Tag Archives: Bible Study

Are you reading your Bible all wrong? (Part 2 of 2)

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Last week, I posed the question, “Are you reading your Bible all wrong?” We looked at two main approaches to studying the Bible: eisegesis (inserting your beliefs into the text) and exegesis (drawing understanding out of the text).

This week, let’s look at other ways we tend to approach the Word:

1. Pray and Flip – We pray for an answer to a question or dilemma, and we flip open our Bibles hoping to find the exact answer we need. If we don’t see it immediately, we flip to another page, and another, until we feel we’ve settled on a passage that gives us clarity.

Issue: While this method does involve prayer and the Bible, it leaves little room for God to actually speak to you and give you guidance as He sees fit. In fact, it can be quite manipulating if you approach it with the wrong spirit, so use this method with care.

2. Pick and Choose – We read our favorite books and passages over and over again. Usually, these involve Psalms, Proverbs, and parts of the Gospels—sections where we reaffirm God’s power and love for us.

Issue: Those warm-and-fuzzy Scriptures are literally a God-send! They’re God’s love letters to us. However, if you read those exclusively and avoid parts of the Bible you find challenging, it can limit your understanding of God and how you fit into His Kingdom. This approach can also lead to a skewed theology because you miss the history and context of the passages.

3. Stand Alone – We focus on a passage we’re drawn to but fail to read the whole chapter or book.

Issue: If God draws your attention to a specific passage, that’s great! However, don’t stop there. Be sure you understand the passage thoroughly by reading the entire chapter, and then the book. Otherwise, you can miss the meaning God’s trying to share with you.

4. Skim Along – We read the text, but we skim over the challenging parts or unknown words.

Issue: Skimming can be a great way to get a high-level view of a passage, especially if you’re reading it for the first time. However, you should then go back and read the text again so you can catch the context and nuances of the parts that seemed more challenging. If you don’t, you can easily miss—or misunderstand—the richer meaning of the passage.

5. Devoted to Devotions – We read a short devotion every morning, and let it set the tone for the day.

Issue: While devotions are a great way to get your mind focused on God, they are not a substitute for reading the Bible. Don’t rely on someone else to condense a passage and provide an application for you; study God’s Word first hand and let Him speak to you directly. You can still add those devotions as great pick-me-ups to your morning routine.

 

So how should you approach God’s Word?

1. Pray before you read.

We can understand God’s Word only because He gives us understanding. (See 2 Timothy 2:7.) Each time you pick up your Bible, pray something like this: “Lord, please give me understanding as I read your Word, and help me to see how to apply it to my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

[Click to Tweet: We can understand God’s Word only because He gives us understanding. Each time you pick up your Bible, ask God to give you understanding and help you to apply it to your life. #bigsisterknows #faithlife #biblestudy] 

2. Pick your Bible version carefully.

There are so many versions of the Bible available today! Are you reading the best version for you?

If you’re new to Bible study, or you find it difficult to read the Bible for any length of time, you may want to get a translation that focuses on readability, such as The Message, The New Living Translation, or the New International Version. Unique formats, such as the Rainbow Bible (which is available in the New International Version or King James Version), can also make it easier to focus on the text. (My sister has ADHD, and she raves about her Rainbow Bible!)

However, if you’re more comfortable with reading the Bible, and you’re interested in deeper study, pick a version that translates the original Hebrew and Greek as closely as possible. My favorite is the New American Standard.

Media types are also important to consider. It’s fine to read your Bible on your mobile device, but be sure to buy a physical Bible in your favorite version because you never know when the power will go out or your phone will die (which is probably when you need your Bible the most). Also, you may want to write notes, underline, or highlight your text, and that’s easier to do—and to see later on—in a physical book.

3. Try to understand the context.

You can’t fully understand a passage if you don’t have a basic understanding of the context. As you read, ask questions like:

  • Who wrote this passage?
  • Who’s speaking?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the meaning of the passage?
  • How do I apply the meaning of the passage to my life today?

If there are unusual words or phrases, use a Concordance or Bible Dictionary to look them up. (You can buy these or use free search engines online.)

Also, avoid skipping around the Bible. Pick a book and read through it. You’ll be amazed at how much more you understand of the context when you immerse yourself in the story.

[Click to Tweet: When you study the Bible, pick a book and read through it. You’ll be amazed at how much more you understand of the context when you immerse yourself in the story. #bigsisterknows #biblestudy #faithlife]

4. Pay attention to the type of literary style being used.

There are many, many different literary styles used throughout the Bible, and each style is used to convey something different. If you’re reading historical excerpts (e.g. passages of Joshua and Matthew), the focus is on accurately relating historical events. You may notice much of the language used is literal, which can come across as dry and to-the-point.

On the other hand, books of poetry (e.g. Psalms and Proverbs) often use figurative language (like similes and metaphors) to express worship or to help the reader memorize the text. However, these may gloss over important events while focusing on the impact or meaning behind them.

Whatever passage you’re reading, try to understand the types of literary styles being used. This will help you draw meaning from the text and apply it to your life. (For more on this, check out the Literary Study Bible.)

5. Remember God’s Word is infallible…but man’s word is not.

As you read through God’s Word, remember that it is perfect and suitable for teaching and correction. (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17.) But dictionaries, commentaries, and notes in the margin of your Bible…these are all compiled by people, and people can make mistakes. If you read something that doesn’t seem to align with God’s Word, set it aside and focus on what the Bible says.

 

Time to Dig In!

This week, I challenge you to avoid flipping, skipping, picking and choosing, and just dig into a book you’re unfamiliar with. Take notes if you need to. Grab a Concordance if you have to. But dig in. You’ll never regret the time you spend in the Word and in the presence of God.

“Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16 NAS).

Do you have Bible study tips to share with our readers? We want to hear from you! Leave you tips in the comments below. Thanks!


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Are you reading your Bible all wrong? (Part 1 of 2)

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Are you stuck, spiritually speaking? Do you have a hard time understanding the Word or seeing how it applies to your life? That may be because you’re reading your Bible all wrong.

In this two-part series, I’ll share different ways that we can approach God’s Word. Some of these ways are beneficial, while others are not-so-helpful or even downright wrong.

 

In or Out?

In today’s post, I want to point out one of the biggest no-nos. I’m talking about the way we approach our Bible study, whether it’s using eisegesis or exegesis. Don’t be put off by these Greek words, though! The ideas behind them are quite simple.

  • eisegesis (ahy-si-jee-sis): interpreting a text in such a way that you introduce your own beliefs, presuppositions, agendas, and biases into the text. Referred to as reading into the text.
  • exegesis (ek-si-jee-sis): interpreting a text in a critical way using the text itself to provide explanation, without introducing your own beliefs into the text.

Exegesis is all about drawing out (ex) the true meaning of the Word, while eisegesis involves putting your own understanding into (eis) the Word.

You’re probably wondering who would ever try to insert their own understanding into the Word…and yet we all do it from time to time. Our beliefs and experiences shape our understanding of the world, so it makes sense that they would also affecting our understanding of Scripture. But when those Scriptures fail to line up with what we believe, we find ourselves in crisis.

We can either:

  1. Skim over the text and forget we ever read it
  2. Make excuses for why the text doesn’t align with our beliefs (e.g. it was a different context, it involved a different culture, it doesn’t apply to me or my circumstances)
  3. Change our understanding based on what we read in the Scriptures

Obviously, option three is the appropriate way to go. Still, change can be hard, especially when we’ve grown up believing something different…and it doesn’t even have to be a life-shattering change.

 

A New Understanding of an Old Story

I remember one such instance from Bible college. We were reading about Joseph and his multi-colored coat in one of my classes. Here’s the text in the NAS version:

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic” (Genesis 37:3 NAS).

However, the Hebrew word for “varicolored” really means “flat (of the hands or foot).” This most likely means that the sleeves of Joseph’s coat went all the way to his hands; it was a long-sleeve coat, not a multi-colored coat. And this makes sense because back then, laborers wore shorter-sleeve garments while overseers wore longer sleeves. By giving Joseph a long-sleeve coat, Israel was effectively promoting him over his brothers. No wonder Joseph’s older brothers were mad at him!

This short Bible study provides greater clarity into this well-known story, but when I first learned the true meaning behind the text, it upset me a little. I had always been taught that Joseph had a beautiful, multi-colored coat. I’d even heard powerful sermons using the multi-colored coat as imagery for the various talents within the Church Body.

But the truth is the truth. And God’s (real) Truth is always better than our (make-believe) truth.

 

The Lessons of Truth

“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 NAS).

It’s not easy to change our beliefs or see things in a different way, but we must approach God’s Word with a willingness to do just that. We have to humble our hearts, accepting any reproof or correction we receive from the Word, which is our training for righteousness. If we don’t, then we eventually turn away from God’s Truth, make our own religion, and go our own way. No wonder we end up feeling spiritually stuck!

This week, I encourage you to humble yourself as you read your Bible. If you come across a Scripture that differs from what you’ve believed, ask the Lord to help you understand what it means and how to apply it to your life today. If you have to change your way of thinking, then do it. You’ll never regret aligning your life—and your beliefs—with God’s Truth.


Have you ever had to change a long-held belief because you learned it didn’t line up with God’s Word? Was it a struggle for you? How do you feel about it now? I’d love to hear from you! Just leave a comment below.

[Click to Tweet: True Bible study involves changing our beliefs to match what we read in the Word…not changing the Word to match our beliefs.]

 

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Hosanna!

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I always enjoy singing “Hosanna” at church. You’ve probably heard this beautiful song performed by the group Hillsong. Here’s an excerpt:

I see a near revival Stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees We’re on our knees

Hosanna Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest.**

When I sing this, the word Hosanna seems to encapsulate all the praise and adoration I can muster for the God who lives in the highest of Heaven.

While the word Hosanna sounds super-spiritual, I doubt many of us know what it means. That’s because Hosanna is a “transliteration.” Instead of translating it from the original Hebrew, we simply sound it out as it was originally spoken.

So what does Hosanna really mean? Are we even using it correctly?

The Meaning

It turns out, that’s a tricky question.

The word Hosanna is actually a combination of two Hebrew words: yasha (to deliver) and annah (Ah, now! I/we beseech you!). (See Strong’s 3467 and 0577.)

Both of those Hebrew words are used in Psalm 118:25-26:

“O LORD, do save [yasha], we beseech You [anna]; O LORD, we beseech You [anna], do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD” (Psalm 118:25-26 NAS).

The writer of this Psalm was begging God for salvation and prosperity. But what happens when we combine these two words into “Hosanna”?

Palm Sunday

The only time we find Hosanna in the Bible is during Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday. (See Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12.) As Jesus rode into town on a young donkey, a large crowd met Him with great fanfare. As a sign of honor and subservience, they placed palm fronds and their own coats in the road. Then they began to shout:

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9b-10 NAS).

Sound familiar? It seems the Jews were quoting Psalm 118 on Palm Sunday. They cleverly captured the essence of verse 25 by combining the key words into three syllables: “Hosanna!” They tweaked verse 26 a bit, but we can identify the parallel language and imagery here in Mark 11.

In the Highest

The part that seems to throw people is found in Mark 11: 10: “Hosanna in the highest!”

If Hosanna means something like “deliver us,” should this sentence say “Deliver us in the highest”? That doesn’t sound right.

Perhaps that’s why the New Living Translation translates every instance of Hosanna as “Praise God.” I give them points for attempting to translate this word, but “Praise God” doesn’t seem to fit what we know about the original Hebrew words.

On the other hand, the Complete Jewish Bible translates every instance of Hosanna as “Deliver us!” or—for even more emphasis— “Please! Deliver us!” That certainly carries the weight of the original words yasha and annah.

A Plea for Deliverance

If the original usage of the word Hosanna was to plead for deliverance, does that mean that every person who shouted to Jesus, “Hosanna!” had the same idea of deliverance in mind? We know from the Bible that’s not the case.

While Jesus intended to bring spiritual salvation to all mankind, many of the Jews were looking for more earth-bound salvation—from Roman rule. Jesus wanted to be their God-King; they wanted an earthly king.

Some may have had a more personal deliverance in mind, such as physical and emotional healing. Still others may have understand Jesus enough to ask for spiritual deliverance, leading to salvation.

Today’s Crowd

I think it’s safe to say that no one in that crowd understand Jesus’ full mission—and He knew that. He could read the thoughts and hearts of every person there…and yet He did not rebuke them.

That gives me hope. When I find myself in the crowd, and I don’t understand God’s Word or His Will—or even the words I sing at church—I know He will be as patient and merciful with me as He was to the Jews back then.

So, in the scheme of things, it’s okay if we don’t know what the word Hosanna means or if we happen to use it in a way it was never intended. The Bible’s message of salvation doesn’t change, whether we use “Hosanna,” or translate it as “Praise God” or “Deliver me.” What is important is that we seek God.

As you prepare for Easter this year, I encourage you to seek Him anew. Run out to meet Him on the road of life! Throw down everything you have at His feet because He alone is worthy. Declare out loud that He is your King and Deliverer. Be brave and unashamed in your worship.

Rejoice that Jesus has come…and He is returning soon!

Hosanna!

** Read the lyrics on Hillsong’s website.