Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Dig Deeper

child eating parfait
“The congregation gets the crumbs of the pastor’s Bible study.” When a professor said that years ago, I didn’t really understand; now I believe it. When I’ve sat through a sermon over a passage I’ve studied, and when I’ve studied in order to teach something, it’s become clear that there is so much bounty, so much juicy goodness that it cannot possibly all fit into any sermon or lesson.

So if you’re not digging into the scriptures for yourself, you’re missing out. Even if you regularly read the Bible, you may be leaving so much treasure unearthed.

Think of the scriptures like a fancy layered dessert — maybe a cake or parfait. There are several layers, and each offers new delights. If you don’t dig down into all the layers, you’re missing out.

Casually reading the text, then closing it and walking away is like just taking a taste of the top layer. Some days you only have time for that, but if that’s all you ever do, you never really get to experience the treat.

If you read the text and stop to consider it, to think about it, to wrestle with it a bit, you’re enjoying that first layer. Now dig deeper.

When you read a passage repeatedly, trying to understand the flow, looking for the purpose, and meditating on the meaning, you’re getting down to the next layer. Dig deeper.

Now you read the text closely — tracking down the antecedent of each pronoun, examining the verbs and adjectives — and consider the passage in the context of the larger book. You pepper the text with questions. You’re still nowhere near the bottom; dig deeper.

You pick out the key term in a passage and do a brief word study, then you look at other passages that may inform your understanding of this one. Go deeper.

Then you have to step away from the Bible itself for a bit. Are there any cultural issues that affect how we understand this passage? Does geography matter? What do I still not understand?

Now you’re ready to dig down to the next layer, which is reading what other people have written. Whether it’s study Bible notes or a separate commentary, it’s helpful to see what scholars who’ve really, really studied this passage think about it. Take your questions to the experts, and see what insights they have. There’s a lot of goodness here because these people have a lot of wisdom, but if we skip to this layer, we’ve skipped over a lot of wonderful flavors, which keeps us from fully enjoying this one. Now go deeper.

Once we understand what the author was trying to communicate we can ask what we should do with this. Is there something I need to do or change? How should my life reflect what I’ve learned here? Getting down to this layer is hard, and many people miss out, but it’s actually the best layer.

Some days, some years, we aren’t going to have time to dig as deep into the scriptures as we could, and anything is better than just leaving it on the table untouched, but the deeper you go, the more treasure you’ll find. Make it a priority to treat yourself to all the flavors the scriptures have to offer. It really is a gift you give yourself.

If you’re not sure how to dig down into the scriptures, let me suggest some good books. For a basic introduction to the idea, any of these will be excellent: Knowable Word by Peter Kroll is pretty basic and quite short. It’s a good starting place. You can also find articles on this topic on his blog.

Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks (my favorite) or How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart (also very popular) are a little longer and go into more detail.

Once you’ve got some practice, if you want to learn to dig deeper still:
Grasping God’s Word by Duvall and Hays will teach you new places to dig.

How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament by DeRouchie and/or How to Understand and Apply the New Testament by Naselli will teach you more advanced tools, including introducing you to some original language features you can use without having to learn the entire language.

Image via Pixabay

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you. I needed to hear this as I wish to go much deeper with my Bible study in 2023. God bless you!