Read the Bible with Intention
Study Scripture in a Different Way to Glean More from It
For most of my adult life, even going back to my teenage years, I’ve read the Bible most every day. Yet there were a few times when I needed to take a break, when my Bible reading practice had fallen into a rut—the deep rut. Yes, I was reading words, but those words failed to connect with me. They had lost meaning, because I had lost focus.
I recently emerged from one of those times, and I’m back reading my Bible and studying its words with gleeful abandon. Here are some things I do when studying the Bible to engage with its words and remain open to receive its insight.
Ask Why the Passage is in the Bible
The Bible is an odd collection of writings with different genres, different writing styles, and different points of view. Sometimes I seriously wonder why some of these things appear in the Bible.
However, I believe God has a purpose for every word in the Scriptures. So I ask, “Why did God include this passage in his written Word?” The answer tells me why I need to concern myself with the passage.
Shove Aside What We Think We Know
I remember hearing an enlightening sermon that explained what Jesus meant when he talked about a camel going through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). The problem is that I can’t find any support for that interpretation. Therefore, I must shove aside this compelling teaching because it is likely in error.
Just because a minister tells us something, doesn’t mean it’s right. They could be wrong. Sometimes they are. Too much of what I’ve heard from the pulpit on Sunday didn’t come from the Bible that I read the rest of the week.
We need to hold to the teachings of others loosely and not let them influence how we understand the Bible. Instead we should let the Bible influence how we engage with the things ministers teach.
View the Bible Passage from the Character’s Perspective
As we read a passage from Scripture, explore the point of view of the author or the story’s protagonist and antagonist.
- What might David have been thinking when he wrote the twenty-third Psalm (Psalm 23)?
- What might Jeremiah have been feeling when he was lowered into the muddy cistern (Jeremiah 38:6)?
- Why did Judas turn on Jesus and betray him (Matthew 26:16)?
As we gain insight into these questions, we can grasp a fuller understanding of the passage we’re reading.
Examine the Bible Passage in Context
We read the Bible through the lens of our perspective: our life, society, and experiences. Yet we need to first consider the words of the Bible from its context of when it was written, its culture, and the situation that frames it. Then, and only then, are we in a position to examine it more fully.
Consider How the Bible Passage Applied Then
Once we have a deeper insight into the context, we can begin to consider how a passage of Scripture might have applied to the ancient people who were its original audience. And that might be completely different than how we understand it today.
Contemplate How the Bible Passage Might Apply Now
Only after we’ve considered its context and how it might have applied to the ancient world are we in a position to try to extend those principles to us in our world today. Now applicable truth can emerge. Before opening the Bible ask for Holy Spirit guidance. And any time we get stuck on a passage, ask for supernatural insight. Click To Tweet
However, we shouldn’t go through this process alone. Engaging Scripture in community is beneficial, but relying on the Holy Spirit to provide insight is essential. Before opening the Bible, ask for Holy Spirit guidance. And any time we get stuck on a passage, ask for supernatural insight.
As we study the Word of God using this process—under the influence of the Holy Spirit—we will gain deep layers of understanding that we would have otherwise missed.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.