In my last post, 4 Not-So Secret Questions for Helping Us Understand the Bible Better, I offered several tips to studying the Bible in hopes of gaining greater understanding about this vital revelation given to us from God, himself.
In this post, as promised, we’ll look at some things to look for as we chew on pieces of God’s Word.
Scripture contains a lot of words. The first step we tak in grappling with a biblical text involves making as many detailed observations as we possibly can. After all, we want to dig deep into God’s Word, really sinking our teeth into what the Lord of the Universe has served up for us to digest, dissect, and disseminate.
- Spend time with a passage. Don’t rush it. Take it slow. Read it several times, over and over again. Read it aloud. Read it with a study partner, your spouse, or your children. Once you read it, think about it. Contemplate what’s unfolding through the sentences and in the passage.
- Observe what’s happening in the passage. What do you see unfolding? What’s happening? Who are the main players? Look at what’s present there already. There is plenty of real truth contained within a passage. Avoid looking for what’s not there as that typically only gets us into trouble and sets us running down the wrong path. Write your observations down.
- Identify structural elements such as figures of speech, conjunctions, verbs, nouns, and pronouns.
- Look for contrast and comparison occurring within the text. Hebrew poetry, like the type used in Proverbs, is notorious for its comparing/contrasting a good thing versus a bad thing. The Bible is chock full of comparison and contrast: justice/injustice, good/evil, right/wrong, and life/death, for example.
- Recognize the cause and effect that is playing out in a passage. Remember, one cause may have several effects.
- Study the passage immediately before and the passage immediately following the passage you are studying. How are they connected? What do they share in common? Is there a unifying theme between the passages?
- Look for the repetition of words. When you read through a passage look for words and phrases that are repeated frequently throughout.This will help clarify key players and key elements playing central roles in the passage. It will tell you who/what the passage is about.
The image below is an example showing the results from dissecting the passage found in 2 Samuel 6:1-11 (ESV).
Hopefully, you’ll find these 7 tricks helpful in your study of God’s Word. As believers, time spent in God’s Word does not return void, but yields a multitude of blessings.
May God’s love continue to shine on you.