Using the Bible study page
The Bible study page is presented to make it possible to read the ‘review’ and keep an eye on the ‘Bible passage’ at the same time. Then, at the bottom of the page there are some ‘questions for reflection’ for your consideration followed by a ‘final prayer’ for use to complete your devotions for the day.
As for the whole of the devotional material offered on this site, please use it as you see fit. I do not suggest you use every part of what is written here meticulously. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in what you use and how you use it. The whole idea is that these words prompt your devotions, not that they are a straightjacket for learning or for Christian discipline.
The Bible translation is my own; but why not use a familiar Bible version? First, copyright issues prevent me from doing this. Second, by engaging with the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) text, I am better prepared to write the ‘reviews’ and closer to its deeper truths, which it is my duty to convey.
You may feel this unnecessary, but like any translated text, the Bible is clearest in its original language, and some things are lost in translation. If anyone is serious about understanding God’s Word, then they can never be satisfied with glossing over such things, and I believe that when explained properly, most Christians can understand these things. For example, ‘sin’ is not just one word in the Bible, and the different words used in the Hebrew and Greek tell us much about the human condition and all that stands between people and God.
Ultimately, the Holy Spirit will help us to understand God’s Word and apply it. I emphasise that I cannot claim to have all the ‘right’ answers to questions about the Bible text, but I believe every Christian has the right to know how translators work out the text and the Bible versions we use. It is very important for our faith.
In the review I say as much as I can about the text in about 1,000 to 1,200 words. I could say much more, for over the centuries, scholars have studied the Bible in great depth, but it is simply not possible to convey everything there is to know about any text. However, my guiding principle is to write as plainly as possible, while introducing you to as many interesting aspects of the text as possible. I also try to explain any difficulties which arise in the passage, whether of language or of meaning.
It is my experience that when we study any difficult passage (e.g. why God allows Satan to tempt Job in Job 1), then if we keep our hearts and minds open both to the possibility of new revelation and also to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, then we will not be disappointed. There may be many things for us yet to discover within God’s Word, but the Bible is His gift to us and the standard of our faith. Without faith, the Bible has no more to offer us than any other literature, but with this faith it stands as the eternal record of the truth of God’s incarnation in Christ, and the power of salvation through His death and resurrection.
Some texts are relatively easy to understand, but many passage contain deeper truths. This is where ‘going deeper’ can be useful as we take the opportunity to dig a little further into the text to see where it leads us. In truth, I sometimes write under this heading and at other times not, often because of the time available to me rather than any lack of material to under this heading. Over the years, I hope to ensure that each study contains as much relevant material as makes for good Bible study.
There are two basic means of going deeper into the text. First, I explain the origins of some Biblical words which illuminate our understanding of the passage. This could be something like explaining what the Hebrew people believed about the human ‘heart’ (i.e. they believed this to be the centre of the human ‘will’, not the centre of ‘emotions’, as we do). Clearly, if we take such things into account they can help shape our understanding of God’s Word; in this case, what God means by asking us to love Him ‘with all our heart and soul and strength’ (Deut 6:5). Under this heading I also explain place names and other cultural matters we can reasonably be sure of from more than two thousand years distance.
Second, I outline some additional points which either illustrate the main themes of the text or take them further. There is of course no end to our exploration of God’s Word, but we must keep a focus on what is of primary importance and what is secondary.
Lastly, I write under this heading to offer some idea of how to apply scripture to everyday life. It is not easy to jump the two thousand years since the time of Christ and be sure to understand things properly. Yet each Bible passage can be used by God to prompt us in our quest for faithful and holy living. He may use the obvious themes of the passage, or He may use some of the secondary points to draw our attention in more subtle ways.
It is my hope that in daring to write about my own reactions to the text, I will prompt you to respond to what the Spirit is saying to you as you read. Ultimately, this is what is most important for the Bible study.