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Section 6..  Reading and Understanding Your Bible

003white  Index To Reading And Understanding Your Bible       >         Bible Study Guidelines - Part 1I

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Bible Study - Some Useful (And Very Important) Guidelines. Helpful Hints and Golden Rules

Part II - Some Things You Should Do

Part III - What To Avoid Like The Plague

Carol Brooks

Part I  (Previous Page)
Introduction, The Bible Is Not Like Any Other Book, Private Interpretation, Literary Genres
 

Part II - SOME THINGS YOU SHOULD DO (This Page)

Set Aside A Time
Start At The Beginning
Begin With An Overview
Follow a Plan

Don't Just Read
Ask The W Questions

Pay Attention To The Original Languages
Also Remember that The Bible Is 'Progressive Revelation'.

How to Handle Difficult Verses
Study Helps
Meditating On God's Word

Part III - WHAT YOU SHOULD NEVER DO (Below)

Never Ever Read a Bible Verse
Remember Mere Head Knowledge Won't Do you a Whit of Good


Set Aside A Time
However, it is well to bear in mind that we only learn what the Bible says by actually reading it not by intending to read it or thinking about reading it.

Most of have fairly set schedules. We wake at about the same hour each morning and are constantly told of the importance of going to bed at approximately the same time each night. We eat our meals at about the same time every day, and devote the various periods of the day to work, play, exercise etc. In fact, we usually function more efficiently if we introduce some sort of structure into our lives.

Considering its importance and the fact that although the overall message is simplicity itself, the Bible is not always the easiest book to read. If we do not set aside a particular time, Bible study will eventually be pushed aside as other matters arise. Effective Bible study begins with good habits (otherwise called discipline), not waiting until you are in the mood or when circumstance come together to create the perfect moment.

You need a modicum of quiet when you are relatively undisturbed and hopefully free of the clamour of the day (I do realize this can be quite a challenge for mothers with pre-school children). Also, you have to use common sense. If you are not a morning person you will simply yawn your way through your study should you choose to do it very early in the day. Similarly, burning the midnight oil is not a good idea if it means facing the next day with bleary eyes. We are all different, and it is up to the adult Christians to set their own particular pattern of reading and prayer. It is an individual choice but one that needs to be carefully guarded.

So, as Geoffrey Thomas says

    So to read the Bible best, set apart a definite time; go to a regular place of study; get plenty of light; do not let the air get stuffy, or too warm or cold, and do not make yourself too comfortable. [01]


Start At The Beginning
No reader should expect to accurately understand or follow the 'drift' of a book if they begin reading somewhere in the middle. In order to grasp what a story is about one needs to not only pay attention to the plot from the beginning, but to the various characters as they are introduced and take their place in the narrative. Then and only then can one appreciate and understand what the author's train of thought was and appreciate the conclusion he or she brings it to.

Although true of all books, this is especially applicable to longer and more complicated ones such as Tolstoys classic love story Anna Karenina, or War and Peace, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings or James Michener's Hawaii or Chesapeaks.

And, of course, the Bible.

However, please remember that the Bible was not written to teach moral "lessons." It is not a handbook for life, nor does it have the answer to every single question you might have. It is the story of man's relationship with God.

It is our story! It is your story!

Although it contains 66 books separate, the Bible all of them are have but a single purpose - to put the world and our existence into their proper context. It introduces us God and His love, warns us what stirs His wrath and judgment, and gives us stunning demonstrations of His power. It presents the unbelievable offer He has made to humankind but stresses that we are free to make our own choice - either to die or live forever in a perfect world, i.e. to be saved - or not. It equally clearly outlines the consequences of not accepting His offer.

For Details See The Wrath of GodSalvation,  The Message of The Bible and   The Warning of The Bible

However, in order to understand any of this we have to begin not with the story of Jesus, but with the first book of the Bible - Genesis.

Genesis sets the stage for everything that comes after. It tells us why we need to be 'saved' and what we need to be saved from. It tells the story of God's gift to man, i.e. a perfect world unsullied by sickness or death. However, it also warned the first inhabitants of earth that the one thing they needed to do was obey the Father. If they didn't their lives would be finite - enduring for a limited time only. And no! His commandments did not consist of an impossible to keep list of do's and donts but, at the time, a single rather simple one.

However, because God also gave man the luxury of free choice, neither Adam nor Eve heeded the Father's warnings and, to cut a long story short, were unceremoniously expelled from the garden to face what we all do - all the hardships this world has to offer. It is at this time we catch our first glimpse of the Gospel. As God told the first couple

    And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."  (Genesis 3:15 NASB)

And as the first men lived, bred and multiplied, so did their sins. This had severe consequences that culminated in the story of Noah and his ark in which, because of the evil rampant in the world, only a small boatload of righteous people and two of each of the animal/bird kingdom were saved from the disastrous flood that engulfed the world.

But man learned nothing.

Shortly after the flood, they attempted to build for themselves their own kingdom represented by the Tower of Babel (11:1-9) that would prove to be in complete opposition to the Father's.

Note: In Hebrew Babel and Babylon are exactly the same word and obviously designate the same place and concept. Why we have two separate English words is beyond me. See From Babel to Babylon

Anyway, Babylon originally founded by Nimrod, worshipped a pantheon of deities and built impressive temples devoted to them under their various kings who came along much later. This kingdom would prove itself a mortal enemy of, not only the nation of Israel, but of God Himself. Although the physical city of Babylon no longer exists, the tentacles of its spiritual heritage spread far and wide and, morphing as it went, has dug its claws into the world of men up to our present day. The other kingdom began with a single man who, very possibly, lived where ziggurats were erected to these powerful supernatural beings. It is after this that we are introduced to Abraham who was specifically called out of what was a hotbed of apostasy, sin and corruption and journey some distance away to Canaan, to sow the seeds of God's kingdom, that will eventually destroy Babel/Babylon.

Abraham, a man of profound faith was promised three things by the Father,

    1. An area of the country known as the "Promised Land" in which he and His ancestors would live forever

    2. Abraham's descendants would become a great nation that numbered more than the sand of the sea.

    3. And most importantly, through one of Abraham's descendants all nations of the earth would be blessed (12:1-3). This was a promise of the Messiah or savior who would come many hundreds of years in the future.

These three promises form the context for the entire Bible.

The book of Exodus tells of God rescuing the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt and how He led them to the 'Promised Land'. Under Joshua's leadership they drove out the pagan tribes that lived in Canaan and in a very short time became a nation with it's own God-given laws. The book of Leviticus included the Father's very specific instructions as to how He wanted the Temple built and what and what animal sacrifices were to be made. These sacrifices were necessary because God's laws deemed that sin could only be paid for by blood. They were however, only a temporary solution until the day that the Savior would shed His own blood to expiate the sins of those who would wished to be saved from the consequences of their own deeds. Because He came to earth in the body of a man, He could "taste death" for us. See Sin, Repentance and Salvation

In the book of Deuteronomy chapters 28-29 the Father promised huge blessings in return for them following His laws but, on the other hand, warned that things would not go well for them if they disobeyed and rebelled. The Lord also instituted what came to be know as the Seven Feasts of Israel each of which had both a historic and prophetic significance. They celebrated a historical event in Israel's past, but also were a prophecy of future events -  four of which have already come to pass. It is important to note that the Feasts that symbolize a sequence of events, were given by God in a set chronological order. Therefore the events that they symbolize will take place in the same exact order.

Unfortunately the Israelites were not faithful to the Father.

Just before he died, Joshua said this

    "Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed. "It shall come about that just as all the good words which the Lord your God spoke to you have come upon you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the threats, until He has destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you. "When you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and you will perish quickly from off the good land which He has given you." (Joshua 23:14-16 NASB)

The Prophets and The Kingdoms
The rest of the Old Testament relates the history of the nation including the kings David and Solomon, the splitting of the kingdom, the rise of the many other kings both good and bad who ruled the two halves, the various invasions by the surrounding nations including the Assyrians who decimated the Northern Kingdom. Also the carrying away into exile of much of the Southern kingdom by Nebuchadnezzar - king of Babylon. Interspersed are a few stories about individuals and the rise of several prophets every one who whom were spokespersons for the Father and on whose behalf not only made some astounding prophecies but repeatedly warned the Israelites that the path they were on would only lead to their downfall. See Old Testament Prophecy

Among the prophets, Isaiah made many accurate prophecies about the life, mission and death of the coming Messiah. Daniel was one of the young men carried away into exile to Babylon but who rose to a prominent position in Nebuchadnezzar's court. He outlined in unbelievable detail the rise and fall of the kingdoms that would follow Babylon, i.e. the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, the Romans etc. See Daniel's Amazing Prophecies.

And that was not all, Daniel with unerring accuracy pinpointed the date of the arrival of the Messiah DETAILS (Scroll down slightly)

The Return From Exile
The Old Testament ends with the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the city and Temple under Nehemiah and, thanks to Ezra, the reinstating of the laws of Moses, without which the rebuilt temple would have been just another building and Jerusalem just another walled city. And then, inexplicably the narrative goes silent for about 400 years, only to open again with the genealogy and birth of Jesus Christ son of David.

The four Gospels tell of His life, teachings, miracles and His death. They are followed by the book of Acts - that begins with the events of Pentecost when the first century church exploded into being with an an incredible display of God's power when He descended on those first-century believers with a sound like a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire etc.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4 NASB)

As a result, a few ordinary people were empowered and enabled to accomplish something that no human being could on his own - they went out and impacted the entire world with results that will last to the time of the coming kingdom. The book of Acts also tells of the many churches established by the disciples followed by letters to these various churches.

Note also that the Bible is...

Not History as We Understand It
The historical portions of the Bible were never meant to be precise chronological records.

The narrative, including parts of the Old Testament and the Gospels, often just touches on the 'high points' as it were. As a non technical book, the Bible often rounds off numbers. Additionally, many do not realize that, as a history book, the Bible often records people's words and actions without necessarily approving of what they said or did.


Begin With An Overview

I doubt I could sufficiently emphasize how much it helps to read an overview of each book of Scripture before tackling the book itself.

This overview includes the New Testament and Revelation - the very last book and sole one on prophecy in the New Testament. Revelation not only informs us in graphic detail what will happen in the end times but foretells the day when Paradise will be restored, all tears will be wiped away, there will be no more death and His followers will live in eternal peace. See What and Where is Heaven?

The even more detailed Survey Of The Old And New Testaments will come in very useful as you work your way through the book. It divides the Old and New Testament by periods - for example, the period before Abraham, the time of the Patriarchs, the period of slavery and deliverance from Egypt and so on. I for one find this exceedingly useful.

Just remember that your goal during is not comprehension of all the details, but to get a general "feel" for each book - the wide-angle picture

If you get a good grasp of what was going on when any of the books were written, under what circumstances the author put pen to paper, and what was the condition of those he was writing to, you should have little difficulty in understanding what he said. In this regard, chronology can also play an important role. The books of Kings and Chronicles go a long way in explaining why the prophets who spoke during their various reigns said what they did.

You can now go ahead and read the book through. The longer ones will take perhaps several days. Some of the New Testament books are quite short and can easily be read in a day or two. Whatever your speed, at this point it is wise not to allow yourself to get bogged down in the details. However, if there is a word you don't understand, please look it up in a Bible or even a regular dictionary. See Study Helps Below

After the first reading it is very helpful to wait a day or two and then read the book once again - this time a lot slower and with far more attention to detail.


Follow a Plan

Perhaps one of the most unprofitable things you can do mechanically read one chapter a day and then set the book down without any understanding of the context of the chapter and the message the author was endeavoring to get across.

There are various plans that, if followed, will take you through the entire Bible in a year. Others will in one year take you through the Old Testament once and through the New twice. This is not really a lot of reading considering the Old Testament is made up of about 930 chapters. However, if you also consult a Bible dictionary, a reference Bible or even a commentary all of which could help understanding (more on this later), it might take a little while to get through a chapter or two. However, I would like to sound a note of caution when reading anything written by another human.

Relax. Note that while determination is indispensable, there will be days you when you will not be able to do any study. You or someone else may be unwell, unexpected events can distract or sideline you. We can also go through dry periods when the things of God seem very far away. Please do not feel guilty nor that you are required to make up for lost time. Any and all Bible reading programs are human inventions designed to provide nothing more than a useful guideline. Your salvation does not depend on daily reading but on what the Messiah has done for His people - for you. What is important is that you return to your reading after the situation has returned to normal.

However whether or not you follow a set plan ....


Don't Just Read
One of the most common traps (one I have to make a conscious effort not to fall into) is reading the words without allowing them to sink in - something that many, many false teachers rely on. They quote a particular passage of Scripture that is supposed to provide support for the point they are making. However, their listeners read that verse so superficially that they are convinced that the preachers interpretation is bang on.

Here is one small example.

Many prosperity teachers assert that Jesus was a rich man thus we are also entitled to wealth. John Hagee claims that Jesus must have had a big house considering He took a whole crowd of people home with Him. However, if you actually read the text, John 1:35-39 says only two disciples - Peter's brother Andrew and possibly John Himself followed Jesus home on His invitation. There was no whole crowd. In fact all thir 'Proof texts' are reliant on a shallow and superficial reading of various passages. See Alleged Scriptural Support For The Prosperity Doctrine

Bottom line? It is very very easy to deceive people who do not pay full and complete attention to the text. Every single word in the original Scriptures was carefully chosen.

You simply cannot read the Scriptures as passively as you watch television. You have to ask questions as you read - For example, who wrote this book and when. Who was the book written to and why was it written? What is the overall message and what doctrine or doctrines is it espousing? what warnings does it contain?

Also apply the passage to yourself. Is there something you may need to learn or change? Is there a sin you are being warned about or a responsibility you have neglected? Is there a word of rebuke, comfort or guidance and how are you to respond? The list is a long one. 


Ask The 'W' Questions
These questions are considered basic to information gathering or problem solving especially when it comes to journalism and police investigations.

However, they are also invaluable in Bible study - stopping the reader from skimming over historical passages in the Gospels, the book of Acts and much of the Old Testament and causing him or her to delve much more deeply into what the incident actually conveys. Note that not all the questions can be answered from the passage itself but will need the information provided by the context or surrounding verses. See Context is CRUCIAL.

Even just asking the questions can make us more aware of the details. The 5 W questions are - What? Who? When? Where? Why? (However you could also ask any additional questions you can come up with).

  1. What happened?
  2. Who was involved?
  3. When did it happen?
  4. Where did it happen?
  5. Why did it happen?

Here are a few examples from both Testaments that will need the benefit of context and a little research. Note that not all the W questions are applicable in every case.

1.) Nathanael answered Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel."  (John 1:49 NASB)

In this case you can ask

  1. What did Nathan say?
  2. When did he say it?
  3. Why did he say it?

2.) "So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. (Isaiah 1:15 NASB)

3.) How the faithful city has become a harlot, She who was full of justice! Righteousness once lodged in her, But now murderers.  (Isaiah 1:21 NASB)

  1. Who said this?
  2. When?
  3. Why?

4.) Then the angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight.  (Judges 6:21 NASB)

  1. What happened?
  2. Who was involved?
  3. When did it happen?
  4. Where did it happen?
  5. Why did it happen?


Pay Attention To The Original Languages
Because few of us are proficient in Hebrew or Greek an interlinear Bible can come in very handy. This online New Testament has the Greek inserted between the lines of the text. Above each Greek word is a transliteration which helps with the pronunciation and is also linked to a page that lists the other places where the same word is used - a feature that has often proven itself to be an eye-opener.

Why is this important?

Unfortunately when the translations were done, a pre-existing bias often crept in. That is, the words were translated according to what the translators believed to be true, rather than what was literally said. Two outstanding examples are

    1) The word 'hell' does not exist in the Bible. Three proper names were all rendered hell. This has however been partially corrected in newer versions but far to late to correct people's perception of hell. See What and Where is Hell?

     2) The New Testament never ever uses the pronoun "He" for the Holy Spirit. The Greek word used is ambiguous and can be translated he, she, it etc. It was translated "He" because the translators were already convinced that the Holy Spirit was male. See Is God a Trinity - Part IV


Also Remember that The Bible Is 'Progressive Revelation'.
In other words, as God did not unfold His entire plan to humanity from the very beginning but that His revelation came in stages. Revelation in the Old Testament was accurate but incomplete. However, this is no way means that the Old Testament is somehow less true than the New Testament nor does progressive revelation contradict previous revelations. Progressive revelation...

    is not a movement from error to truth but from truth to truth, the lesser to the greater, the provisional to the permanent, the inadequate to the perfect. [02]

We have to remember that the laws of the Old Testament were given to one tiny nation with its own temple. Once the gospel spread throughout the world many of statutes became impossible to literally keep. However, at the time they were given, they were simply a prelude to what was coming. Most of the Old Testament laws had to be physically kept whereas in the New Testament the principle behind them had to be obeyed - a far more difficult task. Jesus and the author of the book of Hebrews respectively said

    "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18 NASB)

    God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2 NASB)

In other words, the Old and New Testaments both reveal the same Creator and the same plan. See Jesus and The Law


How to Handle Difficult Verses
The one thing you never ever do is to use difficult or unclear passages to interpret ones that are perfectly clear. Always interpret the less comprehensible (even confusing) ones by those that are unambiguous - never the other way around! A vague verse in Leviticus cannot be used to supersede a clear statement made in the New Testament.

Something the cults do with unfailingly regularity is to choose a difficult passage and build their a unique doctrines upon it without ever considering the broader sweep of biblical teaching.

For example, in his book The Power Of Positive Confession, Fred Price's entire premise seems to be founded on one verse in Proverbs that says "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit" (18:21). The problem is that verse is so obscure that no one can be sure what it really means. There is no context to help because Proverbs 18 consists of a number of disconnected bits of advice or wisdom.


Study Helps
Computer software has changed the way we can study the Word of God. For example, the downloadable program E-Sword has the choice of several Bible versions, commentaries, dictionaries etc. You can easily search the Bible, create your own "parallel Bible", write study notes and download Maps and Charts.

You can also refer to Strong's numbers - an index of every word in the original languages. These numbers allow the user to not only look up the meaning of the word, but to compare how the same word is used elsewhere in the Bible - something I have found to be invaluable. For example, Fred Price once wrote

"The Greek word for confession is homologeo, and it means "to agree with" or "say the same thing that God says about you and or your circumstances."

The problem is that if you look up Homologeo you will find that this Greek word is used six times in the New Testament, but never in terms of agreeing with what God says about you. In every single case it is a statement or avowal of belief in a certain doctrine or creed.

However, a Word of Caution... E-Sword has several Bible versions av - the Living Bible and The Message for example, that I would not touch with a barge pole. Neither of these are accurate translations but thought for thought paraphrases, heavily influenced by the authors own ideas. [In his book... The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren has used a number of questionable Bible versions. See chapters Two and  Four for examples. 

Commentaries
There is a place for commentaries.

However, a word of caution. Just because someone has written a commentary does NOT mean they are to be completely trusted on all or even any points of theology. There is no question that I regularly read what various commentators have to say however, commentaries are written by men and when you read them you are simply reading what another person said about the text. Some of the supposedly greatest minds mishandled, misused and twisted Scripture. Classic Examples include Origen, Augustine and  Calvin among many others.

 But there is no question that one can learn a great deal from other people if you judge everything they say or write by the Scriptures. For example, if one ignores their Calvinistic bent some of the writers of Bible.org have brought up aspects I never thought of.  I have even stumbled across gems in the most unlikely of places.

Some of the older commentators can be challenging to read. In fact, if Matthew Henry doesn't actually put me to sleep, my eyes begin to glaze over in the first few minutes. The problem is that at the time Henry lived, people tended to use 86 words when 8 would have done very well. His contemporaries might have been used to that style of writing - I certainly am not.

However, I never let a commentator dictate to what the text means, and I never ever take anyone's word for anything but will check and re-check what they have to say. This often includes the Hebrew and Greek words used in the text. Those who refuse to depart from their own denomination's guidelines, allow their judgment be clouded by personal doctrinal presuppositions or preferences, and do not allow Scripture to interpret itself have probably already set foot on the broad and easy path. See The Four Most Dangerous Mistakes Any Christian Can Make.

Bible Dictionaries
However, throughout your study I would urge you to use a Bible dictionary - an invaluable resource for much background information. For example, when you get to the book of Daniel, a good dictionary will give you an overview of the book, tell you who Daniel was, the circumstances under which he wrote, and where else the prophet is mentioned in the Scriptures. While reading Daniel you could also look up the city of 'Babylon,' the kings 'Nebuchadnezzar', 'Cyrus', 'Belshazzar' etc. In the New Testament, you could look up the cities of Corinth or Ephesus. The list is endless.

Concordances
A concordance is an alphabetical index of all the principal words in a literary work. You can for example buy a concordance of the works of Shakespeare. An index and a concordance are similar however a concordance only lists specific words, while an index can deal both with specific words and with general subjects and concepts. The point of a concordance is to discover the range of meaning a particular word might have. It is very wise to consider all the passages dealing with any particular topic. For example, the word of Faith teachers will always refer back to the same 'faith verses', completely ignoring everything else the Bible has to say on the topic. 

There are numerous concordances available however, whichever one you choose has to correspond with the Bible translation you use. If you read the King James you wont find many of their words in an NASB concordance. If you read the NASB, you could try the the Strongest NASB Exhaustive Concordance.

Note: Most good study Bibles have a reference column that lists other passages which use the same words, phrases or express the same thoughts as found in the verse you are studying.


Meditating On God's Word
Finally, meditating on the portion read is a vital but much neglected practice.

The Free Dictionary defines meditate as

     To engage in focused thought on scriptural passages or on particular doctrines or mysteries of a religion

     To engage in devotional contemplation, especially prayer.

     To think or reflect, especially in a calm and deliberate manner.

The problem is that devotional contemplation doesn't fit in very easily into the western culture that is more focused on doing/action than on calm reflection.

Equally unfortunate is the fact that what little knowledge we have about meditation comes from cultures that value and use meditation, but in a very different way from Biblical meditation. For example, Transcendental Meditation or TM involves the emptying of the mind of all thoughts - often by repeating a "mantra" or Hindu invocation. Buddhism is also known to promote meditation in which the person separates themselves from their thoughts and feelings in order to become fully aware. As the old precept goes - Nature abhors a vacuum. Thus the mind that is empty is an open invitation for something to occupy it. And that 'something' can be a demonic spirit.

In contrast, when Christians meditate upon the Word of God, it means prayerfully focus our undivided attention on the words we are reading.  We analyze, think about, reflect on and even feel what the passage says.

And there is one other aspect to Christian meditation. Joshua 1:8 says

    "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate (Heb. hgh) on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 

    The word translated 'meditate' in the above verse can mean to ponder but can also mean to speak, study, talk, utter as seen in the following verses

    And my tongue shall declare (Heb. hgh) Your righteousness And Your praise all day long. (Psalms 35:28 NASB)

    They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat. (Psalms 115:7 NASB)

    For your hands are defiled with blood And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken falsehood, Your tongue mutters wickedness. (Isaiah 59:3 NASB)

In fact, meditation in the Psalms seems to be often connected with vocalization and audible sounds - words, voice, crying, prayer, and hearing.

    Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my groaning (Heb. hgyg). Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. (Psalms 5:1-3 NASB)

Even if one's meditation is a silent pondering of God, His ways, statutes and law, an inner reflection can be accompanied by words to articulate what one is thinking and feeling and offered as praise or a prayer.

Also See Contemplative Prayer
 Although not meant to replace other kinds of prayer, the basic idea behind Contemplative Prayer is to curtail one's imagination/thought process and totally center one's mind on God - not by conscious thought, but by simply feeling God within. Unfortunately, in this world of 'warm fuzzies' people are obsessed with how they feel. Thus they assume that if they feel the presence of God, He must be there. The problem is Contemplative Prayer is not only unsupported by Scripture, but the methods used by 'Christian' mystics to achieve a "higher realm of consciousness", and the experience once they do, is exactly the same as Buddhist meditators, Hindus, New Agers, Shamans, Witches etc. However, since it is certain that, regardless of personal belief, something does transpire during mystical experiences, the question that springs to mind is what can explain this phenomena. Let us not forget that evil spirits have been practicing the art of deception for thousands of years, and willingly give whatever experiences they know people will fall for.

[01] Geoffrey Thomas. Searching the Scriptures. http://www.biblebb.com/files/rtb.htm

[02] Alec Motyer. What Is Progressive Revelation? https://www.crossway.org/articles/what-is-progressive-revelation/


Part III - What To Avoid Like The Plague

Never Ever Read a Bible Verse
The numbers in front of the sentences in the Bible tend to give one the impression that each of them stand alone.  THIS IS NOT THE CASE. The numbers were not in the originals but added LONG after the Bible was written - inserted to make it easier to locate a particular verse. (Try finding a particular statement Jesus or anyone else made without knowing the chapter and verse number). Unfortunately both chapter and verse divisions were often put into the most inappropriate (even ridiculous) places separating material that should never have been separated.

In other words, every single word in the Bible is part of a sentence; every sentence is part of a paragraph; every paragraph is part of a book; and every book is part of the whole of Scripture. Thus, with the possible exception of a few independent verses in books like Proverbs and Ecclesiastics etc. there are few if any Scriptural verses that do not have both an immediate and broader context.

The Biblical authors did not simply string together a number of lofty sounding phrases disconnected from one another. Much to the contrary each verse is an integral part of a particular point each one was trying to make. Thus no one should read, much less base their beliefs on stand alone verses. Since virtually all individual verses in the Bible can only be fully understood and assessed as part of the surrounding verses which form the setting or the big picture, you should ignore verse numbers and read at least several paragraphs, if not the whole chapter through... perhaps more than once. This will almost always result in the discovery of a very clear theme and a distinct message, which will illuminate, or even throw a different light on the particular verse you are concerned with.

In other words the verse may not mean exactly what you had previously been lead to believe, or thought it meant.

Anyone who does any less than this is not interested in the truth.

But, since this method takes much more time, study, and effort, most believers are content with allowing a verse to be wrested from it's context, and used to convey whatever meaning the speaker/author wishes it to convey. After all why would anyone start an in-depth study of the Word of God, when a 10 minute "sound bite" makes it so easy. Unfortunately, this has contributed to numerous believers being led off the narrow path. For more details see Context is CRUCIAL - part three of The Four Most Dangerous Mistakes Any Christian Can Make.

Avoid Mere Head Knowledge.
The Jews of Jesus' day were not strangers to the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact many of them committed large sections of the Torah to memory - a practice that (as I understand it) the rabbis advocated.

They certainly were well aware of the fact that a Messiah was coming all things to them. As the woman at the well told Jesus

    The woman *said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." (John 4:25 NASB)

Jesus Himself told the Jews

    "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;  (John 5:39 NASB)

Yet, for all their knowledge few of them realized that the Scriptures they had so much familiarity with testified about Jesus. (John 5:39)

And we can fall in a very similar trap - reading and learning many things about the Scriptures but failing to respond to that knowledge. The study of God's Word is not an end in itself but has to lead us to alter our ways and bring our lives into harmony with the will of God. Reading the Bible has to cause us to come to the Christ of the Bible. We have to read it as a story not only for us, but about us. As Tozer once wrote

No man is better for knowing that God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. The devil knows that, and so did Ahab and Judas Iscariot. No man is better for knowing that God so loved the world of men that he gave his only begotten Son to die for their redemption. In hell there are millions that know that. Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action. [See Salvation on THIS Page]

Also See Why The Fire Hasnt Fallen
We need revival because too many of the Lord's children are starving while sitting with their feet under His table. On the whole, most churches boast activities galore - various conferences, committee meetings, Bible studies, evangelism teams, women's circles, men's breakfasts, choir practice, coffee mornings, softball leagues, picnics, yard sales, Christmas pageants. The list is endless. Is it any wonder that amid all our own hustle and bustle, we haven't heard a sound from heaven for a very long time.

See Holiness
The Bible says without Holiness no man will see God (Hebrews 12:14). Yet, There is little or no emphasis on sin in the modern church. It lies breathing its last, buried below mega star preachers, flamboyant preaching, worship teams that could find work in many Broadway productions, large "crusades", exciting "revivals", one manmade creative program after the other. Glitz and glamour that Hollywood could be proud of.

Rabbi-Back

 Bible Study Guidelines - Part I

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