When I became a Christian, I was a know-it-all. That translated into digging into the Word in a very academic way, trying to understand literature, and feeling like I had to know it all.

That is why Kay Arthur’s Precept Upon Precept bible studies were perfect for my brain. Inductive bible study is labor-intensive. So, while today, I don’t mark up my Bible with different colors and symbols, I still do word studies. I still invest a lot of time in research to understand historical and cultural context. I still transport myself into a time and place that isn’t now to better understand what the author was trying to communicate to their intended audience (and, I understand that that their intended audience isn’t always me, and that’s okay).

  1. Start with prayer. I get distracted. It takes a supernatural peace and focus to sit in quiet to read and study. So, I ask for help. I acknowledge God. I thank Him for the freedom to read His Word. I thank Him for His commandments. I ask for shalom. I ask for focus. I ask to receive the Word with meekness. My time in prayer is really just about taking myself out of the driver seat and make sure I am coming to the Bible to learn more about God, His character and His commandments. I don’t want to come to the Bible with a list of problems to find solutions for. I want to come to the Bible with a yearning to know Him more.
  2. Read. Rinse. Repeat. One reason it takes me so long to study a passage is I read and reread often. I read the first time through for context. I read a second time to pick out emerging themes and main ideas. Then, the third time around, I am paying closer attention to things like, word choice, sentence structure, and narrative patterns. This is when I am analyzing the text and looking for any cross references. I know that when Jesus spoke to crowds of Jewish people, the references He made in a crowd made sense to the crowd. They have a shared understanding of Scripture, of the Tanakh. So, if there are repeated themes I remember from reading in the New Testament, I note their prominence in the Old Testament and follow the idea back to its origins. (Note: I am going to stop using the term “Old Testament.” As you read, when you read “Tanakh” it means the body of work that Jesus knew as a first century Jewish man: The Law (Torah), The Prophets (Nevi’im), and The Writings (Ketuvim). Read more about the Tanakh here.
  3. Words matter. Look them up. When there is a main idea or theme that stands out to me, I go to BibleHub and look up the inter linear translation. I get to see the word-for-word translation and investigate any words that interest me. You know when you look something up in a dictionary there are sometimes more than one definition listed there? Those lists matter. Because we are looking at a body of work that’s been translated, you are trusting the methodology has been sound in getting you the final product that sits in front of you today. For the most part, I do, I trust the process. However – a pretty big “however” for me — I was not raised in Ancient Israel, I do not understand cultural things that go without being said, I don’t know the language, and there are things in language and culture that can be taken for granted when we don’t pay attention. So, those secondary definitions give you a sense of the word as well. You can also see other places the word is used in the Bible. Investigating the other uses can also help you understand the word better. You can read more about the study of the phrase “ezer kenegdo” which inspired this website in the first place.
  4. Asked and answered. Professionally, I work in communications and public affairs. When we prepare talking points for a press conference, there is a section where you lay out the questions you want a reporter to ask, questions you know they’ll ask, and questions you don’t want them to ask. And, you prepare answers for all of them. Because this is the way my brain works, I find questions to ask, questions with second and third order effects on some foundational belief I have, or a question about God’s character, and I search for the answers. I ask questions about the author, the audience, the cultural context, I ask about how we went from that to this. Then I investigate some more until I can carry a conversation about the topic. I am lucky to live with someone who reads and processes and asks completely differently than I do, so we bounce ideas and thoughts off each other and even when we differ, we see a clearer picture of God.
  5. Build your resource library. Although I’m a know-it-all, I don’t know it all. I know how to find answers to questions I don’t know, I know how to find the expert, and I know how to find a good deal. So, I did some research on a concise, but useful commentary set and then shopped around for it on eBay. As much as I wanted to drop hundreds of dollars on a 20-volume set, I ended up with the Bible Knowledge Commentaries, a digital copy of the the IVP Biblical Background Commentaries, a digital copy of Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, and a book called The Pentateuch as Narrative. I like to travel light in general, so this setup is perfect for my studies right now. Any supplemental books I purchase are focused on the understanding the five books of Moses right now. I am currently reading The Pentateuch as Narrative.

If you’re here, reading this, and you’re excited to start studying God’s Word, send me a note. I’d love to parntner with you in prayer!