Lamp Unto My Feet - Blog Series
Note From Laura
The Lamp Unto My Feet content is not original to me. Many smart and godly scholars shared this material. After reading through their material and compiling my own notes I wrote this series. I have quoted people and given credit, but want to make sure that it is clear that I did not come up with this idea on my own. My goal with this Blog Series is to point us to a right way to Study God's word to know Him better. -
Now Go In God Knowing He is Enough for You
Distinguish between Devotional Reading and Studying
Devotional reading is not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, it is a very good thing. However, Devotional Reading and Topical Study are not enough.
First let’s define the Devotional/Topical Study. Devotional Reading is taking one verse or one word and focusing on that verse or word for your entire study time. Topical Study is taking one topic and focusing on it, pulling scripture from different books of the bible to teach on that one topic.
Now let’s define Studying the Bible. When I say this, I am talking about a line by line study of scripture. This is taking scripture reading it line by line, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book.
Now that we understand what the difference is of the two let’s talk about why Devotional Reading is not enough. While devotionals are good for us and can help us to grow closer to God, they do not give us a full understanding of what the Bible says or what God intends for us to understand as a whole. Also, while topical study helps us to understand certain topics in the Bible we need to be cautious, because something can be taken out of context in order to make a point in Topical Study.
Line by line study of the scripture helps us to get the full picture of God’s Word. It helps to limit misunderstanding, and keeps the reader and hearer from taking things out of context.
I have seen and heard some things taken out of context in some extreme ways. However, I recently saw one floating around on Facebook that I found hilarious but at the same time heartbreaking.
Someone had created an Instagram Post of this verse:
“I will give it all to you,” he said: (speaking of the kingdoms of the earth), “if you will kneel down and worship me.” Matthew 4:9
The person had posted something along the lines of the following: “How good our God is, if we will just worship Him, He will bless us.” Now while it is true that our God is good and He does bless us. I want to put this verse into context.
Matthew 4:1-11 is the temptation of Jesus. I do not know the person who posted this verse, maybe she remembered it from somewhere, or maybe she did a hunt and peck through the Bible, or looked up they key word worship and saw the verse. However, had she taken a minute or two to read the verses before and after verse nine the entire message would have changed drastically.
“Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” Matthew 4:8-10
Just knowing who said those words changed the meaning of the entire verse. I think we all have heard the statement context is everything and in part 5 we will discuss context, but in this case this is especially true. This verse was never intended for us to read and follow it’s example. As a matter of fact this verse was an attempt by Satan to get Jesus to fail at saving us all. We need to know not only the Words the Bible says, but also what it means.
I want to emphasize again that Devotionals are not bad, we just need more. You do not necessarily have to do devotions, but you do need to study the Word of God. However, if you love devotionals and want to keep doing them great, do both. I know that seems like a lot, but it isn’t. I do devotionals and study line by line.
When I do a devotional, I read the devotional then I take the reference verse or verses and write it down. I then read two or 3 verses before and after that verse so I am understanding the full meaning. I also take notes, I focus on the verse and say what does the verse say? What does it mean? Finally, how can it apply to my life?
For line by line study I take one book of the Bible and I read the whole book over a period of time. I go slowly making sure I understand what I am reading. It may take me more than one day to get through a few verse and that is okay, I take my time, I read slowly and I look up anything I do not know and or understand. It doesn’t matter if it takes me 10 days or 10 minutes to read 10 verses, what matters is that I am reading and I am understanding what I am reading. I challenge you to do the same.
Next time we will talk about who the Bible is about. I will give you a hint, it isn’t about us.
Now Go in God Knowing That He is Enough for You.
Remember Who the Bible is About
LOOK FOR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
I saw a question on Facebook today saying: “Where in the Bible does it say to live for self?” The person who asked the question I know to be a very strong Christian and meant it in a way to say that we are not to live for self, and it was to be an example because the Bible says quite the opposite. As a matter of fact in Galatians 5 it says:
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24
This question and verse bring me to our second topic on How to study the Bible: Who is the bible about? Is it about us and all that God can do for us and give us and show us? The short answer is No.
The long answer: When we apply scripture to our lives we will see how we should live and it will guide us to a right relationship with Jesus. However, the Bible is not about you or me. It is about God.
The conversation about God and who God is starts at the beginning of the Bible, is through every part of the Bible and is even at the end of the Bible.
Let’s look at the beginning:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” Genesis 1:1-2
Who was at the beginning? God. Not man, not Adam, not David, not John the Baptist, not you and not me, God was at the beginning. Whose spirit is it in verse two? The Spirit of God. This has nothing to do with you or me. This is all about God’s nature as the creature of the world. Man isn’t even mentioned until vs 26 and even then, God says “Let us make mankind in our own image.” Even man’s image points to God’s attributes.
Let’s look at the middle of the Bible. Psalm 118 is right in the middle of the Bible. There are exactly 594 chapters before it and 594 chapters after it. Let’s take a brief look at it:
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” Let those who fear the Lord say: “His love endures forever.” When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” Psalm 118:1-9
This verse is not about me. This Psalm was either written by David or someone in a high office of Israel. This Psalm speaks of Israel, it speaks of the house of Aaron, it speaks of the Lord and His unfailing love. Can these verses be applied to our lives? Of course, they can, however, these verses are not about me, America, or my house. I can choose to apply them to my life, because as the verses say, “His love endures forever.” But the writer is the one hard pressed. I mean think about David’s life. He was a shepherd boy. He had killed a lion and bear. He then killed a giant in the name of God and King Saul. Then king Saul chased him because the people loved David better than they loved Saul. Later on, David’s own son tried to kill him and take over his Kingdom.
I know we have all been through things and we can find comfort in these words, but this Psalm is not about us. These words should impress upon us who God is, and his attributes.
Now let's look at John 1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
“Through Him all things were made. Without Him nothing was made that has been made.” Again, this points directly to God, to Jesus, to His attributes as the creator. In Him is life and light. He is the light that shines in the darkness and darkness has not overcome His light. This is about Him. Not about you or about me. This is about Jesus, the one who overcame darkness through His sacrifice. Did He make that sacrifice for us? Yes, however, that does not make the Bible about us. It makes it about His attributes as our creator, savior, our God.
Now let’s look at the end of the Good Book. Let’s take a glance at Revelation.
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” Revelation 22:12-21
These words are from Jesus to all Mankind. Here He is speaking to his attributes as the Groom, the Son of God, the Judge who will take away the share of anyone who does not serve Him. In these words, Jesus instructs His people to avoid the practices of evil such as magic arts, sexual immorality, murder, idolatry, and lying. These words do speak to us, but they again are not about us. They are our guide to how-to live-in order to have the right to the tree of life and to go through the gates, but I want us to see the words used here to describe God.
He says He is coming soon, we have nothing to do with His coming. He calls himself the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Root, the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. What amazing attributes we can see about God here. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet meaning he is the start of all and the end of all, He repeats it three times in three different ways which means it is very important. We need to remember these things about God. Hebrews 12:2 calls Him the “Author and Finisher of our Faith.”
As we read through the Bible what we must remember is that we are not the main character of the Bible, God is. Acts 17: 28 says “In Him we live and move and have our being.” It is all in Him, through Him, and about Him.
This is why I said before that when you read the Bible and study His Word, you look at it first for His Attributes, then His plans, and finally you ask how you can apply those things to your life. In your study move God from the back of the plan to the front. This will transform you, for you will focus on God, not yourself.
Now Go in God Knowing He is Enough for You.
Take a Long Term View
I love how Jen Wilkin explains this:
“Think of Bible study as a savings account rather than a debit card. Rather than viewing it as a declining balance you draw on to fill an immediate need, allow it to have a cumulative effect over weeks, months and years. You may not reach understanding of a passage or be able to apply it well after one day’s exposure to it. That’s OK. Keep making deposits into your account, trusting that in God’s perfect timing, He will illuminate the meaning and usefulness of what you’ve studied, compounding its worth. What if the passage you study today is preparing you for a trial 10 years from now? Study faithfully now, trusting that nothing is wasted, whether your study time resolves neatly in 30 minutes or not.” - Jen Wilkin
It is so easy to read the Bible, not understand something so you just walk away and chalk it up to, oh well, I don’t get it, I guess I just have to be a genius, theological scholar to understand God’s word.
The truth is that if we take a step back, and allow the meaning to sink in, over time the answers will come to light. Many times, I read a passage over and over again and cannot grasp it’s meaning. So I go on to the next few verses, or even the next chapter, and suddenly what I didn’t understand makes new sense and the idea is complete. Or perhaps I cannot relate to a passage because it does not correspond with something I have been going through, but then a day comes when that verse crawls out of the recesses of my brain and is like a new revelation in my life, because of my circumstances.
Here are a couple of examples in my own life where the savings account has worked. My husband and I lead a Family Life Group. As a group we are reading through Galatians. When we were in chapter two, I got stuck. Over a few days Ted and I were discussing the chapter but every time I got to verses 17-18, I felt completely frustrated.
“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.”
As I read and re-read these verses I just could not understand what they were saying. Even in discussing them with Ted, I kept finding myself going back to the verses wanting to pull my hair out to understand them. So, I walked away from them for a day or so reading the rest of the chapter and taking notes over it. Later in the week I went back to the verses and re-read them again, in a couple of different versions and I finally understood. In reading the verses around 17-18 you find that it is referring to obeying the law. Verse 19 says:
“For when I tried to keep the law it condemned me. So I died to the law – I stopped trying to meet all of its requirements – so that I might live for God.” Galatians 2:19 NLT
I finally understood that the old law brought condemnation. If you try to live to the old law, the one that Jesus came to fulfill, you making His sacrifice worthless, becoming as verse 18 states, “a law breaker.“
Sometimes in the moment we cannot find the answers or understand a verse, however if we take time to step back, sometimes reading another version, or even sometimes just coming back to it later on we will find we understand something that confused us at first.
Another example of taking a long-term view comes from years ago, when I was in the storm of eating disorder and depression. I grew up reading and knowing the Bible but there were a lot of verses that did not impact my life in the moment when I read them.
When we are not in need or do not recognize our need we do not rely on God, or we do not pray to Him as earnestly, as we do when we are in need. Therefore, in my young life, reading Psalm 46 did not have a great impact on me.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46
When I was in the darkest point of my depression and eating disorder I can remember crying out to the Lord for peace, for freedom, for deliverance. In that moment a memory dropped into my spirit, the words came quickly and quietly. “Be still and know that I am God.” in that moment it didn’t feel like an answer, but I began to cling to it like the life line that it was. At a time when I felt my world shaking apart, as though I would never survive, verse 10 of Psalm 46 settled into my heart. A few weeks later I picked up my Bible and frantically searched for that verse, when I found it I read Psalm 46 over and over again. When I would feel shaken I would cling to it, I would pray it, and I would find hope in the words found there.
We cannot know the impact that knowing God's words will have on us now or in the future, but if we will begin to put His words into our “savings account” by reading them, studying them and seeking to understand them, we will find that our time was not wasted but can instead be life changing.
I hope that you will invest time to know and study the word of God.
Now Go in God knowing He is Enough for You.
Learn to Stay Put
Last time we talked about taking a long-term view. Meaning let things sink in. Allow time to understand the text. One of the best ways we can do this is by Staying Put. In other words, pick a book and stick with it to the end.
Instead of popcorn reading through the bible, as in pick a verse here or there, pick a book of the Bible and study it from start to finish. I know this may be hard, but this is what studying the Bile is all about. Taking the time to focus on one portion of the bible, an entire book, word by word, line by line, verse by the verse, and chapter by chapter. It may take you a day, it may take you a month, it may even take you a year. However, to fully comprehend the Word of God as a whole, we need to understand its parts.
This is one of the reasons I began doing the weekly Live Bible Studies, to encourage you to study God’s word, beyond a topical or devotional study and to share in the knowledge of how to learn about God’s word and study it fully.
It is amazing what you will find when you read the Bible as a whole, instead of as little pieces that don’t connect or make sense. This is a video that I watched not too long ago. It made me laugh at its silliness, but it’s message may be something to consider.
Now I know that is a little extreme, but reading random verses like this takes them completely out of context. Now let me show you another example. In the Bible the word “Believe” is used 160 times. Here are a some of the verses where they can be found:
“Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6
“If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign. Exodus 4:8
“He does not believe that he will return from darkness, And he is destined for the sword.” Job 15:22
“Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe in His word,” Psalm 106:24
“When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus *said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They *said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Matthew 9:28
“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”Mark 9:24
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Romans 6:8
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” James 2:19
“Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Jude 1:5
Now I want to stop to say, that none of these verses are bad. However, without some context to them we are not going to be able to figure out what is going on or what their full meaning is. I want to take the Romans 6:8 verse and unpack it for a moment.
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Romans 6:8
Reading verse eight by itself we might get an impression that we are supposed to die like Christ died, so that we can live like He lives. If you have any knowledge of how Christ died then you will be confused. He already died. He died on the cross. The basic premise of the gospel is that Jesus died so we don’t have to, therefore just reading this verse is very confusing.
This verse is found towards the beginning of Chapter six in a section subtitled Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ. Let’s look at the entire section.
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:1-14
Just by reading a few more verses we began to understand better what verse eight means. This section of Romans is about living a life free of sin, that brings us alive in Christ. Verse eight is not saying that we need to die on a cross like Jesus did. Dying with Christ in these verses means that we leave our sins behind, not continuing in them after His accepting the sacrifice that Jesus made.
We haven’t even read the whole chapter and we already understand more. If we continue to read the entire chapter, the chapters around it and the entire book we will have a greater understanding. Not only of this one verse but of the Bible as a whole.
Reading the whole Bible can seem like a daunting task. This is why I am not saying you should speed through it just to say you have. Stay Put, take your time. Read one book of the Bible at a time, study it, read it word by word, line by line, chapter by chapter, for full understanding.
Stay Put, don’t bounce around. Take the time to read an entire book of the Bible so that you understand it, if you get to the end and are still unsure you understand what you read, read it again. It doesn’t hurt to reread something until you understand. It is best that we take the time, read slowly and fully understand the word of God. Doing this will help us understand God better and have a fuller relationship with Him.
Now Go in God Knowing That He Is Enough for You.
Study All of It
Study all of it, not just part. The Bible is one book with many parts. The message throughout the Bible is one: God, and His plan. In Part Two of this blog series I talked about how the message of the Bible is about God. The thing is, that in order to know and understand who God is, we have to know all about Him. We have to know and recognize who He is in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Reading just parts of the Bible can leave us confused about who God is and His plan.
What we will recognize if we read the whole Bible is that He had a plan from the beginning for salvation. In the Last Part of our study I told you to Stay Put, and I am not now contradicting myself, I promise. I am not saying you have to read it all today, tomorrow, or even this year. However, you do need to read all of the Bible for full understanding.
We need the Old Testament to fully understand the New Testament. We need the law that was given to Moses, in order to understand why Jesus responded to the teachers of the law in Mark 12 as he did.
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
These laws can be found in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:18
We need the stories of the fall to understand the need for Jesus. We need the genealogies, and the prophesies. We may have to work hard to understand some of the text, however, it is all necessary, because it is all from God and about Him.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:14-17
In these verses the Holy Scripture that Timothy mentions is the Old Testament scripture. He says it is “God-breathed” and “useful”. We have to know this scripture to know how to use it correctly. Therefore, take the time to read the whole Bible. You do not have to do it in a month or even a year, but make a plan and read the all of it and don’t speed through the parts you don’t understand. Remember when it doesn’t make sense Take a Long-Term View and Stay Put until you understand completely.
Knowing God’s word and understanding it leads to knowing God.
Now Go in God Knowing He is Enough for You.
Honor the Context
First let’s define Context: “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.” - Google Dictionary
We can now talk about how we can honor the context. Read each book in light of who wrote it, who it was written to, and in what time period it was written. Understanding the historical facts and culture around the time the book was written helps us to understand why it was written and what it means. In order to understand this let's look at the context of an Old Testament Book and a New Testament Book.
Here is what we are looking for in order to honor the context.
- The Author – Who wrote the text?
- The Time Period – When was the book written?
- The Receiver –To whom was it written? And where?
- The Purpose and or Theme – Why was it written?
We will start in the Old Testament with the book of Daniel.
The Author and the Time Period:
The book of Daniel was written by no other than the person who the book was named after, Daniel. Who was Daniel? He was a Jew, that was taken into captivity in the first siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in the year 605 BC. Daniel was a descendant of the Jewish royalty who were destined to serve at the Babylonian court. How do we know he was royalty?
“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.” Daniel 1:3-4
He was probably not more than 15 to 20 years old at his captivity. Daniel does speak of himself in the third person, however, there is no question that he is the writer, because Jesus confirmed it with his own words.
So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— Matthew 24:15
Daniel set himself apart from all other’s in his righteousness and was chosen by God to be the prophet to speak to the Israelites during their captivity. He also is referred to for his faith in Hebrews.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Hebrews 11:32-34
“Who shut the mouth of lions” is in reference to Daniel in the lion’s den. This tells us who the author is. Knowing that Daniel is the author gives us a clearer picture of the narrative. I also believe it gives us a glimpse into the character of God and the people He chose to write the books of the Bible.
Though the book of Daniel does not have a specific audience it was, however, placed among the Major Prophetic books in the Bible. Also, since Daniel himself was taken in to exile the account is from his own experience and therefore provides an insider’s view to those who would read the book throughout history. Though the receiver in this case is not clear it does point to God’s overall plan for His people.
The Purpose and or Theme:
Babylon was considered to be one of the most powerful kingdoms during the period of time Daniel was written. God uses the strength of Babylon’s army to capture the Israelites when they refused to obey Him. It is interesting to note that by the end of the book the city of Babylon has fallen. Daniel has some of the most recognizable stories in it, such as the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lion's den. The book also includes information about the final days. The book of Daniel seems to be a twofold message. First to remind God’s people that disobedience will bring destruction, but He will deliver His people. Second that there will be a final destruction, but God’s people will be saved then as well. Knowing why this book was written helps us to better understand God’s character and plan.
Knowing the context of Daniel, will help us to find a little more understanding. Even knowing that Daniel was Royalty can change our view of him. He could have been very bitter towards God; I am sure that he had a nice life before the exile. Instead, he humbled himself and God used him greatly.
Now that we have looked at an Old Testament book and its context let’s look at a New Testament book. If you have been following along on Facebook you will know that I did a Live Bible Study on the book of James, so this will be a review for those who joined in that study.
James the brother of Jesus, probably the oldest of the natural children of Mary and Joseph, was the author of the book of James. We know that he is the brother of Jesus because Paul refers to him in Galatians 1.
“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem. I went there to get to know Peter. I stayed with him for 15 days. I didn’t see any of the other apostles. I only saw James, the Lord’s brother.” Galatians 1:19-20
He is also mentioned in Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, Acts, 15:13, and 21:18, 1 Corinthians 15:7, Galatians 2:9, 12, as well as in James and in Jude. Also, from reading scripture we know that the brothers of Jesus did not believe in Him until after His resurrection.
“Even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in him.” John 7:5
After the resurrection James became the leader of the Jerusalem church, presided over the Jerusalem Council, and Paul called him one of the pillars of the church.
“James, Peter and John are respected as pillars in the church. They recognized the special grace given to me. So they shook my hand and the hand of Barnabas. They wanted to show they accepted us. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles. They would go to the Jews.” Galatians 2:9
Finally, according to historical record James suffered a martyr’s death in AD 62. 1
Knowing that James, the brother of Jesus was the author of this book helps the reader to focus on the message, James was transformed by what Jesus did, therefore he became a leader of the Church, and gave up his own life for the very message of the Bible.
The Time Period:
James was probably written between AD 45 to AD 48, making it the first New Testament epistle. This is thought for several reasons. First the Council of Jerusalem happened in AD 50, (Acts 15) and was not mentioned by James. Nor was a conflict about requirements for Gentiles mentioned, which was a well-known debate of the Council. Second The church leaders are referred to in Jewish terms, Teachers and Elders instead of later church terms Overseers and Deacons. Third the Synagogue is mentioned as the church’s meeting place. Finally, fourth, James addresses his letter to Jewish Christians only, this suggests that the mission to Gentiles was not yet happening. 2
Knowing the time period gives us a clear picture of what is going on in the time. We can see that James laid out ground work for the church and its leaders.
The book of James is one of seven letters in the New Testament called the General Epistles because it is addressed to a general Christian audience and not to a specific congregation. Knowing who the receiver is explains the voice of the letter. This also informs us of Gods plan for the Christian Church.
The Purpose and or Theme:
The book was written to encourage those of the church who were being persecuted, to help them stand firm in their faith. James wrote in a sermon or exhortation form and the book has more than 50 verses that are instructions for the believer.
Knowing the purpose and theme of the book help us to get a clear picture of why it was written and how God’s plan is perfect for the believer.
Now that we understand how to find context in the Bible, let’s briefly talk about how we honor it completely. We read the Bible understanding that it was not written to you or me. Therefore, it is not about us. We can take the principles of God’s word and apply it to our lives, however, not the specifics. This means that while we can apply its meaning to our life, such as you can use Joshua 24:14 to apply to how your family is going to act or what you will value.
“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
However, the specifics do not apply to us. For example, at the end of Joshua 24, Joshua sends the people to their inheritance, the Promise Land, which they had just captured. The promise for the Israelites was that if they obeyed the law and served the Lord, they would live long and happily in the Promise Land. The same is not promised to us. Our Promise Land is not on this earth. Instead our Promise Land is heaven. Just because we obey God does not mean He is going to give us anything. He already gave us all, through salvation.
It is greatly important, we understand as we are reading, that the Bible is about the character of God and His plan. Then we can apply the principles we learn to our lives and we can grow in a deeper relationship with God because we do understand his character and plan.
So, I urge you to honor the context as you read the Word.
Now Go in God Knowing That He and His Word are Enough for You.
Part Seven of our Lamp Unto My Feet Series is about understanding the genres of the Bible. So, first what does the word genre mean?
“a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter” - Google Dictionary
Now that we know what the word genre means let’s look at the different types of genres in the Bible. I will list them give a description of what they are and what books represent each genre. There are a few different lists that you can go from, and some people disagree on the exact type or they may use different words. The goal is to have an idea of the genre we are reading.
Narrative: A narrative is a story and there are many stories in the Bible.
Old Testament Narratives: Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Ruth, Esther just to name a few. There are many narratives in the Old Testament that I did not include, I encourage you to explore the Old Testament for yourself to identify all the narratives.
New Testament Narratives: Here we could have a subset, because the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all narratives and could be considered a genre of their own. The book of Acts is also a narrative
Poetry: In scripture Poetry does not rhyme, instead it is a literary device known as parallelism. Parallelism is the “use of successive verbal constructions in poetry or prose which correspond in grammatical structure, sound, meter, meaning, etc.” - Google Dictionary
Old Testament Poetry: Much of the Old Testament is Poetic, just look at the book of Psalms which is all songs and poetry and Song of Songs (or if you prefer Solomon). There are also many poems and songs written in Narrative books.
New Testament Poetry: You will often see quotes of Old Testament Poetry. For example, in Acts 4 we read
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’” Acts 4:11
This is a quote from Psalm 118
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:21-23
As you read through the New Testament you will see many quotes like this as well as other songs and poetry.
Wisdom: Collections of wise sayings, which were intended to shape the lives of the readers morally and ethically.
Old Testament: In the Old Testament Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are included in the wisdom genre. Job may seem surprising as it can also be considered a narrative, however it gives much weight to godly living and the wisdom of Job.
New Testament: In the New Testament we find that James is a book of wisdom and has been often compared to Proverbs.
Prophecy: Prophecy is God’s word to his covenant people, the Israelites. They are warnings as well as sustaining messages for the people while in captivity and under hardship. They are a challenge to the original audience, the Israelites, and should be read as such.
Old Testament: There are two types of Prophecy in the Old Testament
Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel
Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
New Testament: There are no Prophetic book sin the New Testament, but it is full of quotes from Old Testament Prophecy, especially in the fulfillment of Jesus coming as the Savior.
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”)” Matthew 1:22-23
“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
Apocalyptic: Apocalyptic writings are those books that declare crucial messages to their initial audiences. They use much symbolism.
Old Testament: Daniel is the Apocalyptic book that is found in the Old Testament. The book Daniel not only declares things of the time, warnings and exhortations for the Israelites while in Captivity, but it also declares things to come in the end times.
New Testament: The Apocalyptic book in the New Testament is Revelation. Many have said that it is too confusing to understand and give up easily. However, it is such an important book to read, and can be understood if you study the whole Bible and use the knowledge gain to help you understand it, as it relates to the end times and what is to come for the believers.
Epistle: The Epistles are only found in the New Testament. Epistles are the letter written by the Apostles to the early churches and believers. These letters gave comfort, exhortation, rebuke, and love to the believers, as they faced trials, tribulations, and learned how to serve God.
New Testament: I will break these down in to two sections.
The Pauline Epistles: Letters attributed to the Apostle Paul, and addressed to individuals or the churches in certain areas.
1st and 2nd Corinthians
1st and 2nd Thessalonians
1st and 2nd Timothy
General Epistles: Letters written by other Apostles: I will list these and who they were written by and to whom they were written
Audience: It is not clear to whom the letter was written, however it addresses the doubt that Jesus was really the Messiah. It is written in such a way that it seems to be written between the division of Jewish believers and Gentile Believers
Author: Though the Authorship is not verified and not listed in the Pauline Epistles; it is often attributed to Paul’s writing. Another thought is that perhaps Luke wrote this book.
Audience: It is written to the early Jewish Christian Church.
Author: James is written by none other than the brother of Jesus, James.
1st and 2nd Peter
Audience: 1st Peter is addressed to the “exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” 1 Peter 1:1 2nd Peter’s audience is the churches throughout Asia Minor.
Author: The author is the Apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve and one of the Early Church Fathers.
1st, 2nd, and 3rd John
Audience: 1st John was most likely addressed to the early Christian church after a division had happened due to false teachers dividing the church by teaching that Jesus was not the Christ, but instead just a prophet. 2nd John is addressed to “the elect lady and her children, ” it is said that this could be a representation of the church as a whole the Bride and her children as the body of the church. Or perhaps a specific lady within the body of believers. 3rd John is addressed to Gaius, who seems to be a leader in the church. Each of these books is written in such a way to guide the believers in their walk and to set an example of how-to live-in time of trials.
Author: All 3 books have been attributed to the Apostle John. Though there is some debate over 1st John, it has been stated that it is similar to 2nd and 3rd John in writing style and is most likely written by him late in life.
Audience: The letter is addressed to the church in general, not as in a specific church, but as a letter to be circulated and read in all the churches.
Author: The author introduces himself as Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James. Since Jude addresses himself as the brother of James, this would also mean that he is a brother of Jesus as well. He is fact referred to twice as the brother of Jesus in the New Testament once in Matthew 13:55 and in Mark 6:3.
When we are able to distinguish between the genres of scripture it helps us to have a more complete understanding. Not acknowledging the genre can lead to misunderstandings and perversion of scripture. This is why knowing and understanding genres is important in our study of the scripture.
Learning more about God through His word is an adventure, I hope you will dive in deeper and find grow in your relationship with Him.
Now Go in God Knowing He Is Enough for You.
Use Proven Tools
If we really want to gain a full understanding of scripture, we need to use tools to do so. The best thing you can do is choose tools that have been used by others and have continued to be successful throughout time.
Here are a few proven tools to help you better understand scripture. It is important to understand that these tools should be used in conjunction with one another to have complete understanding. Using just one will not be enough at any given time, using them together over time will give you much clarity and help you to better understand scripture as it is intended.
- Read the Text Repeatedly:
- When we do not understand something, it is helpful to read it again. Reading it over can bring new light to what we read. It is possible that the first time through we miss a word, or misunderstand a meaning. Reading it again even once can help you to better understand what you have read. For me I have to read it at least twice if not more before I understand a text’s meaning, and even this may not be enough. That is why this is not the only tool. After we re-read the text and find some understanding take time to reword the text.
- Paraphrase verses in your own words to help you focus on their message:
- When we paraphrase or reword the text, we will find that we better understand what it is saying. Let’s do this with Psalm 14: 1-2
“The fool says in his heart “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” Psalm 14:1-2 NIV
“A foolish person believes wholeheartedly that God is not real. Because that person does not believe he is evil, and that person will not and does not do good. There are many who are evil, so God looks down from heaven to see if anyone does good. He looks to see if anyone seeks Him.” - Psalm 14:1-2 - Laura’s Paraphrase
- How you may ask does this help? I have taken time to put it into my own words. This means I am really thinking about the text and using my language skills to better understand what I am reading. Now obviously my words are not God breathed. But I have drawn a word picture that shows that I understand what I am reading. Now of course even in my own paraphrasing I have to be careful that I know what the words really mean. So, this leads us to the next tool.
- Look up the word meanings:
- You can use a regular dictionary to do this, but a Bible dictionary is even better when finding the meanings to the words found in scripture as they will usually refer back to the original language and source. Let’s again look at Psalm 14:1-2.
- Let’s look at the word Foolish:
Foolish means: Void of understanding or sound judgment; weak in intellect;
applied to general character. - KJV Dictionary
- So, when we look at this definition of foolish, we can go back to the paraphrase and say: “Any person wholeheartedly does not believe in God is void of understanding or sound judgement.” knowing the definition of just the word Foolish brings a new understanding of the verse. Each of these tools adds an element of understanding to scripture that will help us grow in our understanding. Now let’s look at why adding notes helps us to understand the Word.
- Annotate a copy of the text:
- This means take notes in your Bible. There are a couple of ways you can do this. One way that I have found is to use the online bible. Copy and paste the verses into a document then put space between each line. I then print the copy and make notes for myself. I also have a Note Taking Bible that has large side margins with plenty of room for notes. Then as I am reading and re reading the text, I can look over my notes, add things and even note as my opinion or understanding changes.
- Adding notes to the text helps us to keep our thoughts on track. As we read through the text things may strike us, that we haven’t noticed before. If we write them down it will help us to remember them better. This will also allow us to evaluate our thinking in conjunction with scripture.
- Check cross-references:
- Let’s first define cross-reference. A cross reference is a note placed in the bible, at the bottom of the page or in the margins.
- These references note other places in the Bible where one can find the same thing or a similar topic to the one found in that verse. These references will give the book, chapter, and verse, but no more information about the text. You can go and look at the reference verse to see what it says. Reading other verses that relate to the topics can be helpful in understanding the meaning of the passage you are reading.
- Read commentaries:
- Finally, for this list will be read proven and accessible commentaries. So, what is a commentary?
“A Bible commentary is a series of notes explaining the meaning of passages of Scripture. A commentary may explain the language used in a section of text. Or it may discuss the historical background. Almost all commentaries attempt to explain the passage in terms of some system of theology. In other words, the commentary is an explanation of how the Bible fits together and what it means. Since a Bible commentary is written by human authors, it will reflect the beliefs and perspective of those writers.” - Got Questions
- I use some commentaries online. I also have a Quick Notes Commentary Book set. You can find them to purchase online and you can find great online resources as well. Commentaries are helpful for a deeper understanding as they give historical references, information about authors, and the receivers of the messages.
- I would personally recommend using commentaries in conjunction with and after you have used the other proven tools. This will build your confidence and your own study abilities.
To fully understand scripture better, using tools that have been proven over time by others, will help you to experience a greater and fuller understanding of God and His word. I hope that you will grow deeper and closer to God as you study His Word.
Now, Go in God Knowing He is Enough for You.
Last but most definitely not least I will say Pray, Pray and Pray. This journey though how to Study the Bible has brought us to the importance of prayer. We all know we should pray and we have all heard the old adage of how can you know someone you never speak to. However, I understand also that we do not always know what to pray. This is why the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. They were with Jesus, they saw Him pray all the time, but they themselves were at a loss for words to the heavenly Father.
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’” Luke 13:1-4
Jesus taught the disciples to pray. He also set the example and prayed. He led the way. He was Jesus, the Son of God. Even He needed communion with His Father. We need communion with God to know Him and to have a relationship with Him.
You are not alone if you are unsure about how to pray. So much of the time I am at a loss for words, unsure of how I should pray and what I should say. You know what I have found? Scripture. I can pray the perfect word of God when I am at a loss for words. I am going to use a Psalm as an example of how to pray scripture. Have you ever felt afraid, like you were under attack from every side and unsure how to stand? I have and have found Psalm 27 to be a great prayer to pray.
My Father in heaven. I know that you are the Lord are my light and my salvation. So, who should I fear? You Lord are stronghold of my life so I do not need to be afraid of anyone. Because of you oh Lord when the wicked advance against me to destroy me, it is them, my enemies, who will stumble and fall.
Though an army attack me, I will cling to you God and therefore my heart will not fear; I believe that even though war break out against me, even then I will find my confidence in you God. God, I ask one thing, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, I long to gaze on your beauty Lord and to seek you in your temple. I know in the day of trouble You will keep me safe in your dwelling; You will hide me in the shelter of Your sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then, because of You, my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at Your sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music unto You oh Lord. Hear my voice when I call, Lord; Please be merciful to me and answer me. My heart longs for you, to Seek Your face!” Please God, do not hide your face from me, I beg you, do not turn your servant away in anger; I thank you God for you have been my helper. Please do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though others forsake me, Lord I am thankful that you will receive me. I want to know you more, so Lord, please teach me your way. Lead me in a straight path so that I can stand up to my oppressors. Oh Lord please, do not turn me over to the desire of my enemies, for false witnesses rise up against me, they are malicious in their accusations. God, I hold to you. I remain confident of this: That I will see your goodness Lord in the land of the living. I will wait for you Lord; in you I will find my strength to hold on to. I you I will take heart. Thank you, God, in Jesus Name, Amen. - Laura’s Psalm 27 Prayer
When you are at a loss for words and are unsure how to pray turn to scripture. Pray the Word of God. Praying God’s word will bring you closer to Him. Go deeper, God’s word is truly transforming. It will change you. It will change your heart, your mind and truly your world.
As I read scripture my understanding is changed, it becomes focused. Truly it is not that my vision was blurry before, it is more like I had the wrong eyes all together. See, when I know the word of God, I cannot excuse or ignore sin in my life. When I know what God’s, word says I am more confident in my decisions because I can align them against the word of God. For if I know His word, I know His desires, and if I know His desires, my desires line up to His and I will be in His will.
I do not claim to have mastered this skill or to have reached perfection. I am growing right along with you. I hope that somehow this series on reading the Bible has helped you to grow.
So now I encourage you: Read Your Bible and Go in God Knowing that He is Enough for You!