We believe that people possess the capabilities to comprehend and understand the message of the Bible through a careful and prayerful reading of God’s Word. Today, there are many tools and techniques available to assist you in making your Bible reading understandable, enjoyable and profitable. Like a tradesperson’s toolbox, this article and subsequent articles, will briefly describe some of the tools and techniques you can use to help you with your Bible reading.
A Library of books
It is important to understand that the Bible is not just one book – it is one volume, but contains 66 separate books written by many different authors. At the front of your Bible you will find a list of these 66 books to assist you in locating them. Realizing that some books and chapters of the Bible are chronological and some are not is very helpful.
How do all these books and stories fit together? You can build on your knowledge quickly if you read your Bible regularly. In fact, the Bible itself tells us that it is important to become very familiar with its messages and lessons and to continually think on them. Consider what the Apostle Paul says to the young man Timothy:
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15, ESV).
Begin at the beginning
As with any book, one should begin reading at the beginning. In fact, the name of the first book of the Bible is Genesis, which means “origin or beginning.” The Bible is structured in such a way that information unfolds as the reader continues to read from the beginning to the end. This means that one cannot speed-read the Bible and expect to gain a good understanding of its message. It also means that one can spend a lifetime reading the Bible and constantly learn from it. Consider how God had the Bible written over a long period of time by many different people:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2, ESV).
Just as the first book of the Bible is the “book of beginnings,” so the last book, Revelation, is the book of disclosure. A foundation is laid at the beginning of the Bible in Genesis, with information being revealed as one reads sequentially. The final book of the Bible is the revealing of things that were previously not made known.
Listen for Bible echoes
We all know that an echo is a repetition of sound. A Bible echo is just that: it is a repetition of something we have already read. God uses echoes all through the Bible. He introduces the reader to an event, idea, person, place, concept or teaching, which may be referred to directly or indirectly later on in another part of the Bible.
As you read through your Bible, listen for Bible echoes. When something sounds familiar, ask yourself, “What does this remind me of?” or “Where have I read that before?” Bible echoes can reveal a great deal to us and help us to understand portions of the Scriptures much better than reading the passages as if they were not related to each other. The following is a very powerful example of a Bible echo:
The crucifixion of Jesus is a focal point of the Bible. Matthew records the following regarding Jesus on the cross:
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” (Matthew 27:45-47, ESV).
From an initial reading of this New Testament passage, it would appear that Jesus believed his Father in heaven had forsaken or left him. However, this is actually a Bible echo. Jesus was quoting from Psalm 22 in the Old Testament.
Consider the words of King David written about 3,000 years before the crucifixion of Jesus:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1, ESV).
When we read through Psalm 22, it would appear that David is speaking of his own personal circumstances. When Jesus quotes Psalm 22 from the cross and applies it to himself, we understand that David, by the inspiration of God, was speaking of the Messiah. Jesus, in turn, uses this Psalm to show that he was in fact the Messiah that the Jewish people were waiting for.
These initial three tools and techniques, can assist you by:
- Realizing that the Bible is a library of 66 books written at different times by different people and yet contains one message as it was inspired by God;
- Beginning at the beginning and reading the Bible as it has been structured helps to unfold its message; and
- Listening for Bible echoes we can see the inspiration of God through various writers and gain a better understanding of the meaning of a passage.