Reading the bible – Ways to read to learn to Obey

Friends in Masi we are helping start a bible study

We have been learning lots of ‘simple’ ways to read the bible and to understand its meaning, so that we can give it away in the communities we are working in.

Because we are so often dealing with people who have little or no education past basic literacy, most of our complex and intellectual ways of studying the bible aren’t appropriate when we are encouraging people to engage with the word on a regular basis in a way they can easily apply to their lives. So we have been learning a few simple methods, one of which I want to share with you. I have been discovering the beauty of simple inductive bible study, just you, or maybe you and some friends, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us, desiring to obey Gods work with our lives, living out the word in concrete actions.

So often our tendency can be to distance ourself from the word, to make its interpretation something conceptual, abstract or even ethereal. But most of what we read in the bible is brilliantly practical. Martin Luther said of this distancing, that it was a like a child who put a pillow in the back of their trousers before getting a spanking!

Of course, our desire in reading the word is not to get a metaphorical ‘spanking’, but to discover Jesus, and in discovering him, to learn to love him, which means to want to obey him. Not out of some twisted sense of ‘earning’ anything, but because we follow those we love.

So…on with simple bible study, that teaches us to obey: We are going to use Deut 6:4-8.

First Read the passage out loud:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.[a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Then write the passage out in its entirety:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about then when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Then write out the passage in your own words, the desire isn’t for literalist accuracy as much as it is to rephrase the scripture, by doing this we are doing something similar to turning a diamond round, looking for the different lines, and the way it reflects the light. I’ve often enjoyed reading Eugene Peterson’s MESSAGE translation for this, but I am enjoying even more putting my own words to ‘What I am hearing’ from the passage. That is another key, we are trying to really see, “What might the Holy Spirit be highlighting in this passage for me today”. As anyone who has read the scriptures over a number of years knows, scriptures speak directly, like a double edge sword into our circumstance. We trust that as we pray for the Holy Spirit to be illuminating the verses to us, that His desire to do that is even stronger than ours, even as far to say that He has put that desire in us!

So hears my shot at Deut 6:

There is no other God, YHWH is the only one. Give him all you have from the deepest place of your being, give his commandments meaning to your children, let them be spoken often in the place you spend your days, when you are moving about, when you are resting, and when you begin working. Keep them before you as you work with your hands, and let them be at fore front of your mind in all your thinking. Let them mark the place you live in, so that when people come in they know who God is.

In all the bible study methods we use here, the common key is always, “how can we obey”…all through the bible we see the call the obey as the primary way in which we follow Jesus.

So then I would pray for God to reveal to you, What does it look like for you to obey Jesus in reading this today?” We are not looking for a way to sum up what obedience might be for every aspect of the verse, of course that is the desire, but obedience is one step at a time, and obeying the aspect in your heart that the Holy Spirit is speaking to you TODAY.

So here was my prayer as I did this verse:

God, you know our desire is to worship you with our lives, and that we believe your word. Would you direct how to live your word so that we might love you rightly, and people would know that you are good by our living response to who you are. Amen

Then we write down a statement explaining simply what we will commit to obey…

..Its always helpful to begin the sentence – “I will…” otherwise I have found, that I tend to keep a ‘get out of jail’ free card, by saying ‘I will try…’ or talk about a way that my thinking is changing. Those things, ‘trying’ and ‘changing thinking’ is of course a great step. But we are keen to encourage in our own lives and those we disciple comittments to “follow” Jesus and trust that he will extend the grace to live out the things he is calling us to obey.

So my obedience statement as I prayed through this verse is:

“I will make time around meal times to read the word and discuss it looking for way to love God by obeying what it asks, desiring that our house may be a place where people encounter you Jesus, the word made flesh.”

One Comment on “Reading the bible – Ways to read to learn to Obey

  1. Great stuff, Liam. Obedience sounds like a bad word similarly to submission in our culture. By why? If Jesus is LORD, then of course we are to submit to Him and Obey him. Even parents don’t want to use this word, obey, with their children. But it is truly a simple, loving response to loving God and putting Him first. I will pray for your own responses to obey. Your decision to read the Word at your table is a wonderful family habit which impacts others. One guest to our house recently said after sitting at our breakfast table that that was the first time she had heard the Bible read in a few years and much of it spoke right to her. So I do know that it IS a witness. Praise God for you and Rachel and the home you are making! Lots of love, Tessa

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