Throughout the summer we have been looking at the subject of having a relationship with God. If you have been reading these posts, I hope you have been freshly inspired to a relationship with God, which actually is the purpose of our lives and the reason we were created.
We have spent some time on the subject of prayer, last week exploring the idea of reading our bibles as a way to find out what God wants to say to us, hence deepening His relationship with us.
The bible is a very big book and large parts of it can be difficult to understand. I wonder if you have ever started reading from the beginning and by the time you have reached the book of Leviticus, really started to struggle? There are a number of hurdles we can face, along with mistakes we can make while approaching and reading the bible. Allow me to address some of these mistakes here:
1. Reading the Bible without prayer.
The bible is a spiritual book, so it is a mistake to read it like any other book. We need the Holy Spirit’s help to properly understand it, and to accurately apply it. Therefore praying for God’s help and understanding is vital and a good habit to get into both before we read, enabling us to hear God speak to us, and after we have finished reading, to help us apply His truth to our lives.
2. Getting tripped up by the things we don’t understand.
While we’re reading the Bible, it is very common to come across passages or verses that we simply don’t understand. The best thing to do is to read the whole passage through and try to get the gist of what is being said. If you are still struggling, have a look through a good commentary or ask a friend. I would avoid ‘googling’, especially initially as there are some really whacky ideas on the internet. Get your small group leader or someone you trust in the church to point you in the right direction.
We must remember that the bible was written a very long time ago and we need to understand the historical and cultural context.
3. Don’t read too fast.
You shouldn’t read the bible quickly, as you would a novel. However, some parts you can, for example when a story is being told. Other parts need to be read slowly. I have known people spend weeks on just a couple of verses. If you combine your reading with prayer (as mentioned in point 1 above) you will be amazed at what God will reveal to you, sometimes through passages you’ve read many times before.
4. Applying Old Testament laws personally.
The bible is a book where God’s plans have been given greater clarity over time and so we need to be aware of which laws are still relevant now and which have been superseded, for example, the 10 commandments are still very much relevant to today. However, many of the dietary laws, such as not eating pork, have been done away with. We are now in a new covenant. As in point number 2, if you are unsure, ask someone you trust in your church or read a good commentary.
5. Reading the Bible out of context.
This has been a huge problem throughout church history. The problem arises when people approach the bible with their own agenda. A classic example is the Jehovah’s witnesses who seem unable to come to terms with the fact that God is one and yet three distinct persons, thereby re-interpreting parts to fit what they want the bible to say. It is important that we take time to read the context and the historical setting of every book of the bible before we actually begin, in order to have an understanding of who the book was written to, when it was written, and what the surrounding context of the writing of that book was. This will go a long way to understanding what is actually being said. There will always be minor disagreements when we are not quite sure what the writer meant, but if we take the passage in the context of other passages (as long as they don’t disagree) we should be ok.
And finally . . .
6. Reading the Bible without taking it personally.
Sometimes I can read the bible in the same way I do other non-fiction books – in order to gain information. But if I start with the first point of praying before and after I read, I will be much more likely to discern what God is telling me right now. The bible describes the word of God as living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). If I come to it knowing that God’s desire is to communicate with me through it, I will be a lot more likely to take it personally.
I believe that if we take into consideration the above points we will experience far greater depths of revelation and insight as we delve into the delights that our Father is waiting to share with us through His word. Enjoy!