| posted 9/27/2011
Bible study requires a pen, a notebook, and maybe a highlighter. But unfortunately we can bring some other supplies to our study that may actually prohibit us from learning all we can. Here are three office supplies that you'll want to leave behind when you sit down to study the Bible.
I find a section of the Bible that seems uninteresting or difficult and mentally glue the pages together so I can skip over them to get to the "good parts."
Not long ago, I found one section of my Bible that I'd mentally glued shut—the Minor Prophets. Maybe you've heard of them: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. They live in between the Major Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel and the New Testament. I never read them because I didn't understand them. To me they were short yet cryptic.
In never attempting to understand those books, I was missing out on major pieces and themes of the biblical story. Instead of passing onto easier, more familiar passages, why not attempt to study those places you haven't ventured to study before? Study Bibles have excellent summaries, notes, and guides for reading, and a book like How to Read the Bible Book by Book can help you understand the context of what you're studying.
When it comes to scissors and the Bible, the danger is twofold. First, we risk proof-texting. That means we read the verse apart from its context and potentially extract a meaning that's not really there. We build our theology, what we believe about God, based on a few verses instead of a larger story.
For example, Jeremiah 29:11 may be the perfect verse to cut out and paste on a graduation card: "For I know the plans I have for you,' says the LORD. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'" We can miss out on the richness of this verse when we don't read it in its context. It's actually part of a letter from God to his people who were living in exile. He was telling them to get comfortable in Babylon because they'd be there a while, but he wanted them to have faith and trust that he had a plan for them and would eventually bring them back to their homeland. In its context, that verse has a new depth, and we learn more about the sovereign care of God in difficult times.
Recently I discovered Hebrews 11:39-40: "All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us." If you're familiar with Hebrews 11, you know that the writer is talking about all of the people mentioned in the previous verses. Somehow, in the numerous times I've read Hebrews, I never really paid attention to those verses. It was like I'd taken a permanent marker and drawn right through them.
I mentally wanted to jump right over to Hebrews 12:1 and the grand, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge cloud of witnesses …" that I never slowed down enough to consider every verse leading up to it. When I finally read and tried to understand those two verses at the end of Hebrews 11, my comprehension of Hebrews 12:1 went to a new level because those verses helped me see the communal aspect of our faith.