“God is speaking through what He has spoken.
Read the Bible and hear the clear and present voice of God today.”
Over the last two posts, I have shared the first two installments of my 11 Tips for Better Bible Reading.
This post I want to conclude. I hope that these have energized you with some fresh ideas for your own time with God.
As a recap, here’s the first six tips.
1. Pray before you read.
2. Read your Bible out loud.
3. Stop reading Bible verses. Start reading Bible paragraphs.
4. Read the same book/section every day for 30 days.
5. Consider what is happening before and after the passage.
6. Bombard the text with questions.
Here are my final suggestions…
7. Look for verbs, “weighty” words, and repeated ideas in the text.
William Zinsser, in his famous book On Writing Well, said,
“[Verbs] are what push the sentence forward and give it momentum.”
Verbs wake you up, take you out, shake you good, and make you think. Specifically for reading the Bible, if you want to find out what God did for His people, look at the verbs. If you want to know what God’s people did for Him, look at the verbs. If you want to see what you are supposed to do, look at the verbs.
Verbs will hurl you into the realm of doing. Whether the verb is pray, give, serve, or confess – note it and obey it.
In addition, look for, what I call, “weighty words.” These are words like: justification, wisdom, knowledge, propitiation, and sinlessness. These words carry big ideas that you will need to understand. Grab a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia (or click over to one here, here, or here) and find out what these words mean. The same is true for people and places.
Also, look for repeated ideas. There are no accidents or coincidences in Scripture. If something’s repeated, it’s repeated for a reason. Have you ever noticed that the Bible begins, in Genesis 2, with a garden, a tree and a river; and it ends, in Revelation 22, with the exact same things? The paradise that Adam lost will, one day, be restored by Jesus.
“Truly, truly” if you see anything repeated, make note. It’s key.
8. Ask yourself, “How is Jesus the hero of this passage?”
The whole Bible, from beginning to end, is about Jesus. He told us so in Luke 24:27. It could be called the ultimate “Him book.” Every story in Scripture whispers the name of Jesus. Whether you are in the Psalms, Minor Prophets, or Epistles, you should always be asking yourself, “How does this point to Jesus?” In some way it does.
Some stories foreshadow Him, like Isaac being sacrificed by his father or like Noah’s ark providing the one and only place of protection against God’s judgment. Some stories are a contrast of Him, like all of the sinful kings of the Old Testament. There are also predictions, character traits, hints, and parallels that speak of Him in different ways. Always read the Bible with Jesus in mind.
9. Journal your insights for the day.
This one is simple, but helpful: write as you read. Jot down your thoughts. Scribble out your prayers. Interact with the text on a piece of paper. Buy a notebook to use for recording your daily insights. Fill it with your questions and thoughts.
If you don’t know where to start, try this; answer the questions: 1) What is the passage saying? (Summarize it) and 2) What should I do as a result? (Apply it). Also, ask yourself, “What does this passage reveal about God?”. Apart from the Bible we would know very little about God from creation and conscience. The Bible is God’s autobiography. Find out what He’s like from Scripture and write it down. You’ll remember it longer and feel more productive as you read.
10. Read the Bible devotionally, inductively, and leisurely.
A few years ago I was stuck in bed sick. I remember lying there, bored to tears. Even though I had already had my “devotions” for the day, I picked up my Bible and began reading it casually. I started in Genesis 1:1. I was in bed for two full days and read all the way through the book of Numbers. It was fascinating to read this much of the Bible at one sitting. I had discovered the lost art and joy of reading the Bible leisurely. Before TV, movies, and newspapers, this is how the people of God spent their leisure time. It would not hurt us to do it again.
Don’t forget, the Bible is not a step-by-step “instruction manual” or a textbook. It is a story. Learn to read it like one. There are even a few versions for sale that leave out the chapter and verse numbers for more fluid reading. Find one and try it. In between your romance novels, history books, or “who done it?” mysteries, read Ruth. Read 1 Samuel. Read Genesis. Read Revelation like you would any old book. As you read it, don’t even look for a sermon or a lesson. Just read it and discover the story of God.
11. After you read it, go and live it.
Even though you may leave your Bible on your bedside table, be sure to take God’s Word with you. If you read a Psalm that says, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good!” then walk around all day looking for His goodness. Find reasons to give thanks to God. As you do, whisper a word of praise for all the blessings that you see.
Take the passage that you read and live it out that very day. Weave the passage into your prayers. Make it part of your conversation. Compare it with what you see on the nightly news. Meditate on it day and night.
As I said before, if you follow these simple tips you’ll not only be able to, well, read your Bible but more importantly, you will be able to read your Bible well.