Bible Study: How Should We Interpret the Bible?
Written by Jenn Arman | January 16, 2013
There’s something to be said for individualizing the Bible–that’s taking what we read and listening for what God is speaking to each of us individually through His word. I believe God bring things to mind that we’re personally dealing with when we read the Bible. Here’s an example:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners (Isaiah 61:1).
There is a lot of information in this Scripture! It talks about being anointed to do God’s work, bringing the good news to those who need it, helping to heal broken hearts and proclaiming freedom to people in bondage. Now, if I read this verse while I’m feeling useless to do God’s work, then God might have me focus on the portion about God’s spirit anointing me–but that might not really minister to someone who doesn’t have the same feelings of uselessness.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Each of us should be able to use the whole Word of God for these purposes.
As this verse says, all Scripture is inspired by God; if we believe that, then it’s important for us to read the Bible with this question always in mind: What did God intend for all people to understand when He inspired this verse, chapter or book? Keeping that one question in mind can really help deepen our understanding of God’s Word. Here are a few other tips to help:
- Look for words or phrases that repeat. A great example of this is James 2. In the second chapter of James, the word “faith” is mentioned 12 times, more than 10 actions (works) are described and the word “works” is mentioned 12 times. It’s safe to say God intended that particular chapter to teach us that faith and works go together and that when one of them is missing, it cripples our Christian life.
- Do a little research. I know this isn’t what people want to hear, especially when we already do so much research for school assignments, but do just a little background research on the specific book of the Bible you’re reading. What were people in the Bible dealing with at that time? Are their circumstances similar to things you’re dealing with right now? Most Bibles have book introductions that give some of this information and it can help you identify with the people in that book, deepen your understanding and apply the same principles to your own life.
This is especially helpful when it seems like the Bible doesn’t say anything about your present circumstances. For example, do you feel like it’s hard to hear God’s voice? God might lead you to a passage of the Bible about Israel dealing with idols and you might think, “But I don’t have a golden calf or a statue of Baal, God. What does this have to do with my situation?” What about your cell phone? How often do you check it? Are you ever without your phone? God might be saying that the reason you’re having a hard time hearing Him is because you’re so anxious to hear from everyone else, making your phone like an idol.
- Use your imagination. God created our imaginations, so use yours! After you’ve done a little research or even without doing the research, try to really imagine what it would have been like to experience what people in the Bible were experiencing. How would you feel? What would worry you? What would excite you? One of my favorite books to apply this to is Exodus. What were the Israelites thinking as Moses led them through the desert for 40 years? Did they enjoy eating Manna every day? Did they worry about running out of water?
I hope these tips help the Bible come alive for you and deepen your understanding of God’s amazing Word.
Ladies, do you have any special tips you use to understand the Bible better? Share them with us in the comments!
How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103).