“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).
And yet there are so many passages that make you go “huh?” Over the years I’ve found 5 questions that can help make any passage “devotional.” These aren’t necessarily quick and easy to apply, but with a little time and thought they can help you get to some of the juicy goodness in a passage.
1) What does this tell me about God?
The nature and character of God is the bedrock on which the scriptures are built. Sometimes you have to look past the details of the text and ask what they tell you about God. Find out what the passage is telling you about God and worship Him anew.
Example: Leviticus 10 (Don’t take the easy option and think about God’s “temper.”)
2) What does this tell me about me? (or humans)
The Bible has lots to say about God. It also has a lot to say about human nature (especially my nature). Reflect on what it teaches you about you.
Example: Deuteronomy 13
3) What if it were me?
I often read the Bible as if it were on a higher plane, but those events took place in our world. Get down into the details: feel those people’s pain; cry with them; laugh with them. Read the Bible narratives like you would any other story.
Example: Isaiah 6 (At some point you should say, “Ouch!” Reflect on what that teaches you.)
4) How does this fit into the grand narrative?
The Bible is one story, from Genesis to Revelation. Each event is part of that over-arching story. Find where the passage you’re reading fits into the grand narrative and you will better understand the passage; you may also see God’s plan in a new light.
Example: Joshua 8
5) Is there anything here I need to know, stop, change, or do?
This comes straight out of 2 Tim 3:16. Every passage should tell you at least one of these things. (Be careful not to stop at “know” too often; that’s an easy cop-out.) The epistles are obvious, but the narratives are God-breathed too. Look for the insight, for the example, or for the warning in historical and prophetic passages.
Example: Amos 2:6-16
Ask these questions one at a time until one of them reveals a truth upon which you can meditate or worship or which you can apply to change your life. And don’t be afraid of weird or “obscure” passages. All scripture is God-breathed, so even Leviticus can lead us to the throne of God.
Wondering what I had in mind on any of these?
1) Lev 10 taught me about the holiness of God and how I should react to it.
2) Deut 13 taught me about the infectious nature of sin and the corruptibility of humans.
3) I reflect on how painful it must be to atone for sin.
4) The whole OT is a drive to Matthew 27. There needed to be a holy people. Compare Judges 2.
5) There’s a lot here, but I would probably focus mostly on the treatment of the poor.
You may also be interested in: How to be a Self-Feeder, Never read a Bible verse, How to drown your sorrows, and my review of Living by the Book.