Saturday, January 25, 2014

Getting the Most from your Bible Reading

Have you ever felt like reading the Bible is a waste of time? You read through genealogy, rules and laws, prophets and kings in a far away land a long, long time ago. Do you ever feel like "what's the point"? Don't worry, I hear from people sometimes that they think the Old Testament is pointless and the Bible as a whole doesn't make sense and doesn't apply. Truth is, the entire Bible is God's word and every word has value. I want to help you find the value from your reading.

The first key is what is known as exegesis. This may take you some time and it might help to invest in some resources. There are some great ones online at places like Mystudybible.com or biblegateway.com. The goal of an exegesis is to find the original intent from the author to the original audience in it's original context. Sometimes this is easy, like when the Israelites were told to march around Jericho. The original message was "walk around the city". Other times we struggle to find the meaning and message, just read the first chapter of Ezekiel. Hard to figure out what is going on there. In any book, passage or verse, there is something written with a meaning in mind. The prophets wrote with meaning, the apostles wrote with meaning. We have to dig to discover the meaning, which is where commentaries help. Remember, this is not "what does this say to me" but instead, "what is the author trying to communicate to the reader".

Once you have done an exegesis and understand more about the passage, it's time to dig in. Every passage has a principle, a foundational key, a truth or doctrine to discover. For example, when God commanded the Israelites to kill everyone in Jericho, what was the principle? We find a couple, first that God will judge communities when they have sinned so deeply and so completely that it infects everyone. God has no tolerance for this iniquity which we find invaded every part of Canaanite life. God may not use an invading army to destroy a city, and sometimes cities are destroyed because of the chaos in the world, and not sin. I don't believe every tornado, hurricane, tsunami or flood is evidence of God's wrath. The timeless idea is that God brings justice on sin, and God works through His people. He uses His people to bring restoration.

Once you find the timeless principle, it's time to apply it to your life.  Let's continue with our example of Jericho. The Israelites were told to walk around the walls for seven days and then when the walls fall, kill everyone. We are not suppose to find a city and kill everyone. What we apply is that corruption and sin and depravity spreads and infects and then brings pain. God will bless His people with good things, like a city or land in the OT, blessing and joy and peace. Those who turn their back on God and embrace the things of this world and the flesh will find destruction.

Every passage you find will have a timeless principle you can directly apply. You can check out Rick Warrens book on Bible Study Methods to discover more ways to get the most out of your Bible reading. I hope it will be a great blessing for you.

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