Have you ever tried to find your way around an unfamiliar city without a map? Frustration mounts as you take wrong turn after wrong turn. You might even find yourself going the wrong way down a one-way street! Reading the Bible can be a bit like that too – unless you have the tools to be able to find your way.
It’s all about paying attention to the details! Good Bible reading is careful Bible reading. We are going to suggest that you read the passage you have chosen to study, seven times. Each time you read, focus your attention on something different. This will give you a well-rounded and balanced view of the passage being studied. Here are 7 tips as to what to focus on each time you read. Let’s use 2 Samuel 7 as an example.
- Read to become familiar with the narrative: On the first reading just focus on the story and what is happening or being spoken of. Use the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How questions to help you glean all the details.
- Read to decide on the central theme: On a second read through, see if you can figure out what the main idea or central theme of the passage is. In our example of 2 Samuel 7 we might say that the central theme is “Promises made to David.”
- Read to establish the main sections: This time, read through the passage and try and break it down into sections. For example, when reading through 2 Sam 7 we might break down the verses as follows: vs. 1-3 David’s desire to build God a house, vs. 4-7 Gods response, vs. 8-9 What God has already done for David, vs 10-11 What God will do for Israel, vs. 12-17 God’s promise to David, vs. 18-29 David’s response and thankfulness.
- Read to find key words and phrases: As you read you will notice the repetition of certain words. In 2 Samuel 7 we have the word “house” come up 15 times, “servant” is 12 times, “Kingdom” occurs 3 times and “throne” twice. Making a list or highlighting these key words will help unlock the meaning of the passage.
- Read to discover the presence of allusions: Look for references to other places in scripture. Are there echoes to other passages or events? One example from 2 Samuel 7 would be from vs.23. In David’s prayer of thanksgiving, he makes mention of a time when God redeemed Israel and made a name for himself. This takes us right back to the Exodus, and some reading on that will bring new depth to our understanding of what David is alluding to.
- Read to compare with other reliable translations: The key here is finding reliable translations – not paraphrases. Some translations that would fit in this category would be: The King James or New King James (KJV or NKJ), Revised Version (RV), English Standard Version (ESV), and the Revised Standard Version (RSV).
- Read to confirm the flow of the context: Context is important. It includes surrounding verses and chapters. The emphasis here is letting the Bible speak for itself. Context will let you place the passage scripturally, historically, and geographically and this will help immensely in unlocking the true meaning of the scripture you are studying.
So, next time you sit down to read God’s Word, you might want to try this simple exercise and let the word of God open itself up to you as you hunt for its hidden treasures.
by Debbie B.