Learning to study the Bible in a non-intimidating, helpful way

Last year I went to a seminar on Homiletics. I had little understanding of this approach to studying the Bible so I wanted to learn more. For anyone who desires to go deeper in mining God’s Word but feels stuck, this might be a good template to follow. I’ve relaxed mine to help me because one of the main goals from studying the Scriptures is that I want to understand what I’m reading. What’s the point if you don’t understand? You couldn’t apply the principles if the verses read like gibberish or nice but lofty poetry, right?

Since attending the seminar I have really enjoyed working through Acts, Ephesians, and Romans using a structured style to personal study. I don’t say that to show off at all but to hopefully encourage you that this is doable and the Bible doesn’t have to be intimidating or confusing.

When I’m going through a text I first try to read through it and find a good breaking point. Sometimes it will be after a few verses or a little over a chapter. It depends on the text. Currently I am in Isaiah 40:1-14. My goal is to cover the entire chapter eventually, but start small so I don’t feel overwhelmed.

Before you begin you will need:

-a Bible (translations recommended: ESV or NIV)

-pen and a journal

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With these verses first I read through it, then write down observations/facts about the section. I noted that there are 5 transitions in this passage:

  1. 1-2: Jerusalem as a woman and a people, declared forgiven for their sins twice over
  2. 3-5 :Prophecy of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus’ coming
  3. 6-8 :Life is fleeting like grass and flowers but God’s Word is forever firm and secure
  4. 9-11 :Zion, Jerusalem, towns of Judah proclaim the Sovereign Lord and Messiah; imagery of Jesus as a Shepherd for His people
  5. 12-14 :Describes God’s limitless power and knowledge using images of water, hands, heavens, dust, basket, earth, mountains, hills, etc.

-Comprehensively declaring the glory of God, His awesome power and deity as Lord and Creator of all

 

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The next portion is to write down questions I have while reading the text, my own thoughts/discoveries as the Holy Spirit teaches, and simplify what the verses are saying as best as possible. This is called the “Takeaway”. Here are a few examples:

>>What kind of comfort does God provide?

*freedom from bondage to sin

– “speak tenderly” –> like a loving Father to His daughter

-Prophecy fulfilled: He ordains John the Baptist to proclaim His message, breaking 400 years of silence without a prophet and prepares the hearts of the people

*keyword: will –> God can and does

  • World changing event in history of mankind with the coming of Christ; since then, the name of Jesus has spread all over the world like never before

-the glory we seek for ourselves is futile and is not remembered after a few generations, if that; even great laborers for the Lord are forgotten here on earth by the majority -> but God sees and knows all

Recompense (definition)- Reward or compensation given for loss or harm suffered

  • Jesus is our Reward; He is the Recompense, the payment for my sin

-The Lord’s Name should strike us with reverential fear & awe, as well as gladden our hearts like nothing else this passing world has to offer.

-You can take nothing with you in death except your faith in the Lord God.

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This part is where you ask: How is Jesus in this passage?

 If the entire Bible points to Him, and every story whispers His Name, then we need to know what that means, especially in the Old Testament. So as I read the text again, I’m looking for ways this is true. How does it reference Christ?

Jesus is the comfort the Lord refers to; He is the One Who paid for our sins, giving us life and freedom.

  • Jesus is the oasis in the spiritual desert
  • Jesus is eternal and the Word of life; He endures through all time
  • Jesus submits to the Father’s will, confident in His rich wisdom
  • Jesus learns to trust and obey the Father because He knows God’s character: nothing the Lord does is arbitrary or without purpose

 

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lightstock_353593_download_medium_april_box_Finally, we have application to the text. I read the section again, this time with a mindset of how I can apply this wisdom to daily life. Here are a few examples:

-Be a voice in this desert. The world is sinking on the shifting sand they stand on.

– Walk with humility, knowing there is a beginning and an end to my life. What I do in between matters; It should keep my mortality in check.

>>How do I use my time? Do I waste a lot of it or use it well?

>> How can I invest in others?

– Do not fear what man thinks of me, but be concerned with how God sees me

>>Are there times I am more concerned with my reputation and disregard God?

-Fear the Lord in reverence because He is perfectly wise, sovereign, merciful and good.

 

 I know this is a little long but I hope it helps. And I’m still learning how to best approach studying the Bible so you might alter this a bit to fit your way of learning and how much time you have each day. It generally takes a couple of days to do all of this. I might do Observations one morning, then the Takeaway section the next day. Breaking it up like this makes studying easier.

However you decide to study God’s Word, let me encourage you to:

  • simplify it into your own sentences so you understand
  • break the verses down as much as you need to so you aren’t overwhelmed (chapter by chapter; passage by passage; a few verses at a time)
  • ask God for wisdom to help you understand
  • be teachable; don’t come to any text assuming you know all there is to know about it. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and be your Teacher.

 

We need Christians to dig for themselves in our culture. Be a lifelong student of the Bible. See the truth with your own eyes and you will be blessed. You can do this!

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

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