Getting more from the Bible

Reading the Bible; it is instantly both a desire for us and yet, at times, it is hard work. Or we read it, several chapters at a time perhaps, and instantly forget what we have read as soon as the Bible goes down and we move on to the next thing on our daily to do list.

I have been reading a book on spiritual disciplines recently, and one of them is on meditation. I do not mean the eastern idea of it that has us trying to empty our minds. I mean the meditation that the Scriptures speak about. So Joshua is told to meditate on the book of the law. Psalm 1:2 tells us that blessed is the one who meditates on God’s law day and night. Psalm 119 mentions meditation eight times. We are called to not just read the Word of God but to think about it as well.

That’s all well and good, but how do I do that?

Well in the book I have been reading,[1] taking its cue from the Puritans and others, suggests a number of questions you can ask when reading a piece of Scripture. The suggestion is that you read a section and then home in on one or two verses. Here are some of the questions that he suggests you can ask:

  1. “What is it?”[2] That is; what is the summary, in your own words, of what the verse says?
  2. “What are its parts?” That is how is it divided up? Take for example John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” What it is, is that God gave his Son for us so that we might gain eternal life. Its parts are (i) the giver – God (ii) the reason for giving “love” (iii) the object of love “the world” (iv) the gift “his one and only Son” (v) the beneficiaries “whoever believes in him” (vi) the outcome negatively put “shall not perish” (vii) the outcome positively put “have eternal life”.
  3. You can then ask what is meant by each of these things. So, what does the Bible mean when it talks of God? What kind of God is He? Why does John say “so loved”? How is our knowledge of the love of God expanded by the fact that he gave up his one and only Son? And so on.
  4. “What is different or contradictory to it?” In this case, John supplies the answer in the next verse when he says that whoever does not believe is condemned already.
  5. Does what I have thought about fit with what I know of Scripture? This is a test to make sure we are not making Scripture say what we want it to say.
  6. What does this text tell me about me, about God, about the gospel or about Jesus?
  7. “Does it reveal something I should believe about God?”
  8. “Does it reveal something I should have a new attitude about?”
  9. “Does it reveal something I should praise God or trust God for?”
  10. “Does it reveal something I should make a decision about?”
  11. “Is there something I should pray for myself or others for?”
  12. “Does it reveal something I need to do for Christ or others or myself?”

Now, you need not do all those at one time. But using some or all of these will help to start digging deeper into the Word of God.

[1] Donald Witney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress, 2006)

[2] Where I put something here in quotation marks it is a quote from Witney. I am using the kindle version so I am not able to give book page numbers.


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