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Hints for Reading the Bible

by N. A. Woychuk (1915-2009)

Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it. Some people seem to think that all is done if they breeze through so many chapters each day, though they may not have much idea what they are all about, and only that they have moved their Bible marker so many pages. This is turning Bible reading into a mere formality. It reminds one of the poor Hottentot who literally ate up an entire hymn book, because he saw how it comforted his neighbor's heart. As an adult, settle it down in your mind as a general principle, that a Bible not understood, is a Bible that does no good. Say to yourself often as you read, "What is this all about?" Dig for the meaning like a man digging for gold. Read attentively, and do not give up the work in a hurry.

Read the Bible with deep reverence. Say to yourself, whenever you open the Bible, "O my soul, you are going to read a message from God." Avoid, as you would cursing, that irreverent habit of mind which the liberal critics have unhappily taken up about the Bible. They handle the contents of the holy book as carelessly and disrespectfully as if the writers were such men as themselves. They make one think of a child composing a book to expose the fancied ignorance of his own father—or of a pardoned criminal criticizing the handwriting and style of his own reprieve. Enter rather into the spirit of Moses on Mount Horeb: "Put thy shoes from off thy feet; the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."

Read the Bible with earnest prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Here is the rock on which many make shipwreck at the very outset. They do not ask for wisdom and instruction, and so they find the Bible dull, and carry nothing away from it. Pray for the Spirit to "guide you into all truth" (Jn. 16:13). Ask the Lord Jesus Christ to open your understanding as He did that of His disciples. The Lord God, by whose inspiration the Book was written, keeps the keys of the Book, and He alone can enable you to understand it profitably. Nine times over in Psalm 119 David prays, "Teach me." Five times in the same Psalm he says, "Give me understanding." Well does John Owen say. "There is a sacred light in the Word: but there is a covering and a veil on the eyes of men, so that they cannot behold it aright. Now, the removal of the veil is the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit."

Humble prayer will throw more light on your Bible reading than all the commentaries written. The Bible is the library of the Holy Spirit. He guided and directed the men who wrote it. Therefore, the Spirit is the master key to real understanding of the Scriptures. We learn spiritual truth not by arguments of reason and the deductions of logic alone, but by the intuitive grasp of faith under the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Remember this, and pray always, "O God, for Christ's sake, give me the teaching of the Holy Spirit."

"The Spirit comes like light and heat.
  To warm our hearts and guide our feet;
To bless the Word like gentle dew,
  And with His grace our hearts renew."

Read the Bible with child-like faith and humility. Open your heart as you open the Book, and say, as did Samuel when but a child, "Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth" (1 Sam. 3:9). Resolve to receive heartily every statement of truth, whether you like it or not. Beware of that miserable habit of mind into which some readers of the Bible fall. They receive some teachings, because they like them. They reject others, because they seem to condemn them. In this way the Bible is useless. Are we to be judges of what ought to be in the Word? Do we know better than God? Settle it down in your mind that you will receive all, and believe all, and that what you cannot understand you will take by faith, and perhaps at a later time God will give you fuller understanding. Remember when you pray, you are speaking to God, and God hears you. But remember also, when you read the Book, God is speaking to you, and you are not to answer back, but to listen.

Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth;
  Speak just now
Some message to meet my need
  Which Thou only dost know:
Speak now through Thy holy Word,
  And make me see
Some wonderful truth Thou hast
  To show to me.

Read the Bible in a spirit of self-application. Sit down to study the Word daily, with the determination that you will live by its teaching. Consider as you travel through each chapter, "How does this affect my condition and course of conduct'? What does this teach me?" It is unprofitable to read the Bible for mere curiosity and speculative purposes, in order to fill your head with opinions, while you do not allow the Book to influence your heart and life. "Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only" (James 1:22). That Bible is read best which is practiced most!

Read the Bible daily. Make it a part of every day's business to read and to meditate on a portion of God's Word. This means of grace is just as needful every day for our souls, as food and clothing for our bodies. Yesterday's bread will not feed the laborer tomorrow. Do as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Gather your "manna" fresh every morning. Choose your seasons and hours. Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. Do not "gallop" through the Scriptures. Give your Bible the best and not the worst part of your day. Whatever plan you follow, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and the holy Book every day.

Read the Bible fairly and honestly. Determine to take everything in its plain, obvious meaning, and regard all forced interpretations with great suspicion. Well did Hooker say, "I take it as a most infallible rule in the exposition of Scripture, that when a literal construction will stand, the furthest from the literal is commonly the worst." As a general rule, whatever a passage of the Bible seems to mean, it does mean. Do not take one verse of Scripture and go to seed on it. Compare Scripture with Scripture. Do not allow an obscure text to take you against the plain teaching of the Scriptures as a whole.

Read all the Bible, and read it in an orderly way. There are many parts of the Word which some people never read at all. This is not good. All Scripture is profitable. Some people's Bible reading is a system of perpetual dipping and picking. They find it hard to go through the whole Book regularly. No doubt in time of distress and adversity, it is desirable to search out the seasonable portions which meet the need of the emergency. But with this exception, it is by far the best plan to begin reading the Old Testament and the New Testament at the same time, and read each straight through to the end and then begin again. Some find it good to read the Old Testament in the morning and the New in the evening, or vice versa.

Read the Bible with Christ continually in view. "Lo,...in the volume of this Book it is written of Me," Christ said prophetically (Psa. 40:7; Heb. 10:7). The grand primary object of all Scripture is to testify concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament judges and deliverers are types of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ's sufferings, and of Christ's glory yet to come. The first advent and the second—the Lord's humiliation and the Lord's triumph, the cross and the crown, shine forth everywhere in the Bible. As all the roads in England lead to London, so all the Scriptures point to Christ. Keep fast hold on this clue as you read and meditate on the revelation from God.

"We trace His image on each page,
  In holy letters lined with light,
Redeemer, Prophet, Priest and Sage—
  Who finds His presence, reads aright."

Here are a few hints to guide you in your Bible reading. No book of evidence as to the infallibility of the Scriptures can be compared with that internal evidence which one obtains, who daily meditates on the Word in the right way. Such a person does not need the books of learned men to convince him that the Bible comes from God and that it speaks for God. He has the witness in himself. He has the ever increasing conviction that the Bible, from cover to cover, is the Word of the living God. The Book satisfies and feeds his soul. A poor Christian woman once said to an infidel, "I am no scholar, I cannot argue like you. But I know honey is honey, because it leaves a sweet taste in my mouth, and I know the Bible to be God's Word, because of the taste it leaves in my heart."

Copied with permission of Scripture Memory Fellowship, P.O. Box 568, Hannibal, MO 63401.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

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