If you have a regular “quiet time” or if you enjoy studying the Bible, how do you read it? Do you simply read a few verses from where it falls open? Do you read it book for book? Do you read it chronologically? Do you always read either something from the New Testament or the Psalms? Maybe you don’t read it at all but prefer a daily devotional that contains perhaps a few verses from Scripture.
The way we read our Bibles is of the utmost importance and affects the way we interpret and apply it to our lives. It can have dangerous consequences when we read or study it in the wrong way or to prove a point or opinion that we have. For example, the Apartheid regime was supported by Afrikaner churches because it seemingly concurred with verses in the Bible. The Devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness with verses from the Bible taken out of context. When we try to make the Bible mean something that it doesn’t, we commit a serious sin to God and try to twist the authority of His Word so that we are in control of it.
Even though the Bible was written by human authors, it was inspired and “breathed out” by God (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV). It is Holy as He is Holy – not the actual book or paper or print, but the meaning of it. When we read it, we ought to be in awe and fear. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). The creator of the universe is speaking. We should almost be trembling like the Israelites did in front of the fiery Mountain of the Lord in Exodus 19. When is the last time you were in awe of God’s Word?
God’s Word is also alive. “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV). This is serious stuff.
The Bible is like a very honest mirror that shows us our weaknesses and most hidden sins, but instead we like to treat it like a selfie, covering the bits that we don’t like with filters and stickers. We cannot believe some parts of the Bible, but decide to ignore others. Deuteronomy 4:2 says “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.”
One of the first steps we can take to understand the Bible better is to look at what the meaning of it would have been for it’s first audience. Let’s say we are reading one of the New Testament letters. Ask the following questions: Who was the author? In what circumstances did the author find himself? To whom was the letter written originally? In what circumstances did the first readers live? Try to do this with the current book you are reading in your Bible Study.