In last week’s article, we read that God reveals Himself to us through His word. God shows His character and love for us through Jesus’ saving work. No matter where you pick up reading, Old Testament or New Testament, all scripture points to Jesus. It is of vital importance that we spend time in God’s word on a regular basis. Through reading and studying God’s word, we know Him better and become more like Him. As His word becomes a part of who we are, God transforms us.
In addition to reading God’s word, there is much to be gained from deeply studying God’s word. As soon as I write the word study, my mind fills with anxiety as I’m taken back in time to studying for college exams. Studying was a grind. It included lots of memorization and reading and cross-referencing for the sake of reproducing information on a test to hopefully get a good grade. Studying God’s word is a completely different experience. We learn the contexts, we analyze language and structure, we familiarize ourselves with the entire narrative of scripture, not for the sake of just knowing more about God’s word. Rather, it is for the sake of having our eyes opened to the depths of God’s love. Each detail informs our worship of God. Each detail unlocks a piece of the story that ultimately leads to the redemption and restoration that God went to great lengths to provide for us.
The greatest revelations of God’s character come when we look underneath the surface of the words He has given to us.
Where do I start? What exactly am I reading?
The Bible is a collection of 66 books. Of these 66 books, authorship belongs to approximately 40 people. These authors were inspired to write these books over the course of 1,500 years. The words spoken in these books in no way contradict each other, and yet, they were written in different parts of the world and in different time periods. The Old Testament was written in the Hebrew and Aramaic language. The New Testament was originally written in Greek.
How should I begin studying?
It is always a good idea to approach God’s word in prayer. Whether you are sitting down in a comfy chair for 10 minutes reading through a portion of Colossians or at your desk researching the different feasts and celebrations of Jewish culture, a conversation with God is helpful. Start by asking God to give you an understanding of what you are reading. Ask Him to reveal Himself, His will, and his promises to you through your studying. Throughout your study time continue talking with Him. Be open and honest about your questions.
READ IT IN WHOLENESS
God’s word is a narrative threaded from Genesis to Revelation. It’s meant to be read as an entire story. While there is nothing wrong with spending extended time in one particular book, our aim should be to know God in the entirety of His word. This will give us a full picture instead of a snapshot of one scene.
READ & RE-READ
Read it over and over again. First of all, God’s word is living and active. (Heb. 4:12) There is no shortage of things God can teach us. Second, understanding is not always immediate. Understanding requires wrestling. Before utilizing other resources, allow the Holy Spirit to shape your understanding.
Ask the good questions:
1. What does this say about God?
2. What does it mean?
3. Is it true?
4. How does it fit into the greater narrative of Scripture?
5. How should I respond to it?
Use a journal or take notes off to the side about the thoughts you have as you read. What things do you notice?
SET THE SCENE
Where are we in the story of scripture? What time period are we in? Who are the characters? What’s the back story? Do the research to understand the context of the biblical situation so that you can better understand Jesus in it. For example, some of my favorite passages to study come from letters that Paul wrote. These letters have incredible nuggets that are applicable to today, however, it’s important to note that Paul was speaking to specific churches with real situations and cultural differences. Knowing this gives us a correct understanding of what the Holy Spirit was speaking to believers in a particular church context and this helps inform our application of these instructions and provides encouragement for our communities.
Dedicate a journal for studying. Use it to analyze word choice, sentence structure, how many times certain words are said, the order in which things are addressed, etc.
If you ever get stuck in a passage, there are always resources to help you out:
- Other Versions // Reading through other translations can help you see the intention of the thought.
- Study Bibles // Study Bibles include outlines, histories, dates, authorship, etc. of each book of the Bible.
- Using Cross-References // Cross-references are typically found on the sides of your bible pages. They’ll point you to similar concepts in other parts of the scripture.
- Commentaries // There is nothing wrong with reading the perspective of another believer on a particular passage of scripture. It’s always good to use caution in this and not accept other peoples’ words as immediate truths.
- Original Language / Word Studies // Since the Bible was not written originally in the English language, sometimes it’s helpful to use a word-study website. Strong’s Concordance, for example, is a great research tool to find the Hebrew or Greek word meaning for a word that is difficult to apply.
Why study? So God’s word can dwell in you richly.
Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
As we spend time uncovering the truths of God’s word through study we allow it to take root in us and then flow out from us. As the word of Christ dwells richly in us, it is then utilized for the encouragement and building up of another. Be women who know and love God’s word.
God increase in my heart a desire to be present in your word. Give me a vivid picture of you, your grace, and your power. Make me more like you. Plant your words in me and make them grow. Amen.