Theme: How to Study the Bible
In this week’s lessons, we see that obedience, Bible study, and prayer lead to true freedom.
Scripture: Psalm 119:153-168
If trusting God involves obeying God’s Word, as it certainly does, then there can be no real discipleship apart from Bible study. Indeed, study of the Bible cannot even be an occasional, minor or “vacation time” pursuit. It must be the consuming passion of a believer’s life. This is because it is only by the study of the Word of God that we learn what it is to obey God and follow Jesus. If you want to know God as he speaks to you through the Bible, you should do the following:
1. Study the Bible daily. We can study the Bible more than once each day, of course. The psalmist has already spoken of rising early for his devotional time and of meditating on God’s Word through the watches of the night. In the shin stanza he speaks of praising God “seven times a day,” presumably in the context of serious Bible study.1 But when he says that, the psalmist probably means only that he worshiped God continuously. What is important is that we discipline our lives to include regular periods of Bible study, just as we discipline ourselves to have regular periods for sleep, eating our meals, and so on. In fact, the comparison with regular meals is a good one, for these are necessary if the body is to be healthy and if good work is to be done. On occasion we may miss a meal, but normally we should not. In the same way, we must feed regularly on God’s Word if we are to become and remain spiritually strong.
What happens if we neglect regular Bible reading? We grow indifferent to God and lax in spiritual things. We throw ourselves open to temptation and the sin that easily follows.
2. Study the Bible systematically. Some people read the Bible at random, dipping here or there. This may be characteristic of the way they do most things in life, but it is a mistake in Bible study. It leads to a lack of proportion and depth that is often characteristic of American Christians. A far better system is a regular, disciplined study of certain books of the Bible as a whole. The psalmist did this. The proof is the great variety of terms he uses for the Scriptures. As he saw it, the Bible embraces the law, statutes, ways, precepts, decrees, commands, words, and promises of God. He did not want to neglect even one of them.
3. Study the Bible comprehensively. Alongside the study of one book or section of the Bible, there should be an attempt to become acquainted with the Bible as a whole. This means reading it comprehensively. True, many parts of the Bible will not appeal to us at first. This is natural. But if we never make an attempt to become acquainted with them, we limit our growth and may even warp our understanding. Paul told Timothy. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Jesus will speak to you and tell you what to do, not only in the red-ink portions of those Bibles that indicate Jesus’ own words in that fashion, but in many portions of Scripture.
1The monks used this verse as the basis for their observance of the seven hours for their prayer times. Chapter 16 of the Rule of St. Benedict reads, “This hallowed number of seven is fulfilled by us in this way: We perform the duties of our service at Matins, Prime, Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespers and Compline, because it was about these daily hours that he said, “Seven times a day I have given praise to thee” (footnote in Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 2, First Lectures on the Psalms: II, Psalms 76-126, ed. Hilton C. Oswald (Saint Louis: Concordia, 1976), p. 525). Luther himself believed that the psalmist prophesied the canonical hours.
Why must Bible study be a consuming passion?
What is the reason for daily, systematic and comprehensive Bible study? Why is this the better way to study God’s Word?
Reflection: What are your Bible study habits? Are they daily? Systematic? Comprehensive?
Application: Set out to read the Bible through, from beginning to end, by reading a few chapters regularly.
Key Point: …it is only by the study of the Word of God that we learn what it is to obey God and follow Jesus.