There are two main ways to read the Bible. One way is to read for knowledge. We must know about God and God’s ways to truly know God. The other way is to read the Scriptures for inspiration and spiritual encounter. This type of reading takes us beyond the simple knowledge of God into communion with God. This is where we grow in love with God. Both ways are necessary to the life of the Christian. They are interdependent processes which build upon one another.
Furthermore, when we read the Bible so that we can know what it actually says, we must follow a process of discovering meaning. We cannot apply the Scriptures (our ultimate goal) without knowing what they really say. So many people think they already know what the Bible says and rush to application without ever grasping the true meaning. Observation comes first. In this step we take note of the who, what, when, and where of the passage. We can then move on to the question of “Why?” in the second step of interpretation. From there, we can look at the particular passage we are studying in the context of the overall story of Scripture. Does our interpretation fit with the overall message of Scripture? If not, then perhaps we need to go back to the first two steps and do further study. Then – and only then – can we begin to distill the meaning of the passage and begin to understand what the Scriptures are actually saying. This will allow us to apply Scripture wisely, responsibly, and faithfully to our live and to the world in general.
The Sacred Reading included with each Word and Spirit Guide helps us to engage Scripture in a devotional manner, in which we can hear the message of Scripture spoken into us by the Holy Spirit. The questions we consider in this process is different than the ones we examine in the knowledge process. Here we are concerned with what words and phrases stand out to us. What about the Scripture grabs our attention? Where do we hear the voice of God in the Scripture? If knowing Scripture is more head-oriented and action-oriented, than this process of engaging Scripture is more heart-oriented and spirit-oriented. This is a relational reading of Scripture.
Even though we read Scripture, ultimately we must allow Scripture to read us. Scripture will reveal our true selves, in order to bring us into places of healing, wholeness, and holiness. We must become vulnerable in the presence of Scripture – yet always trusting that Scripture will not abuse that open vulnerability. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). This is not to harm us, but to bring us to God. The writer follows this up with an invitation: “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
These questions are designed to help make sense of the message of Scripture. They can be used every week with our focus passage. They are not designed to overwhelm, but to enlighten. Do not feel as if you need to answer all – or even most – of these questions every week. Perhaps pick one or two that will help you explore the Scripture and its message more deeply.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passage teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…