Two metaphors unlock our understanding of God’s word and its role in our lives. Isaiah says it is like “rain” that enters the parched earth causing it to flourish, yielding seed for the sower and grain for the eater. If our souls are parched, the word of God quenches. Beautiful. Secondly, Peter calls God’s word the “imperishable seed” that takes root in our soul and grows up bringing newness. For the deadness in our soul, God’s word is vitality and life.
The people of the Bible model how we should handle this precious gift. Moses admonished us to talk about it continually: when we sit at home, when we travel along the road, when we lie down and when we get up. The Psalmists call us to delight in it (the word means “to dandle,” like what a parent does with a child on his knee). Jeremiah simply “ate” God’s word, calling it his joy and his heart’s delight.
Despite all this, most people find it difficult to study the Bible, at least some of the time. Our ability to read the Bible increases by several means. First, we need the Spirit to help us and so it is always good to pray for insight and wisdom. Secondly, the Bible itself helps us to understand when we allow the easier parts to shed light on the more difficult ones. Thirdly, with time and consistent reading, we grow in our understanding of the overall story-line, the history, the different genres of the Bible and in our understanding of the interpretive techniques that help us unlock its treasures (resources below can help accelerate this process). Lastly, the community of faith with its preaching, teaching and small group Bible study helps to draw out its treasures. By these means, God increases our understanding. The important thing is not to give up early in the process when it can be most challenging.
Ever since Christ, people have discovered that daily Bible intake is a key to spiritual vitality. One year Bibles are great for this. My favorite method is to read five chapters per day starting in Genesis, Joshua, Job, Isaiah and Matthew (Pentateuch, Historical writings, Poetic books, Prophets and the New Testament). You’ll finish the Bible in a year this way and there is lots of variety (although it is a rigorous pace and I certainly haven’t done it this way every year). For many, memorizing Scripture has becomes hugely life-giving. I find this is best done with a few partners and a regular meeting.
Rain. Isaiah 55:10-11
Seed. 1 Peter 1:23
Living. Hebrews 4:12
Taking it in. Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Jeremiah 15:16
Verses to memorize, Best 100
How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, by Gordon Fee
Eat This Book, by Eugene Peterson
Related Post: Resource: Bible (forthcoming)
- Pick a place in the Bible to start your reading that will naturally hold your attention. Genesis 37-50, 1 Samuel 16- 2 Samuel 24, Acts and Mark are great for this.
- Sometimes the problem is that we just haven’t made a plan for regular reading. Make one and ask someone to pray for you as you follow it.
- Ask your small group buddies to memorize a verse a week with you from the list above