Reading the Bible is one of the greatest joys and privileges in life, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. I am by no means an expert, but I do think I have some helpful tips on where to start if you’re new to reading the Bible, or if you’ve been stuck in a reading rut. I hope these tips and tricks will help you connect with God more through His Word.
When reading the Bible, we need to look at the details, as well as taking the time to look at the bigger picture and broader context. These tips will help you do both, from the big picture to small details.
Keep Context in Mind
The Bible is an ancient text made up of 66 books written over a 1000 year period. When reading the Bible, it is important to remember that we, as modern-day Christians, are not the original audience for the books. With this in mind, it can be helpful to look at the historical background of the text you are reading to gain an understanding of the greater context. For example, looking at the historical background of the first churches that Paul wrote letters to helps us better understand the message of the letters. We can ask questions like: ‘what was Corinth like at this time? Why did Paul need to give this specific advice to the Corinthians?’.
Ask Questions of the text
Sometimes when we read the Bible, we get to the end of the passage and realise we have no idea what just happened in the story or we just have no idea what it meant (at least I know I do this!). Here are a few simple questions to get you started: ‘What does this show me about God?’, ‘What does this show me about humanity?’, ‘What does this show me about me?’. Once you get used to asking these questions it will become second nature to ask these questions and others, too. Asking questions is a great way to get more out of the text than you would if you were just reading it.
Go Deeper with One Verse
Taking one verse or a short passage and unpacking all the goodness that it holds is one of my favourite things to do when I study the Word. One way I do this is by choosing a verse and writing it out in the middle of a blank page. I then take a different colour pen, underline/highlight certain words or phrases and annotate the text with your own thoughts, or put it in your own words. For example, if I were to do this with Psalm 23:1, I could take the first phrase ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ and write, ‘The Lord is my comforter and protector’. By expanding the text in this way, I am gaining a much fuller understanding of what it means for the Lord to be my shepherd. This technique works well with the psalms, as well as with Jesus’ teachings and the New Testament letters.
Don't be afraid to keep studing the same passage for multiple days, or even weeks. The Word is alive and active, there's always more to draw out of the text. I've found that sometimes the richest revelations don't come until I've studied the same passage for a while. Texts such as the Psalms are known as 'Jewish Meditation Literature'; the original intent of these passages was for the reader to take it in and meditate on it over a period of time. We are so used to reading and rushing through the Word that sometimes we miss important things that we would get if we just slowed down.
Finally, Use Online Resources
All this can seem overwhelming, but there are so many Bible resources online that can help with your Bible reading in different ways. Here are a few of my favourites:
- The Bible Project – a great resource for exploring Biblical themes and concepts in easy to follow videos with awesome graphics and simple language. Check them out on their website or YouTube.
- Bible Gateway – this website is great for searching for those verses that you can’t quite remember or looking through all verses relating to one keyword. It is also good for comparing verses in different translations.
- Blue Letter Bible – I love using this resource to look up specific words and phrases in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. This gives much greater insight into what the author originally meant when writing the text; sometimes our English words cannot capture the depth of what the original language meant.
These small steps are a great start, but what if you want to go even deeper into the Bible? Here at YWAM Furnace we run a Bible School for the Nations (BSN). This is a great school where you will study the whole Bible chronologically while learning how to teach the Word, too.