For the first method we are going to look at the Manuscript Study Method! Before we get into it, I want to give you just a few tips to consider every time you open your Bible! Start with prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to come.What does God want to say to me?
Pray for expectancy, revelation, alertness and teachability
Expectancy: Expect God to show up when you open the Bible. Isaiah 55:11 “so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it”.
Revelation: the Holy Spirit will reveal what the Bible means to you if you ask Him to. John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to you remembrance all things that I said to you.”
Alertness: one thing the enemy likes to do is make you distracted or sleepy when you go read the Bible. Pray that the Lord will keep you alert to what He wants to say. Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God…”
Teachability: be open and willing to be shaped and molded by what the Word of God says. Isaiah 64:8 “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay and You our potter; and we are the work of Your hand”.
Don't give up! If this first method does not work for you, keep at it! Everyone learns differently and God knows that. Ask Him to revel to you how He wants you to study His Word.
Study Method: “Manuscript Study” Observation, Questions, Interpretation, Application.
Pray: pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you in your time of study.
Read through the passage.
Observations: write down all of your observations. It is good to go through who, what, where, when, why, how of the passage. Who are the characters in the passage? What are they doing? Where are they? When is is this in Bible context, or historically? How are things playing out in the passage?
Questions: if you can not answer all of the who, what, when, where, why, and how’s that you had, write them in the section of questions. Write down any other questions about the passage. What does this verse mean? What is the historical and cultural context of this? Do I need to know the cultural background to understand the passage better? Is the written somewhere else in the Bible.
Interpretation: this is where you start to answer the questions you have. There are several ways to start answering questions that you have about the Bible. There are several resources to use to help you. Online resources I like are blueletterbible.com or biblegateway.com. For a little more intense study guide, I use Logos which is program that you would need to buy but it is really good. The YouVersion Bible app is really good too! When you are in any of those programs, you are going to want to find and use the “Text Commentaries”. Commentaries are great tools to use because they are pastors and teachers taking the scriptures and explaining them the best they can! It is also good to look at “cross references”. These are other verses that help you understand the verse that you are looking at! Sometimes just google searching the question might help too. Just be aware of the sites that you are getting answers from. If you are stuck on a question that you have about the passage of the Bible and you have tried looking it up , you can always email your pastor, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to sit down with you and look over questions you might have!
Application: Now that you know more about what the passage of scripture means, now you need to learn how to apply that to your everyday life. If you just have knowledge about the Bible but don’t let that transform your life, than that doesn’t really do much good. If I look at a recipe and understand all of the ingredients and know how the process is supposed to work to make to dish, but don’t actually go to the kitchen and make the recipe, then you still are hungry. Knowing how to follow the recipe but not cooking doesn’t benefit anything. The scriptures are like the recipe and you only benefit from them if you actually cook the recipe and apply it to your life. Answer questions like: What stood out to you, what shocked you, what stuck to you? What are you going to do about it? Where do you see Jesus show up in this passage? How does this passage make you want to act? What is something this week you could do to be more like Jesus because of this passage? How can you live differently in light of what you have read?
Now I’m going to go though a passage and show you how this method works! We are going to go though the first chapter of Jonah!
Pray: Holy Spirit come! Lord please show me what you want me to learn in this chapter of Jonah. Please speak to me Jesus. Lord I pray that I have an open heart that is teachable and that I will learn how to apply what you are teaching me to my daily life. Amen.
Read the Passage: Jonah 1 (ESV) “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. 4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” 7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. 17 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Observations: The Lord is speaking to a man named Jonah. The Lord tells Jonah to go to a place called Nineveh but Jonah goes to Tarshis instead. God sent a big storm, but Jonah slept through the storm. They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah so Jonah told them to throw him overboard to calm the seas. The other men on the boat cried out to all of their other god’s but then they called out on the Lord God to save them. They eventually worshiped God. The Lord prepared a fish that swallowed Jonah. He was in the belly of the fish for three days.
Questions: Where is Nineveh, and why was is a great city? Where is Tarshih? Why did Jonah not want to go to Nineveh? Why did he run from God? Why did Jonah sleep though the storm? What does it mean to “cast lots”? What does it mean to fear the Lord?
Interpretation: Nineveh is in modern day Iraq. It was a great city because it was a superpower of the day. Its military was brutal. It was a very great city but a very wicked city. Its people were very violent and that was why it was such a superpower. People didn’t want to go against the great city of Nineveh because they really wouldn’t survive. Also, it was the capital of Assyria of the time. Tarshish is about as far away from Nineveh as you could go. Tarshish is in modern day Spain. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh for a couple of reasons. He probable was scared. They were a very violent people and they didn’t believe in God. He was expecting that they would have killed him. He also probable didn’t want to go because he wanted God to judge them. It was the center of Assyria and the Assyrians were persecuting the nation of Israel at the time. He ran from the Lord probable because his faith was shaky. Jonah was able to sleep though the storm because it is easy to get comfortable in your sin until it destroys you. You might think that you are safe when you are running from God but really you are about to drown in your sin. The safest place is to be in God’s will for you even if it seems like you are not in control of it. Casting lots is a way people in those times would determine things. It was kind of like gambling. God uses it throughout scripture to show us that even though we think things are by chance, God is still in control. Fearing the Lord is the reverence that you hold the Lord in your life. To fear God doesn’t mean you are scared of Him. It is the respect and reverence that He deserves. Fearing the Lord looks like worshiping Him, praising Him for what He does in your life, giving Him the respect and honor that He deserves.
Application: If running from God leads to storms, I want to run towards God and fear Him. Even if He calls me to something scary, I know that He is in control and I want to be with Him, not running from Him. I am going to fear the Lord this week, giving Him the respect and honor that He deserves.
You don’t have to do a full chapter at a time, start with just a few verses at a time. Your Bible brakes things up into sections smaller than chapters (look for the paragraph breaks), that is a good place to start. As always, email or comment if you have any questions or if you need help!