How to read the Bible

Did you know there is a wrong way to read the Bible? And that if you are reading it wrong you are wasting precious time and more importantly, missing out on the spiritual nourishment that the Bible provides. Don’t allow yourself to be robbed of this nourishment anymore! Don’t waste another second!

Accept the challenge to read the Bible in a new way, a way that allows your Bible to come alive inside you and transform you. This is what it is meant to do after all.

how to read the bible

So, how do you know whether or not you are reading the Bible right or wrong? How do you know if you need to change the way you are reading it? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Can I remember what I have read?

Test yourself. A few hours after reading, focus back to the last time you read the Bible and call the message to mind. What did God teach you during this time? What stood out to you? Can you remember any of the scripture? Can you recall where exactly in the Bible you were? If you draw a blank, or close to it, then what a waste your time in scripture was! If you can recall some of what you studied then, you are on the right track!

2. Am I interested in and excited about the next time I get to read the Bible?

If this sounds a little silly to you, then you probably aren’t reading the Bible correctly. The Bible is an exciting place! It is a place of truth. It is a place of heightened emotions and people of depth. The stories in the Bible draw you in because you become a part of them. Somehow, these ancient stories have written you into them and when you experience that, like any good book, you CANNOT put it down.

3. Are my behaviors and thoughts changing?

This one is very tricky because, as it says in Romans 7:18-19, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” We are always a work in progress and Jesus always meets us with grace and love abounding. Having said that, you should, at the least, have a desire to be a better person and do what is good. When the Holy Scriptures take hold of your heart the only choice is to respond with obedience.

4. When I read the Bible, is it an act of worship?

God revealed himself onto the pages in the Bible. He did this to draw us closer to him. Therefore, we must acknowledge that his presence is with us during our time spent in the word. Invite the Holy Spirit in to read with you. Have an attitude of thankfulness as you pray and read the Bible. This makes it an act of worship.

Time for a tune-up?

Whether or not you feel convicted by the above questions or confident that you are reading scripture correctly we can all use a little tune-up. I am reading a great book that is transforming how I read the Bible. Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading explains the use of the word hagar in the Bible. Traditionally, hagar was used when reading something that dealt directly with the soul. In the Bible, this word is most often translated to meditate.

Hagar

Psalm 1: 1-2. Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.

Another word, this person does not forget the words of the Lord, they are spending day AND night thinking about them, and it is directly affecting the things they do and do not do.

Psalm 63: 5-6. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.

Here David directly compares meditating to remembering. He also says that meditating on the Lord satisfies his stomach. Food is one of our most basic needs and here is an idea that the scriptures and the law, or the word, can satisfy us in the same way.

John 6: 48-50. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.

Now we are getting to something! Can reading the scriptures be compared to eating? Yes! In fact, Eugene Peterson in Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading says that spiritual reading is “a reading that enters our soul as food enters our stomachs, it spreads through our blood, and becomes holiness and love and wisdom.” 

how to read the bible

Isaiah 31:4 This is what the Lord says to me: “As a lion growls, a great lion over its prey–and though a whole band of shepherds is called together against it, it is not frightened by their shouts or distrubed by their clamor–so the Lord Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights.

In this case, hagar is translated to growl. Imagine a great lion who just exerted itself to gain its reward of a decent meal for the day. It is not going to swallow it down as fast as it can so that it can spend the rest of the day doing whatever lions do. No! It is going to relish this moment. Make this meal last. It will sniff, chew, lick, salivate, and growl over its prize. That’s how focused it is on this moment with its prey.

This is what we are called to as well! We are to spend time reading the Bible. We are to enjoy it, experiencing all the feels it emits. It should satisfy our needs. But, in doing this it should consume us, our thoughts, emotions, and actions. To allow this, we must meditate on it. Examine it, turn it around, read different versions, explore the Hebrew roots, understand the culture, pray on it, talk to others about it, read it again, write in our bibles, journal in other places, and have an ongoing conversation with our loving Father about it. These are very tangible ways to meditate on scripture. And once you begin to read it in this way, with these tactics, the word will come alive in your life. If we believe that scripture is God-breathed spiritual writing, then we must use the act of spiritual reading to ingest it into our souls.


For more conversations on this topic, join me in reading Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book.