Learning to Study the Word of God

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January 10, 2020

Ezra 7:10 (NIV)

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

CONSIDER THIS

We read God’s Word. We ruminate on God’s Word. We rememberize God’s Word. Today we come to the fourth formative, Spirit empowered way of engaging God’s Word: Study. The R word is Research.

The Bible is a complex book. In fact it is sixty-six books. It was written on three different continents, in three different languages, by forty different authors and over the period of some fifteen hundred years. Still, miracle of miracles, the Bible reveals a single, unifying, underlying, and overarching story. As has been said, the waters of Scripture are shallow enough for a baby to play in and yet deep enough for an elephant to drown. The Bible is  the most significant and important book in the history of the world and is easily the best selling book of all time.

What could be more worthy of our investment than a lifelong study of the Word of God? It seems like a slam dunk. Sadly, it is not.

Johann Bengel, acclaimed eighteenth century New Testament scholar, aptly wrote, “Apply the whole of yourself to the whole of the text and the whole of the text to the whole of yourself.” I would like to suggest that our involvement with Scripture does not begin with study. It begins with the kind of engagement identified so far. I see these practices of reading (hearing), rumination, rememberization, and research as sequential. They describe, for me, a practical agenda for applying the whole of ourselves to the whole of the text. Listening and hearing the text, meditating and ruminating on it in our heart, and slow loading it into our mind for long term memory feels like an embodied application of our whole selves to the Word of God.

So why not begin with studying God’s Word? I like to think I am inviting the text to speak on its own terms to me. I want to hear the text in its native voice of revelation before I seek to mine it for its information. Scholars may disagree with me on this point and they may be right. I am not offering hard and fast rules here but speaking from my sense of wisdom. This influences my choice of the term research over study. In my experience, study tends to be what I do when I want to master a body of knowledge. I do not mean this in any negative sense. I do not view the Bible as a knowledge text but as a wisdom text. I read the Bible in order to search for and grasp the wisdom of God. As I am living with a text, the Spirit will spark my curiosity which prompts me to re-search the text. Often I want to search out the context. I want to search out the meaning of original Greek or Hebrew words using online tools. I want to understand where else in Scripture these words are used. I want to understand what saints and scholars have written about particular texts over the centuries. In doing this, it is critical to recognize and appreciate that we stand on the shoulders of giants. Were it not for faithful scholars digging deep wells into the biblical text for centuries none of this would be possible. All of this helps in the task of applying the whole of myself to the whole of the text.

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

This is a good word about Ezra. Study it. Do it. And only then might we dare to stand and teach it.

First Word. Last Word. God’s Word.

THE PRAYER

Our Father in Heaven, thank you for your Word, which endures forever. Increase my appetite to search your Word and then to re-search it. Awaken my longing to drink deeply from the deep wells of the biblical text. Train me in searching more for wisdom than knowlege; that I may not seek to master the text but to be mastered by the God of the text. Show me what it looks like to apply the whole of myself to the whole of the text and the whole of the text to the whole of myself. All of this for my good and your glory. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 

THE QUESTION

Are you motivated to research the Word of God in new and deeper ways? What might that look like going forward for you? What is a practical step you can take? Where is your curiosity leading you? Start there. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

P.S. For the last 8 years we at Seedbed have been pioneering and perfecting some of the best Bible study resources in the Kingdom of God. Check them out here.

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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