Sometimes when we're reading the bible, it can be a little confusing, overwhelming and complicated! So today I want to give you a tool that helps to break down a passage and understand it for yourself, if you're an email subscriber you'll have been given the free downloadable template to help you out.
But here's the core steps;
First question is; What to read? We don't want to randomly open the bible each day and pick and choose what we read, so try to work through the bible systematically. Pick one book and go through it roughly chapter by chapter. If you want a guide, my subscription boxes will be going through the whole bible one book a month.
So now you've settled on a book of the bible to start on, Pray. This is the most important part of the whole exercise. If we don't ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance and for Him to reveal God to us, we may as well read a novel.
Read your section for the day, don't read so much that you don't have time to work out what God is saying to you, but also don't read so little that there's no context to the words you've chosen. Here's a quick guide:
Narrative Books: books like Genesis, Exodus, 1 Kings etc are written in a storytelling manner. It's good to get the sweep of the big picture so try and read a "scene" ignoring the chapter breaks
Letters: Letters like Galatians, Ephesians, Romans etc are written specifically to churches with detail, so make sure you look our for connectives and "therefore's" to work out where the content takes a shift.
Law: Leviticus, Deuteronomy etc fall between narrative and letters really, again bigger sweeps are better to read these in. Be cautious with application, it's really important to look at how Jesus tackles these laws and how His work on the cross changes them.
Prophets: The books of the prophets like Isaiah and Haggai fit into the narrative stories, so look out for kings, key characters and events to gain the context of the people they were speaking to. Try and follow the structure with similar tools of reading "Letters"
Gospels: These are accounts of Jesus life and follow a very similar structure to narrative books, look for scene changes and always try and get back to where Jesus started the conversation to see who He is speaking to.
Poetry: Books like Psalms and Songs of Solomon are written in poetic styles, so remember there is lots of imagery used and metaphors. Make sure you look at all the pictures in a poem to understand them properly and get the right point from it.
Context is massively important, otherwise we will lose the point of the Word. Who is this book written to? What is going on in the immediate passages before and after? What point in the bible timeline are God's people in?
Salvation History: This is where in God's big story of rescuing His people is it. Where between Genesis 3 rebellion and Revelation 21 new creation does the text sit? Where are God's people in relationship to the promises to Abraham, Exile from God's Kingdom. Don't forget that text from before Jesus sacrifice will have a different application to those after. Use tools like bible gateway and study bibles to help with this kind of thing.
Point for the immediate reader: This will be different to us in most cases because, for example, we are not living in the wilderness, wandering around the desert for 40 years. So use your "Context" and your "Salvation History" tools to make sure you get it right.
Does it change because of Jesus? A lot of the Old Testament laws and practices look different to us now because Jesus is our sacrifice, so we don't need washing rituals and animal sacrifices etc. Check out what Jesus said on these issues using bible gateway or footnotes in a study bible.
Application to today: Now we've done a lot of the leg work we can see how this plays out for us today, what does Jesus say about it? How does this contrast to society? How does this apply to my church? How does this change things? And lot more questions!
Action Points: This is to think about what you're going to do from this, how is your life going to change because of what God has said to you? How will this affect your relationships? Ask yourself uncomfortable questions too. It's really helpful to have someone that you can share your action points with to keep you on track.
Pray it in. We know that we cannot do God's will by our own strength, ensure that you are asking God for help for this, immediately after reading but also throughout the day. It can be helpful to make notes of your action points and pray into them again just before you go to bed.
I hope this has been helpful, keep an eye on the social media channels as I'll be sharing more ideas and useful tools throughout the week.