“...And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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.” 2 Tim 3:16
“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” Psalm 1:2-3
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” Psalm 119:105
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8
A closer look at the Word
My brother reads the whole Bible-from Genesis to Revelations-every month! He said that Kenneth E Hagin read his Bible 144 times before preaching his first sermon! To read it in a month you’ll need to cover 40 chapters a day. That’s 20 chapters an hour. Lock in a good 2hrs a day and you’ll be sorted!
This post is not about meditating on the Word but rather focusing on the reason why you should read it. A lot of, if not all, the success principles talked about today come straight from the Word! Some times when I hear things like, “think positive and say good things about yourself,” I’ll be reminded of the second greatest commandment: love your neighbour as yourself.
One book that kind of has a central directive to it is the book of Proverbs. Of course no one would argue about the subjects discussed in it. Pretty much everything that you need to learn about time management amongst several other things, are there. My Bible summarizes the book like this:
Knowledge is good but wisdom is even better. Knowledge can help you pass tests and accomplish tasks, but wisdom will guide you through the most important decisions in life. The book of Proverbs was written by Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. It contains hundreds of short, simple statements about how to live wisely, an assortment of longer passages that express wisdom with a bit more detail. These proverbs, however, are more than just wise sayings of the sort we find in most cultures. They are not a haphazard collection of commonsense directives. These proverbs expressly state, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom” (9:10). Respect for God is the foundation for these wise sayings. They help the reader distinguish between two paths: the way of the wise and the way of the fool. They deal with almost all the major areas of life, including growing up, parenting, social justice, wise speech, work, marriage, sexuality and money.
If you have communication problems, it’s right there. Relationship problems, it’s there too. The main thing to do is compare different versions of the Bible. Why? Doing this will help you gain a good understanding of what the Scripture is saying. Not everyone will have access to commentaries or have time to look for one or look it up! So the easiest will be, to at least, have two out of three Bibles. One formal, one functional, and/or one free version.
And that means?
Having a version that translates exactly what and how they spoke back then. Examples are KJV, NKJV, RSV. That’s an example of a formal version. A functional version is a type that translates the same expression, wording etc used back then into today’s language, that is, the way we would express the same thing today. Examples are GNB, Amplified, NIV, TEV, NLT and so on. Then a free version takes the functional to the next level. The literal way we speak today is how the free version would be translated. Examples are The Message, LB, NEB.
I’m going to use Hosea 4:6 to illustrate the differences and the importance of understanding the Scripture in context! Alright lets take a look:
(Formal) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children. NKJV
(Functional) My people are being destroyed
because they don’t know me.
Since you priests refuse to know me,
I refuse to recognize you as my priests.
Since you have forgotten the laws of your God,
I will forget to bless your children NLT
(Free) My people are ruined
because they don’t know what’s right or true.
Because you’ve turned your back on knowledge,
I’ve turned my back on you priests.
Because you refuse to recognize the revelation of God,
I’m no longer recognizing your children. The Message.
I chose this verse because it is so often misquoted! God talks about knowledge of who He is. Everyone else thinks that it talks about general knowledge. This is why it’s important to look at the Scripture in context, that is, finding out what it says or means in light of what either, the preceding and succeeding verse says or the whole chapter. Here is my golden rule when reading the Word:
When interpreting a Scripture, never isolate a verse. That’s it. That is really it. No more. No less. These are the things that I do to get the most out of the Word:
1) Find out what the book is about. The best way to do this is to get a study Bible, especially if you only have one Bible. If that’s the case, make sure it is a functional version. Many Scriptures are easier to understand that way. Another misunderstood chapter is Leviticus 18. A simple assignment would be to find out what that chapter talks about by either reading it from a version different from the one I used or just choose one in Bible Gateway.
2) How did they understand it? (what it meant there and then)
This is where it gets technical but is still simple to do. What you’ll be doing here is looking at the Scripture as one not written to you but to someone else. Why? That’s exactly how the whole Bible is written. The idea is to find out how the original readers understood the author’s point. The author’s background and situation is also important to note. A simple question to always ask is: What’s the point? Learning about what the author tried to say, helps in a huge way, in applying the Scripture properly.
3) How can we understand it? (how it relates here and now)
After you’ve found out the author’s point, the rest should be easy from there. Remember, even if you’re trying to interpret a Scripture you’ve never heard of before, asking that all important question will help you come up with observations that will be based on a decent foundation, as opposed to taking it from out of the blues! The main thing I have to say here is that the New Testament is an occasional document. Meaning it was written to address specific occasions. Situations needed to be put under control and that is what needs to be kept in mind, despite the relative ease in understanding the NT. By the way, you need not go solo. Get a commentary to help out if you’re stuck, but only after you’ve made your own observations. The commentary should serve as confirmation.
Here is something for free
A friend of mine asked me about some Scriptures that are so vague it seems impossible to try to make sense of it. Fortunately, a book I was reading at the time-which is where I got the points I listed just now-helped me come up with an answer:
Deut 14:21 “Do not cook young goats in its mother’s milk”
“Do not mate different kinds of animals”,
“Do not plant your fields with two kinds of seeds,”
“Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of materials” (Lev 19:19)
“These were designed to forbid the Israelites from engaging in the fertility cult practices of the Canaanites. The Canaanites believed in what is called sympathetic magic, the idea that symbolic actions can influence the gods and nature. They thought that boiling a goat kid in its mother’s milk would magically ensure the continuing fertility of the flock.
Mixing animal breeds, seeds or materials was thought to “marry” them so as magically to produce “offspring,” that is, agricultural bounty in the future. God could not bless His people if they practiced such nonsense!”
Source: “How to read the Bible for all its Worth” Chapter 9 by Gordon D. Fee (professor of the New Testament) and Douglas Stuart (professor of the Old Testament). Another must read book!
A final word
Sorry to turn you into a Bible student but the truth of the matter is, everyone should be reading their Bible like this! Doing so will even have a big positive impact on devotional times. I mean, if we’re not going to go deep and find out as much as we can from it, how are we supposed to know what God intended for us to know? I also believe this may be the reason why the Bible does not seem to be so “interesting.” Some passages are just hard to understand. It may be read from a formal version which includes the difference in grammar, figures of speech and literal terms. A first century expression will be interpreted from a twenty-first mindset. This is where misquotation, misinterpretations and misunderstandings come from. In short eisegesis. Here is the difference in the words:
Eisegesis (say Ice-eh-G-sis) an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text.
Exegesis (say X-E-G-sis) critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible.
Hermeneutics the branch of theology that deals with the principles and methodology of exegesis (and how it applies to us today).