How To Read Your Bible*
Here is a list of ways that I read my Bible. I’ve written them as a list of Do’s and Don’ts, but please don’t confuse that with the rules of interpreting your Bible. That would be hermeneutics, and hermeneutics is not different for different people. Even though I have them listed as do’s and don’ts, it would probably be better stated as: “I suggest that you…”, and “I suggest that you not…”.
Make it a goal to read your entire Bible. Once you have read it, make it a goal to read it again in time.
Ask God to reveal Himself to you before you read.
Pick a book, any book. Try to grasp the book as a whole. Ask yourself what is the overarching message or theme of the book, or what is the central message that God is telling His people? Is there a theme?
Once you’ve gotten a better feel for that book, consider it in the context of the rest of the Bible. How does it fit? How does it complement the Bible in its entirety?
Divide your time between the Old and New Testaments by perhaps alternating between OT and NT books. You will note that Jesus, in the Gospels, and also the Apostles, referred to the Old Testament often, and so should you. Keep in mind, as you are reading the New Testament that it was written to people who did not have a “New Testament” Bible to study.
Read the Bible in the same way that you would take a leisurely drive down a country road, with lots of time to kill. When you see an interesting looking barn, feel free to pull over and admire it and/or study it, or whatever. Camp out there for a while even. Take some pictures. Try to draw pictures of it when you get home. In the same way, as you are reading your Bibles, feel free to stop when you see something that grabs your attention. Ask your Father in heaven questions about it. Read it over a few times to get the jest of it in your mind so you can continue to meditate on it during the day, or days, ahead. Study its context, both locally and globally; that is to say, consider how it fits in the rest of the book, and how it fits in the rest of the Bible? Dig deep. God may very well be teaching you. Keep it in mind as you continue to read.
Try to have a good quality Bible that you will keep for many years. Prefer, if you can, to read from that Bible. While you may not remember the exact address of that “old barn”, you may remember that it was, say, on the top right side of the left hand page. This will make it easier for you to find the places that you have stopped to “take another look”.
Make marks in your Bible if you want to. Write notes to yourself, and cross references.
Memorize, memorize, memorize, word for word, verses, chapters, even books, as much as you possibly can.
Learn your Bible brick by brick. If you look at a brick wall it would seem silly to note that the top layer of bricks would not be up there if the bottom layer of bricks were not down there holding them up. The same can be said about things you learn while reading your Bible. Some things that you might have “driven right past without notice” before may be brought to your attention later. It might well be that that passage you read without noticing, or without understanding yesterday, will help you to understand the one you have in your hand today. Isaiah had this to say about such things:
Whom will he teach knowledge?
And whom will he make to understand the message?
Those just weaned from milk?
Those just drawn from the breasts?
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little.”
Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought. Sometimes it may be that you feel that you have discovered something in your Bible that no one else has ever discovered. Be very careful!! This book has been poured over by great minds for 2000 years. In that 2000 years there have been countless heresies and cults, both on large and small scales, that were started with a “new revelation”. What we learn should be very similar to what others throughout the 2000 year history of the church have learned. God is directing and superintending His Son’s bride, and He is big enough for the task. His bride is the goal. The Word is for her washing, so you, my children, be washed by the water of His word.
Don’t read your Bible in search of proof texts. That is not reading your Bible. That is forging for ammo. The world is at war with God. Many of the world’s warriors go by the name “Christian” in these doctrine starved days. You may find yourself looking for particular scriptures to defend the faith against such, but that is not “Bible reading”. Be careful!
Don’t judge God as you read, but rather let His words judge you. Don’t skip over passages that bother you. In fact, I would suggest spending some time and prayer on those passages in particular. However, if you have to, feel free to set such passages aside for a time. Perhaps they are bricks meant for a higher place on the wall than the layer being laid now. I, for many years, hated Romans 9. I had to pretend that it was not in my Bible for a time because it made me question the goodness of God. Yet, one day I realized that I am a mere sinful man who was judging my creator according to my own standards, which are corrupt. In time I have grown to love that passage.
Don’t feel as if you must fit your Bible reading plan into a wooden structure. If it helps, then by all means do. The goal is to get God’s Word into your heart and mind. It must be your foundation. It must be the lense through which you see and interpret your world and experiences.
Don’t build on the sand. Spend a few minutes in reflection before you read. Consider the bigness of God. Can Jehovah speak a billion universes into existence? Can he ensure that the words you are reading have come to you, not by the hand of man, but by His loving providence? Is he subject to what man thinks he knows? Is He big enough to send a delusion?
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess 2:9-12)
Don’t think yourself stronger than God, and so strong in fact that you will outwit him should He decide that you are one of the ones who will receive His delusion. Pray instead that your Father in Heaven will have mercy on you. Pray that often. Be humble before your God!
I pray, dear children, that God would have mercy on you, as I pray that he would have mercy on me also. I even now am praying that He would have mercy on your wife and husband should he give you the days to marry. I pray that he would have mercy on your children, and your children’s children, and I pray that He would give you the wisdom to pray likewise.