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The Privilege of Bible Study
I love the image above of the crown of thorns producing a heart that shadows between the pages of His Word. What a stunning reminder of what a great cost it was for the Word of God Himself to reveal Himself to us and what a privilege it is to own a copy of what God would have us know, in the form of His written Word that centers around that revelation.
It is my sincere desire that everyone who calls themselves by His name, would come to grow, know, and appreciate this indescribable privilege and will address some hindrances to that. I hope as well to point out some extremely valuable tools that can help us develop a love and commitment for the truth that we are so advantaged to read.
The Bible is Boring?
While recently discussing the Bible with a fellow Christian. I was informed that they felt that reading the Bible was boring and that they would rather watch a movie.
You may be tempted to think that this is an isolated attitude among Christians but I fear it is more common than not, considering that less the 20% of Christians read their Bibles daily and 18% said they never read it.
The children of Israel wrestled with a similar dilemma in being "wearied" or possibly bored with the disciplines and practices of faith when God makes the following observation concerning them.
you have been weary of Me, O Israel
— Isaiah 43:22
Later in this verse, God identifies one possible problem and that they are distracted with sin. Sin is essentially living toward any goal but God. The truth of His Word is designed to aim us toward the true goal of knowing loving and serving Him. He accuses His people at the beginning of the discourse of not calling upon Him but instead seeking their own will and ways.
Are there things getting in our way and distracting us from really enjoying God and His truth?
he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
— Matthew 13:22
More specifically, when the children of Israel were in the wilderness and God fed them with Manna, a picture of our daily need for His Word. Some of them complained...
“Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!”
— Numbers 11:4-6
The Bible translators called those who gathered to complain, a mixed multitude, which could allude to the idea that mixing things with truth or having divided interests will be extremely distracting to the truth and, obviously, from this account, will breed discontent.
Our rightfully jealous God has much competition these days for our time and attention, Not to mention all the worldly philosophy and agenda that gets mixed up in it.
And so is the intent of this article...I hope and pray, that it will be a nudge to learn to love the Word of God and a few tools that can help us do that. I hope you will consider the worthiness of the venture and discover what an adventure it truly can be.
The Bible is Not Entertainment
Let me begin first by saying, the Bible wasn't designed to entertain us. I think this idea is where many of us get tripped up, and a lot of bad movies about the Bible come from.
The Word of God is for the following purpose.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
— II Timothy 3:16-17
It is valuable to begin by making this a goal, to be instructed in righteousness.
Word of God Conceals rather than Reveals
I sincerely believe that God's Word is designed, not for the casual seeker, but for those who would sincerely want to know Him and His truth. This was why Jesus spoke in parables.
And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
...I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’
— Matthew 13:11-15
It is clear from this portion of scripture, that the Word of God and the understanding thereof, may very well be an uncomfortable message. The Word of God is certainly a comfort but it can also make us squirm. The very first word of the Gospel is "repent". I can't count the times I read things I really don't want to hear and confront me, but they are good and true, and call me up and out, and praise the Lord it's humbling.
"Some have said that the truth was hidden in parables as a means of puzzlling His disciples, and compelling them to search for instruction, and also for concealing they mysteries of the "kingdom" from the multitude..."
— John Brown "The Self Interpreting Bible"
It will also require our time and greatest attention. Many say that they don't have time to read God's Word. It is understood that we live in a busy time and place but all the more reason to invest in learning the heart of God in His Word. It makes a great way to put Him first and make Him our priority and give Him that place and space to not just inform but to transform us.
As stated before, there are so many things that God must compete with that vie for our time and attention and one of God's greatest competitions is that of entertainment, which, temptingly, will never ask anything of us. It will simply ask us to just sit back and enjoy as it effortlessly reprograms our interests.
Unlike effortless entertainment, the most profound and deeper truths are like treasures hidden in a field and unless we are willing to expend the time and effort in looking for them, they won't be discovered.
the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found...
— Matthew 13:44
We live in a culture where we are full of enthusiasm and willingness to seek a higher education, that requires a great sacrifice of time and monetary expense, but the Word of God seems like an optional "if I have time" event, rather than making it a priority. Could this be an issue of faith?
he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
— Hebrews 11:6
Diligence is the key word in that verse. Seeking Him must be our top priority. Diligence means we set our heart to the task of learning to obtain the "Highest" form of education which only can be found in a relationship with Him as He is revealed in His Word.
My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding
— Proverbs 2:1-6
Where Do I Begin?
Ok...so you have decided to dig in. You might ask "where do I start?" My favorite answer is Genesis chapter 1:1. I can't recall who said this, but I love this quote...
"If you can't get past Genesis 1:1 as in — in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth — you might as well not read the rest"
This makes another great point. The Bible wasn't written to prove God. It assumes you already know and believe that. Even if you have never read the Bible God expects a reasoning humankind to know this.
since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse
— Romans 1:20
speak to the earth, and it will teach you;
And the fish of the sea will explain to you.
Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the Lord has done this
— Job 12 7-9
I have learned that the Bible interprets itself and as you read you will find things that confirm and build belief...
faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God
— Romans 10:17
...that also reveal realities that are nothing short of stunning, but they are only discerned through the eyes of faith.
faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
— Hebrews 11:1
Once you are done with the book of Genesis I recommend moving on to Exodus, the second book of the Bible, and so on until you get to the end of the Bible to the book of Revelation then go back to Genesis and do it all over again.
Bible reading is not a one time one read experience. I guarantee you will learn something new every time and God will begin to build your understanding of Him, and His vision for life. His plan and your purpose in it.
There are patterns and threads of understanding that can be obtained no other way than repetitive reading.
This isn't just your ordinary piece of literature. These Words are Life! Jesus said...
The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life
— John 6:63
It is our daily bread as spoken by Jesus Himself when tempted to satisfy His natural appetite in the wilderness temptation.
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God
— Matthew 4:4
Note that the above verse was quoted before the New Testament was ever written. We have been erroneously told that we shouldn't read the Old Testament. I sincerely can't understand how we can be expected to understand the New without it.
The concepts of covenants and its foundations are formed in this portion of the Bible and it is in the concept of covenant that we understand the cross. The Bible is one book and both parts are of equal importance and interdependent. Jesus is in the Old Testament and He spent 40 days after His death showing His disciples how that worked. If you're wondering what to look for in the Old Testament, Look for Jesus. It is all about Him.
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself
— Luke 24:27
Paul, in reference to the Old Testament, tells us that these were written for our examples, learning patience and hope.
Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
— I Corinthians 10:11
whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope
— Romans 15:4
Every event in the "Old" presents to us issues and battles that the children of Israel faced on a very physical front, that are lessons to be gained by us on a very spiritual front.
we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
— Ephesians 6:12
An example might be how people the "Old" they worshiped handmade idols and statues. Today our idols are fabricated in our hearts. The territory in the Bible is about a physical land where God desires to establish His Kingdom but in this age of grace, He is now seeking to establish a center of worship in the heart of every man.
What Translation/Version Should I Read?
Good question and difficult answer considering the number of translations/versions out there. Let me begin this section by saying that there is no perfect translation or version other than the original texts, which can be accessed online and will be discussed later. Trying to translate, not just words, but concepts, from one language to another, without losing the patterns, word plays, and consistencies is no simple task, so hats off to all the translators for their efforts. I can give you a few of my favorites, and a few of my least favorites mostly based on word study and accuracy.
My favorite read, based on word accuracy, that really helped me connect word and theme patterns that are woven throughout the entirety of scripture, is "Young's Literal Translation", but it is a difficult read, first, because it is in Old English (thee's and thou"s), but also because it is a word for word translation in which the Hebrew/Greek sentence structure was left untouched and, many times, it sounds awkward in English. If you're a serious student and are willing to grind the gears moving through it, it is an excellent translation. It can also be accessed on BibleGateway.com or YouVersion phone application, for free. I use it frequently for reference when studying something specific.
The Amplified version actually ranks right up there with King James in terms of word accuracy, if you don't mind a few extra words in trying to get to the point. I think the extra words give a more well-rounded concept of the text. The words they add are the same words you would discover in a Strong's or Gesenius original word, dictionary. The NET Bible gives great extra definitive words and notes, like the Amplified, but I find it's common read a bit shallow. I, therefore, use NET for reference rather than read through.
King James. There are many a "King James only" folks out there and they have some valid concerns when it comes to some modern translations and versions, but in terms of word accuracy, I have found it isn't perfect either. But it is a good translation if you don't mind Old English "thees" and "thous" the language is beautiful and it is a very stable dependable translation.
I find myself reading the New King James most frequently on read through's because it doesn't compromise the elegant expressions as is found in the King James, but removes the "thees" and "thous", that being said they did make some changes from King James that I don't quite like nor understand, but it hasn't been a huge distraction as far as content and meaning for me.
A few other contenders for good word consistency, are the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version, Holman Christian Standard, and Lexham English (Lexham is only available in digital format - BibleGateway.com) I have found these to be accurate in word usage and consistent to themes and patterns.
My absolute very least favorite Bible version is the NIV, Some don't think the differences in it are a big deal. I guess that depends on if you are concerned about accurate and complete content when it comes to the Bible. I have discovered that there are things left out of this version that deeply matters. I could go through it all but for the sake of time and space, I will let you do your own research on it if you're interested. There is plenty of information out there. My conclusions about this are based on my own experiences in studying and comparing original word texts. I have been so many times disappointed in how things were chosen to be translated in this version and I am glad some were willing to compile all the info pointing that out.
The"Voice" is a relatively new version and I call it the fluffy romantic Bible version. It appeals to our modern obsession with "feel good" reads or entertainment of any kind. It sounds good but, I discovered that they added a lot of stuff to the text that just simply wasn't there in comparing the original language words. I seriously think we should leave that kind of thing for Hollywood and it's really bad movies about the Bible. "The Message has a similar style with similar issues, However, not quite as romanticized.
The "Good News" and "New Living" I think are good for early teens or pre-teens just starting to read real Bible text but a bit watered down for deeper comprehension. One most likely won't be finding the patterns and consistency of language in these versions, which is the problem with trying to simplify a text too much, it ends up losing its depth and sometimes even its' meaning.
This is the problem I have with "easier" versions, which are recommended frequently, instead of calling people up to the text for understanding, we sacrifice depth and meaning in hopes of easing the effort. I think it's worth noting and understanding, that reading Bible text will require us to pray and think about what is being read. We might have to look up a word or do some further research, but when we get a sincere revelation it's all worth the effort!
There are plenty of study tools online for free out there that it leaves us with no really great excuse, for a bit of research. More on tools later in the section about microscopic study.
The Telescopic View
As stated earlier I highly recommend reading the Bible through and not just once. When you read the Bible in its entirety it will lead to a big picture view of God's larger plan. I like to think of it as the telescopic view. Doing this will help put the details that you study microscopically, which we will get to in a minute, with a balanced perspective. It assists in not lifting scriptures for a private interpretation.
no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation
— II Peter 1:20
The Scriptures read as a whole will reveal that we are not the main character of the story. God is. God invites us into His story. When we lift Scripture only for personal means we many times end up thinking that the story is about us inviting God into our personal stories. God does in fact concern Himself with our personal needs and wishes but it is not the main point of the big picture and by missing the big picture we are left staring at one tiny tile of an entire mosaic.
There are also spectacular patterns and parallels you might notice in the telescopic read of the whole thing, that tie and weave all of the scriptures together. You won't get this by just picking a few verses here and there, or just selecting random books to read. It's all great and relevant for reading but the big picture is as necessary as the details.
Everything is Significant
A good thing to keep in mind as you read is that everything in the Bible is significant and there for a reason. You may not immediately understand why, but as you continue to grow in your knowledge and understanding of His Word these things come into clearer focus.
I recall trudging through the lengthy genealogies of I Chronicles, in my early readings, and wondering why, of all the information in the universe, God felt it necessary to put all these names in there, but now after time study and gaining a bigger picture of God's design and plan I began to see how He uses all of that to develop the coming of a Messiah Savior His one and only Son to rescue and redeem mankind, and although I have probably only barely scratched the surface of that understanding, knowing that helps me to read it with meaning and purpose.
One of the great fun things about reading His Word with this understanding is that many times God will show you in another place why something is there or what it means. Many times I will simply ask Him as I read, what did He mean by that? or what is this there for? I can't tell you the countless time He has faithfully answered.
Which brings me to a most important feature of Bible reading and that is prayer. It is His Holy Spirit that reveals and unpacks the truth for us, and we will do well, and understand so much more if we will but ask and pray.
...the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things...
— John 14:26
The Microscopic View
Along with this telescopic view, it is good to spend some time doing the microscopic view. It can be an exciting experience to see all that is hidden and buried just beneath the surface of what appears to be a casual read.
We seriously have no idea how privileged we are to live in a time and place where we can access so many Bibles, Bible Commentaries, Concordances, Dictionaries and just about any tool you can think of, for free! And this is where I would like to show you what, and where these treasures are. So if understanding the Bible is something that has prevented you from reading it, here are some spectacular picks and shovels.
One of the most simple tools I use, sometimes, is a Google search. If I am thinking of a verse and only know a portion of it I will type in what I know and it pulls up, just about every time, the verse I am looking for, as well as links to websites where I can read it as a whole chapter or in different versions. A couple of those sites will not only give you the verse but offer timeless commentaries with original word look up options.
The websites that I will suggest next will require a bit of practice in navigating through them usefully and efficiently, but as you become more and more familiar with them they will lend greatly to quick and easy searches for just about anything you're looking for. I recommend playing with your options within the site and once you have caught on make sure to use it frequently to keep familiar with it.
If your not much of a computer user, all of it is these resources are available in hard copy book form. If you're just starting out. I would recommend a Strong's Concordance and a Gesenius Lexicon which is coded with Strong's numbers, which allows you to search any word in the Bible, and see where it was used and how. and you can refer to the back of the book for further definition in its original language.
A Few Favorite Websites
Biblegateway is kind of my base camp. I can simply look up any verse or topic and I can read it in several different versions. there is a settings option on this page to set the page to always open with your favorite version if you like. Typing in an exact verse, or word is where this one comes in handy and you can do all your Bible reading on it if you like. Not a whole lot for commentaries or dictionaries without paying for it on this site but if you say you hate to read they have left you without excuse they have options for audio.
Blue Letter Bible
BlueLetterBible is my absolute favorite and most frequently used! It is complete with commentaries, original word search capabilities, word definitions from both Strong's and Gesenius. Gesenius Lexicon (dictionary) is my favorite for word definition from the original language texts. You do not have to know the languages to use these features. The word searches are linked with root words and meanings. A simple click on the tools button next to the verse you are looking at will lead to a wealth of things you can look at and study with. I highly recommend exploring your options on this website.
My next favorite and most frequently used website is BibleHub.com. Once again, a plethora of resources for studying along with an interlinear (English-Hebrew-Greek) feature where the Strong's number is placed directly above the word and with a simple click you are in the dictionary. No Gesenius on this one, but they have some extremely prized commentaries such as John Gill's who is no longer in print and used versions cost about $300.00, along with Cambridge, Benson, and the Pulpit. Free Free Free!
The above three websites are also available as phone apps on android devices and I think on i-phone as well.
There are many many more websites that offer a wealth of Bible study helps such as Studylight.org, BibleStudyTools.org, and CrossWalk.com. In terms of commentary, just about any Bible Commentary that is 100 years or older is available free online at the simple type of their name. An example would be Charles Spurgeon. Just about anything he ever wrote or said is available on several websites. Just search his name. The same goes with John Gill's commentary, and Matthew Henry's, all available free and at your fingertips.
We have been left without an excuse to learn to love His Word. At no point in history has so much been made available to do so. Let's not turn our noses up at these precious and prized resources that God has so graciously made available.
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
— Daniel 12:4
When all is said and done the only thing that will be in question concerning our knowing His Word will be our willingness to give ourselves to Him for that and diligence in searching Him out in these ways. He is opening "The Book" and we have been given this time and place to seek Him. May we not waste another moment on inferior pursuits that will have not eternal meaning.
He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us
— Acts 17:26-27
Do we really believe His Words are life..and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (John 6:68 and Hebrews 11:6)
If you have any trouble or questions at all in navigating the websites I have listed, you may contact me via the comments section or through Hubpages messaging. It would be my great joy to help you do that. I look forward to seeing all the facets of revelation gleaned from others who are digging deeper too.
God bless and happy treasure hunting!
Now set (give, grant, permit, designate, or assign) your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God
— I Chronicles 22:19
© 2016 Tamarajo