In our “Why we should read” series, as the name of the series suggests, we explored the reasons why we ought to read the Bible. Bible reading is how we love God with our heart, soul and mind. But if you’ve read that, and are convinced that you should read the Bible, you’re probably asking the next logical question: “How?”
The problem while reading: fears and troubles
Most of us tend to one of two categories. Some of us will immediately turn to Bible plans and tools and point to these and say this is how we read the Bible and make sense of it. Others will say that we’ll just read, and somehow the Spirit will work to help us make sense. We’ve all tried to start reading the Bible at the start of the year as part of our New Year’s Resolution. Genesis and Exodus are pretty interesting books but by the time March comes around, we get stuck in Leviticus, and barely make it to Numbers, much less the rest of the Bible. We’ve also heard of people extolling tools and plans, but sometimes that too, is overwhelming.
And we’re still stuck at square one: “How do we read?”
The principle of reading: obedient dependence on God
This is a false dichotomy, and in reality, we need both. We need to read our Bibles in obedient dependence on God. God works in us as we read. We need to be taught and led in the ways of the truth (Ps 25:4-5). We also need to walk in the law, keep the testimonies of God and seek Him wholeheartedly (Ps 119:1-2). In the Old Testament, the people of God were commanded to hear the words of given through Moses, and to teach them to their children (Deut 6:4-7). Jesus Himself taught His disciples to interpret Scripture right after His resurrection (Luke 24:27). As God’s people and followers of Christ, we need to be taught how to read our Bibles, and are told to teach others to do the same.
But at the same time, there is a supernatural work that only God can do as His Word is being read. Heb 4:12-13 reminds us that God’s word is living and active. It pierces and discerns our thoughts and the intentions of our heart, and no one can hide from God. Only God’s Word can revive the soul, make wise the simple, rejoice the heart and enlighten the eyes (Ps 19:7-8).
As we read in obedient dependence, we are simultaneously excited and humbled. We’re excited because there are so many gems hidden in this book waiting for us to uncover. But we’re also humbled because God is also at work and helping us to uncover these treasures. Like a young child in the sandbox, we dig, but under the watchful eyes and even with help from a parent.
The goal of reading: looking ahead
In the weeks ahead, we’ll take a look at some practical tools that we can use, but more importantly, we’ll also consider some general principles that will serve as useful keys to help us unlock the text. We’ll get down into the nitty-gritty, and focus some of the things we can bear in mind when we actually open the Bible.
The Bible’s storyline: How to read passages of the Bible in light of the larger context and to see how it fits in the bigger picture.
Finding Christ in the Old Testament: How we can see the recurring image of Christ throughout the Bible.
Praying through the Psalms: How the Psalms can shape and inform our prayers
Reading difficult passages in the Bible: How do we understand passages that are tricky
Obeying: What practical steps can we take to obey and put into action the things that we learn
These were first given as talks at our first ever Fellowship Weekend conducted in January 2016. It might come as a surprise to you that these were also given by young people who have not had any formal Bible training. These were people that had someone teach them to read the Bible, and gradually learned to do so themselves. We hope that as we work through the nuts and bolts of Bible reading in the weeks ahead, we can all learn to be better Bible readers and teachers of the Word.