How can you figure out what a passage is saying?
Written by Gary Fleetwood on 15/01/2019
Series: Weekly Devotional
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
There are many different ways to study the Bible. You can study a book, a chapter, a verse, a word, or a Bible character. You can do a devotional study, an in-depth study, or a topical study of a particular subject. However, a very simple way to study the Bible is by what is called “inductive Bible study”. The word “inductive” refers to the process of analyzing something, and it has three parts — observation, interpretation, and application.
What is observation?
Observation asks, “What is this passage saying?” This takes effort. Too often we read something, but we do not take the time to observe what we are reading. My first rule for Bible study is to never get in a hurry. Why? Because God is never in a hurry. The word “meditate” in Psalm 1:2 means to digest what is being read. The word “meditate” comes from how a cow chews its food by taking it down into its stomach and then bringing it back up to chew on some more. The cow has four stomachs, so it does this four times before the food is fully digested. So, read the passage you are studying several times and mark down anything that stands out in your reading — key words, key phrases, repeated words or phrases, encouragements, warnings, and anything else that seems important. By writing down what you observe, the meaning will become clearer to you.
What is interpretation?
Interpretation asks, “What does this passage mean?” Most every passage should have an obvious meaning simply because God has not designed the Bible to be mysterious or vague. There is no benefit in God hiding His meaning from a believer. Whenever my children were growing up, I never tried to make what I wanted them to do to be mysterious. Remember, we cannot interpret the Bible based only on what the words mean to us. The correct question is, “What did these words mean to the people to whom they were originally written?” Normally, that means the reader needs to have a good Bible dictionary to help them understand the words the writer used. If you are not able to obtain a good Bible dictionary, then a simple rule would be to simply allow the “obvious” meaning to control and govern your interpretation.
What is application?
Application asks, “How should I apply this passage to my life?” Obviously, it does no good to read a passage and discover its truth, but then not be willing to apply what we have learned to our life. A very wise man once said that “90 percent of knowing the will of God is being willing to do the will of God before we know what it is.” It is the simple idea of just saying, “Yes, Lord,” before we ever start reading. Please appreciate that God will never ask us to do something that does not actually benefit our life. As we learn what God desires for our life, we have the privilege to begin applying God’s truth to our life. Application is what equips us to face the trials and the difficulties that life will bring our way.
So, going forward, remember that the more you develop a consistent and meaningful way of studying the Bible, the more skilled you will become in understanding God’s Word so that you can actually apply it to your life. Remember — never get in a hurry when studying God’s Word. Just take your time and He will give you greater understanding.
Pray this week:
“Father, please help me to learn how to study your Word in such a way that it can really benefit my life. Please help me not to just read it, but to dig into it so that I can really know your perfect will for my life.”
How and when can you set aside time this week to read the Bible and truly understand what it is saying?
Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member