How to read the Bible
A Guide to Scripture Meditation
“Do not let this Book…depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night,"(God: Joshua 1:8)
Meditation: sitting crossed legged in a leotard humming…… or maybe something else? The following paragraph excerpt I came accross paints an excellent picture:
…‘Some people have told me that they don't get a great deal out of reading their Bible. They have been on programs to read the bible in one year, or have read the New Testament 10 times, and it's still the same stuff, no new revelation. I liken meditation on God's Word to a walk in the woods. You can take the same 20 minute walk on the same trail, through the same woods every day, and pretty soon, you find the walk to be a bit boring - it's always the same trees, the same hills, the same bushes. Instead of taking that twenty minute stroll, if you were to walk about five minutes and then sit quietly on a log for the next fifteen to observe what is there, the woods would come alive before your very eyes. Small creatures like squirrels, rabbits or chipmunks would begin to appear. You would notice the different songs of each species of bird, or perhaps you will see an army of ants busily building an anthill at your feet. Similarly, if we read the Bible in much the same way that we read a novel, we will miss all of the nuggets of wisdom that God has placed there for us to find. God will reveal a great deal about Himself thought his Word, if we would but take the time to meditate on His word…’
One of the important roles of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you, is to explain and open up the Scriptures to its readers and hearers.(1 Corinthians 2:14)
Your part is to read/listen to and ponder the Scriptures in such a way that allows the Holy Spirit to do His.
Like the woodland walk analogy, let your eyes and mind take a stroll through the Bible, until a word or phrase catches your attention, and perhaps your imagination (you’ll be amazed how easier and quicker this occurs when you read aloud to yourself). It may even be a paragraph that you don’t understand, or something that bugs you a bit. It may be that an emotion you weren’t expecting rises to the surface, or a particular memory or experience springs to mind; whatever it is, its time to rest in that particular spot and appreciate the moment as you and the Holy Spirit have an internal conversation about His Word that you are reading and what He wants to reveal to you:
It may be a new insight and understanding to a particular Bible story; It may bring instruction or correction to you personally; It may be a message that He wants you to share with others (if this is so, it will come with a sense of excitement and an urge to share); it may be confirmation to a dilemma, a given word to stand on, and an answer to prayer; or a newly discovered truth that simply blesses your socks! Whatever it is that you receive, this is in addition to what you have been doing, which is fellowshipping with your LORD (and that blesses His socks!).
However, within this meditative meeting, there are some mental and practical exercises which can help get your body and mind into the motion of meditative reading, which invites the Holy Spirit to steer the conversation:
Firstly, practice the truth that you are never alone: The Author of The Word is ever present with you; the degree to which you benefit from His input largely rests on your attitude to Him. (wearing a leotard is optional!!!)
If you can possibly help it, don’t be pushed for time. If you’ve got to be somewhere in 20 minutes, you probably won’t and can’t stop to smell the flowers!
Don’t try too hard, or force it. It’s like trying too hard to get to sleep because you know you have to have to get up early in the morning - you end up awake all night! It was Woody Allen who, concerning our role in life, said, “90% of life is just showing up!.” Even if you don’t have a transfiguration experience, you have spent important devotional time, which is never a waste, but always an eternal investment.
Meditation is like worrying, only positive. You’re an expert at worrying: filling your mind with the same concern over and over again, letting your imagination run wild until it effects you emotionally and physically too. Well, turn your hand to meditating (positive worrying) on God’s word instead. You are a born meditator, only you’ve practiced on the wrong things!
Does listening to music help? Music can very stirring. Most people are predominantly ‘right-brainers’: using the right side of the brain which is logical and practical in nature. Background music stimulates the less-used left side of the brain responsible for our imagination, memory and emotions. (ever cried listening to a certain piece of music?)
If you come across a particular word or sentence which takes your fancy, use the additional references (if you have a reference Bible), or a concordance, and allow yourself to be taken on a journey through the Old and New Testaments, as you gain an insight into the use of the word or phrase in other parts of the Bible: you’ll find parallels, echoes and patterns which you never knew existed, and scriptures which compliment and ignite the passage which you stumbled across in the first place. (all the time, God is revealing Himself to you)
Concerning the passage, verse, sentence or even singular word you have stopped to ponder; ask the three ‘W’s:
What? (what is going on here?; you may need the bigger picture by reading the whole chapter or passages surrounding it)
Why? (ask lots of why’s - with the hope of the Holy Spirit, who wrote the words in the first place, will give you insight and understanding)
What now? (So what?; What does this mean to me/us/world…)
The LORD tells us that we do not live on bread alone, but by feeding on every word that comes from Him (Deut 8:3) and that we are to let the words of Jesus dwell in us richly (Col 3:16). When you read and listen to His Words, you are feeding; meditation (mentally tasting, chewing and digesting) causes rich indwelling.
Let your appetite for God’s Word be satisfied by quality rather than quantity; and the meditation (digestion) on each meal become a habit which continues long after the dinner table. I wonder what would happen if you really did chew every mouthful 32 times?
By Pastor David Wood