Here's where we actually start getting practical; coming down to the ground level, picking up our Bibles and pens, and digging. There isn't a prescribed formula that all of us have to use when we start I realize, but I am going to share the "how-to" of one popular method (and the one I use primarily). It's essentially a three step process: observe, interpret, and apply.
Let's break down the first step, observing. This is what any good detective does first: They look at the evidence before them. Basically that's what we're doing with our study. Where ever our spot may be in scripture, we're simple reading, and jotting down what we see in our reading.
Everybody had a posture when they start reading. I don't mean the physical posture of our bodies but the posture of our minds and hearts before reading. I've paraphrased a couple of reading 'postures' (from Living By the Book) I may have not touched on too much up to this point, but are important in the observing, the reading, of scripture...
- Read Prayerfully: Read before reading scripture, over scripture, after reading, and then even praying scripture. Let it bleed into our prayers.
- Read Repeatedly: We read text over and over again to make it take root in us. The Bible is alive, and so we cannot exhaust revisiting it. We notice new things in reading repetitively.
- Read with Patience: We live in a culture that tends to get what they want quickly if not instantly, but in reading and studying scripture, this is not the case. It can take a while to understand parts of it. Sometimes even years. We're not going to come away with a holy grail of wisdom or a spiritual high every time we sit and read. Those times do occur, and man are they awesome, but sometimes we'll read about Jesus feeding the 5,000 and then go about our day.
- Read with Your Imagination: Put yourself in the setting. This is trying to engage your senses in the reading... like what might you hear in the background, smell, feel...??? All to often we forget the story aspect of scripture, and like a good novel, the author, God, is wanting to capture our attention and draw us into His story.
- Read Telescopically: In other words, how does everything connect to each other? The whole of scripture is a tapestry, and while studying seems like we're zooming in on the threads, we need to to take a step back and see how it fits into the grand masterpiece as well.
And I'd add to the list, to read humbly, because when we come to scripture we're listening to God's voice and not so much our own. We come under His word, not over it. He shapes us through His word, we don't shape Him.
Keeping Our Eyes Peeled: As we're reading, here are just some ideas of what we may want to take note of if we observe it in the text...
- Words that are repeated
- Ideas, themes, or concepts that appear to be emphasized or related to one another
- Key words
- Characteristics of God that are mentioned
- Names of people and places
- Pronouns, and who they're referring to, as well as verb tenses
- Comparisons and contrast, as well as cause and effect
- Illustrations, metaphors, figures of speech, etc.
- The emotion/atmosphere behind the text