Hey Anchored Daily People, it’s Sarah Landon. I’d like to let you in on a little secret. Ok, you ready? I love studying the Bible. (Maybe that’s not such a big secret.) I’m not saying that to make myself look super smarty pants or something, but it’s fair warning that today we’re going to totally geek out about Bible study. I’m so excited!
So this week we’re in Psalm 19 and it’s SO GOOD. We’re using a framework called HEAR, H-E-A-R, to look at our weekly readings and today we’re camping out on E, Explain. The questions provided with the HEAR method essentially want us to get some context, see how our text connects with the rest of scripture, think about its purpose, and consider what it’s trying to say.
So let’s start with context. I’m guessing that none of you are Bible experts who already know all of the historical and cultural context for all scripture. Yeah. But guess what, those people write things and all we have to do is benefit from their study. When I start with context, I read the intro in my Bible at the beginning of the book, this time it’s the Psalms. And then each psalm tends to have a little handy note at the beginning too, Psalm 19 says, “For the choir director. A psalm of David.” So now we know the author and the audience. Hey, thanks Bible experts for the tips!
I like to take a minute to imagine the context for a second, put myself in the scripture. Ok, I’m picturing a big choir, singing these words, coming from David’s heart, the most prolific Psalmist, echoing through the holy places and then into my everyday as it gets stuck in my head and I sing it at home. So our psalm would be shared among the Israelites publicly but also personally in each heart.
Now let’s see how our text connects with the rest of scripture. Are there words that you recognize from other parts of the Bible? Well, did you notice the word “expanse” in verse 1. If you’ve studied Genesis 1, it might seem vaguely familiar. It’s repeated nine times in Genesis 1 and would’ve been a little reminder calling the Israelites’ minds back to God’s awesome work of creation. But wait, you say, I haven’t studied every book of the Bible. How am I going to know all the ways my text connects to other places? Do you remember those Bible experts? They’ve made these cool things called cross-references. If you own a study Bible, they will be sprinkled all over the text as little letters or numbers and they’ll point out other places certain phrases or words come up throughout scripture. It’s super cool. Some of these cross-references are also free online. Links to them will be in the show notes.
But even without cross-references, we can look at our text for repeated words and phrases, things that are the same and a little different. Did you notice all the references to words? I counted at least 15. Then did you notice too, the structure in the second section. There was a pattern. Did you see how the pattern was interrupted in the middle? That makes verse nine really stand out, doesn’t it? We can ask how are these words similar, how are they different, why would the author want to emphasize the verse that was out of the pattern? Get curious about the words, in fact, it’s helpful to have just a regular dictionary handy so you can look up what each word means to get more clarity. Maybe you noticed the last section seemed to shift away from words and focus on sin. Did you see how the type of sin changed from one verse to the next. They’re all sin, but they’re all slightly different. Unintentional, hidden, willful, blatant. Isn’t it cool how it changes in intensity? We see that when we look for patterns.
Next, when we think about the purpose of the text, it’s good to understand what genre we’re working with. Is this history, law, poetry, prophecy, wisdom literature, narrative, or an epistle? Knowing the genre will help us to read and understand the text the way it was intended. The cool thing about Psalm 19 is that it’s poetry and uses figurative language. So we don’t take everything literally. We all know the sun is not an actual bridegroom or athlete running across the sky. Thanks, Captain Obvious. But sometimes it’s not so clear, and so this helps us to remember that some things aren’t literal. Like in verses one through four talking about creation’s “words”.
Now we can finally think about all the things we’ve observed so we can start to make some conclusions about what it’s trying to say. Sometimes it helps to zoom out, step away from the little details and just summarize what the big picture is.
Speaking of zooming out, let’s zoom out ourselves on the whole Bible study thing. It can be super overwhelming if you think there’s only one “right” way to study your Bible. These are just some tools you can use to dig deeper into scripture. Bible study really just comes down to this: read God’s word, be curious (ask a ton of questions), and let the Holy Spirit work. Start where you are and get ready for God to move, because His Words really are “… more desirable than gold—than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb.” May you be blessed by His words today.