Opening our bibles is like journeying into a forest. The deeper we go, the more exciting & difficult it gets. In fact, the further we travel into the heart of the forest, the more tools we need to prevent us from getting lost, confused, discouraged & giving up in despair. Would you venture into a mysterious forest without a map? Questionable. If you did, let’s just assume you’d get lost.
Having keys to observing scripture is like having a map in the forest
Think about it: a map is a birds eye view, or an overview, of your current location.
You need to go into your bible study with the right perspective & tools to help you
move beyond what is being said, to what is being meant
In fact, this transition is what OBSERVATION is all about.
#butleviticus ... Yep, the struggle. Is. Real. But without the observation & interpretation process, applying the Word to our lives can get tricky or unbalanced! (No, you don’t have to sacrifice turtledoves because Leviticus says so.)
Observing is really all about SEEING
The word “observe” means to meditate, notice, perceive, watch with careful attention. A Hebrew word for “see” is “ra’ah” meaning to look at, inspect, perceive, consider. You can see something, or you can see into something. Most of us read, but we don’t really see.
Often we skip the process because we don't have the tools or strategies - but there are some super simple & un-boring ways to help us learn to see beyond the surface of scripture:
1. KEY WORDS
Circle any words that stand out or are repeated. Usually if it’s said more than once, God is making a point and it will be a key theme in that passage of scripture. Remember, just as a door swings on small hinges, so the most important theological statements in the bible often depend on the smallest words. (To take this further, find out the meaning of the word in the original language, where that word is used in the bible, and how many times. For this you’ll need an exhaustive bible concordance with Hebrew & Greek. Online versions are easily accessible.)
2. COMMANDS & PROMISES
Keep a lookout for any direct commands in the scripture. We’re called to be obedient to the Word and in doing so, CHOOSE LIFE (Deuteronomy 30). Put a letter “C” next to any commands you see in a passage.
Are there any promises in the scripture? The bible is full of them and they’re yours to claim. Put a small letter “P” next to any promises you can identify.
3. CAUSE & AFFECT RELATIONSHIPS
Look for “do this, then this” type phrases in the scripture. Or “if this happens, then this will happen”. Underline them or do what I do - write a "C/A" next to them.
4. ILLUSTRATIONS, PICTURES & SYMBOLS
The bible is full of symbolic & poetic imagery. If we miss this, then we miss the picture God is trying to paint for us. For example, gardens in scripture can be symbolic of our heart, new life, or the Church. Wine, oil, water and wind is often symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Fruit or harvest can be symbolic of people getting saved. (Make sure you’re interpreting symbolism correctly - get resourced! Get a hold of a Dictionary of Bible Imagery and Symbolism. You won’t regret it.)
5. WRITE YOUR OWN TRANSLATION
Otherwise known as paraphrasing - yeah, sounds weird and slightly heretic. But when you come across scripture, I want you to visualise yourself there, on the scene, and insert your own name in there somewhere. If Jesus is speaking, imagine he is speaking directly to you. And from that place, write out your own version of the events, like a story or narrative. This is not to write your own translation - but to prevent you from distancing yourself from the events of scripture and help it come to life.
Ok guys, we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to observing scripture. But if you implement these simple tools, they’re going to act as
spark plugs for your bible life!
(For you non-mechanics: you can’t start a car without spark plugs. Yep, I didn’t know that either until I googled it. I hate cars. The end.) Anyway, it’ll KICKSTART you into journeying deeper into the wonderful forest of the Word - without getting lost and discouraged!