical times. Just like the land where the Israelites wander for forty years, most of the area is a barren desert wilderness. Not a place you think about when you hear of green pastures. Yet, these barren hills are the very place David tended sheep as a young boy. So what does David mean by green pastures?

Bible Context

As Ray Vander Laan explains, springtime brings a small amount of moisture to this desert area. This allows small tufts of grass to grow up around the rocks that hold in the water. The hillside might still look barren to the naked eye, but small patches of green sprout up upon closer examination. The picture below shows a close up of these green areas. There is not an abundance of grass. But, there is enough for the herds to grab a mouth full before they move on the next clump of grass. My header photo shows a flock of sheep grazing in one of these areas. So, what does this kind of green pasture mean for our faith?

Bible Context
Biblical Green Pastures

Why Dos Context Matter?

Before I learned the context behind this verse, I pictured a field covered in lush vegetation. And that image meant I had plenty of everything I needed. So if I have everything I need within my reach, do I need God? Instead, when we see David’s version of green pastures, we see God grants just enough for the moment before we move on to the next moment. David’s understanding of green fields shows us how God provides for our needs with just enough for the moment. David’s version requires us to be dependent on God to provide instead of relying on ourselves. We also learn that in a desert, we thirst for water. Likewise, God wants us to thirst for Him in the same way.

Hard places in life cause us to turn to God. When we have everything we need, we push God to the side. God will provide for you.  Click To Tweet

Learning the context behind Psalm 23 changed my way of thinking about these verses. In fact, the whole study by Ray Vander Laan taught me many new things. Being in the desert is a hard place for any of us. But, hard places in life cause us to turn to God. When we have everything we need, we push God to the side. So, when you think about these verses, remember the desert and how God will provide for you. 


Dearest Heavenly Father. Thank you for teaching us through the Bible. Help us understand Your message instead of seeing the words the way we want them to read. Let us seek you in the desert times of our lives as well as in the good times. Lead me to Your green pastures, so I know You will provide. Thank you for the comfort of the scriptures. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Yvonne M. Morgan, author, blogger, and speaker.

Matthew 28:19 “Therefore, GO and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

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41 thoughts on “The Importance of Bible Context

  1. Candice Brown

    A thousand times yes! I once did a video Bible artist written by an Israeli shepherd that, as with you, completely changed the meaning of this famous Psalm. We can even fall into deep doctrinal error, such as The Word Faith movement, by taking verses or even chapters out of context. This is why is crucial to read the Word every day. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You are very welcome and I hope you are feeling better. It is very important to be in the word daily and asking God to reveal the true meaning of the message. Thanks and God bless

  2. Wow! I never knew this geographical context for Psalm 23. That is really profound. Thank you for teaching and sharing this, Yvonne. We often view scripture through our life here in the United States, where we have an abundance of food and water. If we live in a dry area, it is piped in! When we imagine living life by God’s provisions, we see how He leads us, one step at a time, to have just what we need. Then we wait for the next provision. Powerful teaching!

    1. Having this pointed out to me really impacted me too. That is why I wanted to share about it. When we read and study the Bible, we need to pray for God to open our eyes to His teaching. Thanks Melissa and God bless.

  3. Context is key to fully understanding a verse or passage. I love Ray Vander Laan! 🙂 You are correct, Yvonne, when life is hard we are more apt to seek God, but when life is easy, we are likely to put him aside. In those times of blessing, we need to be more intentional with thanksgiving and praise. We can be close when life is easy, it just takes a different approach when seeking the Lord. Great post! 🙂

  4. Fresh insight, Yvonne. Context not only changes our perspective about a passage, but also gives us a deeper meaning. This Bible study sounds amazing and liked this thought: “Instead, when we see David’s version of green pastures, we see God grants just enough for the moment before we move on to the next moment. David’s understanding of green fields shows us how God provides for our needs with just enough for the moment.”

  5. Such a good reminder – we need to think deeply about what the words mean, as you say. and what the setting in the Bible really was in order to get at the heart of the meaning. Then, we find ourselves truly helped.

  6. Your post reminds me of the rule, “Context is king” when interpreting Scripture. How often are verses – and entire passages – taken out of context. For example, Phil. 4:13 is rarely if ever quoted in its original context: that of cultivating contentment!

  7. Sheryl Mendoza

    Hi, Yvonne. Thank you for this article. God will always provide for us, wherever we may be in our life. Grateful we have His words to guide us through! May we continue to understand it in His light so we can grow better. God bless!

  8. Teresa Hodge

    Loved this post! Context is key to understanding what God has said. We often make application from scripture before we even know what the verse actually has said and means. Great reminder to study deeper before deciding we know what a verse is telling us. Blessings!

  9. What a difference between the way we imagine a green pasture and the biblical reality at the time of David! I love the point you made about God giving us what we need in the present moment which motivates us to rely solely on Him. Great insight!

    1. Thanks so much Summer. So often, we think we need God to provide for our lifetime then we would be happy and comfortable. But, when we an abundance, we forget we need God. Thanks for commenting and God bless.

  10. I love reading the Bible in context of the traditions and times that it was written. So many things that seem to mean something one way to us reading now in 2020 are simply not at all what was meant when you look at the culture and traditions of the times. I love digging deeper this way!

  11. kariminter

    Love this!! Context is so very important and helps us actually understand the Bible correctly instead of putting our own interpretation of what we wished it said. Such a great post! Thanks

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