Last year, Rhett and I went to the Grand Canyon and viewed it from the rim. We could look over the edge, see the mark it made in the earth, and get a sense of its size but that wide view was it. We didn’t get up close and personal and we couldn’t quite grasp the scope of the canyon from the top. from that little taste, I knew I wanted more.
This year, we hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. We started on the North Kaibab trail, and hiked down into Phantom Ranch. We camped at the bottom, and then hiked up the Bright Angel trail to the south rim. We saw several of the creeks that fed into the Colorado river, and dipped our feet in them. We came within a few feet of a deer that was grazing. We saw lizards, a snake, and so many different types of bugs. The trees were gorgeous, and their ability to thrive in a desert ecosystem was awe-inspiring.
If we had settled for visiting the rim, yes, we could say that we had been to the Grand Canyon. However, because I have had the incredible experience of hiking it, I have seen the Grand Canyon in a deeper, more revealing way. I know it more intimately.
I think this same thing can happen with us as we read and study the Bible.
Reading the Bible is like visiting the Grand Canyon from the top. You might see a little bit of it, and you might get some of the highlights, but you won’t get to the really good stuff. You won’t get to know the depths of it, or see themes that run through from beginning to end that tell of the glory of God. You might get glimpses, but won’t get the whole picture.
Studying the Bible is like hiking the Canyon. You spend time in it, get to know what it is like. Feel the words speaking to you about who God is as He reveals Himself to you.
For much of my life, I feel I have been satisfied with far too little. Reading the Bible, and reading other people’s thoughts on the Bible might have been okay for a time, but I am at the point now where I want to know it for myself. I want to hear directly from God about who He is, and I don’t want anything less than that to quench my thirst for Him.
5 Tips for Studying the Bible
1. Pay attention to the text.
Do you consider yourself observant? What color shirt was each member of your family wearing when they left the house today? Or what about the mileage on your car when you drove it last?
Small details are easy to miss, but when we are studying the Bible, it is imperative to pay attention to all of the small details. Those details help complete the picture as we study.
2. Think critically.
You can always follow a template and ask the same questions of every passage you approach, but if you think critically, and investigate different aspects of the specific passage you are reading, you will come away with a greater understanding. As you approach the Scriptures, pay attention to what it is saying, and then start to process what that means, and how it happened, and why. Exploring different questions based on the passage helps to understand the passage more clearly.
3. Stop trying to reach perfect study.
I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. I feel like I can’t miss anything, and maybe even that I need to know everything. But that is just not true! I will never be perfect, and neither will anyone else. So instead of reaching for perfection in our study, we need to switch to simply reaching for God. Michael S. Heiser, author of Brief Insights on Mastering Bible Study says, “Good but imperfect Bible study is better than no Bible study. God doesn’t expect perfection in our study of Scripture. He expects perseverance.” Persevere in your study of the Word, and God will help you to fill in the gaps.
4. Look it up.
Don’t be afraid to look something up, even if you think you already know what it means. It could be a word, or a city, or even a process they may go through in Jewish culture. I have learned so much more, and understood things in such a deeper way, simply by making a habit of looking things up.
5. Take it slow.
This is not a contest to see who finishes first, but instead it is a drawing of our hearts closer to God’s. This is not a race. Really take your time to dig in, and dig deep with the Scriptures so that they take root in your life. If our goal is to truly be transformed by the Word, that is not going to happen overnight - instead, it is a slow steeping of ourselves in the Bible. This is what I want for my life, and it is my desire for you too!
As I approach Scripture, I try to keep these things in mind. Bible study is a long game - not an overnight thing. It is not as glamorous as fancy teachers and social media make it out to be, but knowing God intimately though His Word is better than one could ever dream.