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Our God creates with precision and perfection. We can see the glory of his handiwork in creation, as well as in the messages he delivered through the human instruments of his merciful revelations. These came together to form the Bible.
How great his passion for us, how tolerant his eternal and omniscient view upon our finite and mutable circumstances, that he painstakingly recorded over time his work of love for humanity.
The prophet Isaiah, writing about 700 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, related an amazing vision about the Messiah: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground” (Isaiah 53:1-2). Many of Isaiah’s predictions about the Saviour God promised could only be fully understood after the anticipated event. Such is the foreknowledge found in Scripture. Divine plans, over and beyond human history infuse the entire Bible, inspired as it is by God’s Spirit himself. You can find in its pages glimpses of the transcendent nature of God, and his presence in the here and now, in every fibre of creation.
The prophets and apostles who experienced the Spirit’s inspiring hand upon them as they wrote gave us a nearly incomprehensible view of the grandeur of God and his purposes from the beginning to the ending of history. Nothing is beyond his reach; nothing escapes his eyes—not the past, not the present, not the future. His wisdom, knowledge, power and authority show him to be unimaginably awesome, and One who works according to the characteristics of his love.
God remains true to His nature
Though we fail and err, God remains perfectly true to every principle of his holy nature. And that becomes evident in the reading of his written Word. Its God-breathed essence, form and order prevail throughout in ways incomparable to any other form of literature.
Jesus himself said, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18), and “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
The Bible is thoroughly reliable. It will accomplish everything for which it is intended. The complications that arise between various interpretations are not due to contradictions inherent in the Scripture itself, but in the shortcomings of human perception. Read Scripture so as not to get trapped by complications, contradictions and points of contention that are more a product of the confusion of the human mind than the divine will. The Bible can sustain our faith in its authority.
Tips for studying the Word of God
The following guidelines will help you better understand the Bible. The key to it all lies in acknowledging the Holy Spirit as its author and best interpreter. Openness to the Holy Spirit’s teaching is essential, as is acknowledging that the mind of God exceeds all others. With this mindset, mysteries will be revealed to the seeker in God’s own time:
- Put the passage in context. Read what precedes a passage and what follows it. The connections point to the underlying harmony of purpose.
- Look for face value. Read the text for what it actually says. Some bias is inevitable, but it was not written so it could be remolded or shaped to fit our dogmatic preferences; our dogma must conform to its truth. The result of reading too much into the words is not a deeper sense of the spiritual meanings, but an escape into fantasy.
- Recognise that the material is historical. Note carefully the persons, places and things involved. Bible settings are real, absent of myth or privately interpreted allegory. Figures of speech are used, but simply to explain facts and establish truth.
- Get the syntax. The truth is always the truth, but different languages and cultures vary in forms of expression. Our own language may require different grammar (the syntax of contemporary usage), but should keep as true to the original text as possible. The first languages used for the Bible are filled with wonderful riches of wisdom and knowledge. To be fully appreciated they may require examples that draw on shared cultural practices and contemporary usage.
- Synchronise passages. Find other Scripture that speaks of the same subject, relates to the same circumstance and further illuminates the intent of your chosen verses. Scripture often interprets itself.
- Analyse the passage. Use commentaries and Bible dictionaries. Avoid twisting the text to fit sudden inspirations. Let the Spirit and the Word straighten them. Secular dictionaries and encyclopedias do not always correlate with biblical usage.
- Personalise the passage. Let it speak to you before you apply it to others. Pray and wait over it until God speaks through it to your own heart. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you into all that is true, and away from all that is false. The unparalleled beauty of these books handed down for centuries is that they are alive. God speaks to you through them.
To approach the Word of God as something alive, as a bottomless mystery ready to reveal the secrets that will unlock a person’s mind and heart, is to gain much more than mere knowledge. The awareness that rises out of the light and love of God brings a wisdom that transforms our everyday living and strengthens our faith for all times.
May each of us approach the sacred text as if we were the Spirit’s personally intended recipient and his personally ordained messenger of its verity—for the sake of him who is the living Word.
By: Major David Laeger
Source: The War Cry, November 2004