As we hit mid-February, I know it is easy to get discouraged about your Bible reading plan, especially as you may begin to read more difficult Old Testament books. For those who are new at reading the Bible or just need some reminders on how to approach daily Bible reading, here are 7 helpful questions to ask each day.
#1 God, Will You Help Me?
The Bible is a divinely inspired book. God guided its authors to write what we hold in our hands and he sovereignly preserved it over thousands of years. May we not approach such a book without first asking for help from the divine author. We need God’s spirit to help us understand spiritual things. Every good devotional begins and ends with prayer. Paul said of his own teaching, “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (1 Cor. 2:13)
#2 What Did I Just Read?
One of the best tools we have in reading comprehension is challenging ourselves to summarize and synthesize material. By summarizing the details into the major point or idea, it forces us to read for understanding. Keeping a journal can help us to summarize what we read in a sentence or two. Accountability relationships or even just casual conversation each week with someone about what you are reading will also help you to read and retain what you read. If you don’t have someone you are reading the Bible with, seek out someone whom you can meet with just to talk about what you have been reading. It makes a world of difference.
#3 What Did this Mean for the Original Readers?
The Bible consists of books and letters written in real historical moments. These works of literature build arguments, tell stories and speak into real-life situations thousands of years ago. A Biblical text will never mean for us now what it did not first mean to them then, so we must begin by asking what the original authors intended to communicate to their original readers. This requires familiarity with who the author is, who the readers are, the genre of the book your reading, and any other historical and literary details that help shed light on the passage. Resources like study Bibles are helpful for this kind of background familiarity. Www.thebibleproject.com is another awesome resource. They have video summaries on every book of the Bible.
#4 What Does this Passage Say about God?
The main character of the Bible is God. Every passage says something about who He is and what He is like. He is putting his own nature on display in different ways through different works of literature. Does this passage portray God as holy, loving, wrathful, patient, powerful, wise, or just? Every Scripture can and should cause an overflow of worship in the reader. Pray that God would help you to see unique and particular aspects of his glory in every text.
#5 What Does this Passage Say about Humanity?
The Bible begins by portraying humanity as valuable image bearers of God. When sin came into the world that image was corrupted. Every Bible passage shows the ways which humanity has been corrupted by that sin, or ways in which God is restoring and reversing the curse of sin in his beloved people. What can you see about human nature from the passage? Do you see the corruption and consequences of sin or do you see examples of God-honoring character and obedience?
#6 How Does this Passage Fit in the Big Story of God’s Redemption?
If we understand the Bible to be one big story from Genesis to Revelation with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the climax, then we need to read each passage considering where it fits into the story. Is the passage pre-Jesus or post-Jesus? How does the passage point forward to Jesus’ coming or backward to what he has already accomplished? We will never grasp the individual passages of Scripture if we don’t first understand that together they tell one big story of creation, fall, redemption, and future restoration.
#7 How Should I Respond?
Reading the word of God is of no value if it does not result in both knowing and obeying God. Every devotional should end with a final prayer asking God to help you to apply what you have read to your own life. While some passages are very specific to their context, there are always principles of truth to be found that are true for every culture, every time period, and every person. What are those true principles communicated by the text you are reading? Pray for God to help you respond rightly to these principles. I consider it a successful devotional, when I can see something in the Biblical text that challenges me, convicts me, or stirs me to respond to God in repentance and worship. At the end of each devotional, consider writing out a short prayer asking God to help you apply what you have just seen in the text.
May God be glorified and may we be sanctified as we seek him in the Scriptures daily!
By His Grace & For His Glory,
Pastor Brandon Langley
St. Rose Community Church