Right now I am reading through the Bible with a devotional series titled Reflections by Amy Edwards. Every day includes two chapters from the Old Testament, a Psalm, and two chapters from the New Testament. That will change somewhat once I get to the end of Psalms and the shorter New Testament, but this method has been a refreshing way to read through God’s Word.
I have found an uncanny resemblance between the Old Testament and New Testament passages that I have never noticed before. Isn’t it beautiful how alive God’s Word is to us? Never changing but always speaking fresh truth into our lives — just what we need when we need it.
Another insight I had while reading is about all those familiar and favorite Bible verses I came across. You know the ones, we can quote them backwards and forwards, and they always are handy for encouragement in the hard times. Those are all great, and we need them!
Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. We are taught and compelled to hide God’s Word in our heart (Psalm 119:11). Jesus Himself patterned for us how we should respond to temptation by quoting Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11). We do, however, tend to memorize those verses and depend only on them to sustain us at all times. We also fall into the trap of quoting a certain verse without truly understanding the full meaning.
One of the lessons I have learned while maturing in my own Bible study is to never take a verse out of context. We should always read the surrounding Scripture to understand the complete importance and true meaning of that one verse.
Let me give you an example: The last verse of Psalm 13 says, ”I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (verse 6, NKJV). That is a beautiful verse and so wonderful to remember to praise the Lord!
But what about those days when we don’t feel our lives have been dealt a bountiful hand? Does that negate the need to praise God?
Absolutely not!! This is where context comes in to our study. If we go back and read all of Psalm 13, we see David questioning God and feeling he has been forgotten and forsaken by Him: ”How long, O Lord?” (verse 1); ”Hear me, O Lord my God!” (verse 3). David is on the run from King Saul, hiding in caves and in fear for his life. He asks those hard questions that we have all had at one time or another.
Over and over again, the psalmists begin with downcast spirits or struggling to understand how God is working. By the time the psalm ends, however, the pleas for help have changed to praise for the One they know in their heart to be true and wise.
So what does all this mean for us?
It is okay to ask ”Why?”. Job and many others who were suffering questioned the state of affairs and tried to understand the purpose in their pain. The problem is when we continue to ask why in anger without relinquishing our pain to God and trusting Him for the outcome. God is still God, whether we agree with Him or not. I heard a profound statement recently that I will paraphrase here:
It is okay to question God as long as you do it with an open heart and not a clenched fist.
We must be open to listening to God’s answer to our questions. He may not tell us why or what the outcome will be, but He is still God. He deserves our praise and thankfulness, not only for what He has done, but just for who He is. David had no idea when the ”hide and seek” with King Saul would end or what would happen in the meantime, but he still chose to praise God.
I want to encourage you to spend time, not just reading the Bible, but studying the context of the passage. The Bible comes alive when we do this! Find a reliable commentary (if you need suggestions, I have some!) or a good study Bible to start, and learn why the Bible says what it does. Maybe you learn the historical context (where the scene occurred, why the writer used a specific word or subject, who the writer is and the time period they lived), or put one verse in the grander scheme of the chapter and then the book where it is contained. Why was the book written? To whom was it written?
There are so many precious gems waiting us in the mines of God’s Word! We can learn something new every time we read! Ask God to open your heart before you start your quiet time, let Him speak to you. He will honor your willingness.
And when you do this consistently, be prepared…you will begin to have an unquenchable thirst for the beauty of God’s Word.
Let me know in the comments how you approach your Bible study. If you do not have a consistent time in God’s Word, what is one thing you can do to start?