One of Scripture’s most tragic statements is found in Hosea 4:6—“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” God provided His people with everything that they needed to know in order to please Him. His Divine Will was clearly revealed in the Law and proclaimed by His servants sent time and again to plead with His people. But they continually rejected Him, and consequently He rejected them (Hos. 4:6b). Another tragedy is found in Amos 8:11—“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord God, that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” How sad it is that God’s people had neglected one of God’s richest blessings—His revealed will.
Even more tragic is the fact that there are still so many in our own time who have not learned the lessons of the past, and still fail to learn and embrace God’s Word. Evidence abounds, anecdotal and otherwise, to show just how dire the situation is. The latest State of the Bible survey concluded only 39% of Americans are “Bible users.” That is the lowest number ever recorded. A 2022 Gallup poll found that only 20% of people view the Bible as the actual Word of God and take it literally. One wonders what the results would be if similar studies were conducted among God’s people.
The news is not all bad, however, because the world still stands and we still have time to learn God’s Word! What better time than the beginning of a new year create new Bible study habits? Here are some suggestions to help get started.
- Be convinced of the need to study. It is possible for us to spend time in God’s word that is completely fruitless. If our heart is not in it then it will be completely unprofitable. We must be convinced and convicted that studying God’s word is vital to spiritual success; otherwise we will never devote ourselves to it as we should. We must remember what God told Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6-15. We must be like Ezra, who “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra 7:10).
- Make it a daily habit. Those in Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica because they “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). In order to truly be a diligent bible student, we must invest ourselves in studying it every day. Designate a time during your day to open the scripture to read and meditate. Turn off the TV, silence your cell phone, and concentrate on God’s word. Make it a non-negotiable priority. One who is truly blessed is one who “meditates on God’s word both day and night” (Psalm 1).
- Memorize scripture. The only way to truly hide God’s word in our hearts is to memorize it. Admittedly, memorization is easier for some than others, but everyone can do it. Start by memorizing one passage per day. Write it down on a piece of paper or an index card and take it with you wherever you go throughout the day. Read it routinely and recite it aloud. There are a number of different methods and even websites and phone apps that will help with this process. Remember, the key to memorization is repetition.
- Emphasize meditation. There is a vast difference between bible reading and bible study. Meditation is the key. Bible meditation is defined beautifully in Psalm 1. There are two parts. First, chew on the passage. Memorize it, read it, and think about it over and over again. Ask questions about the passage, look of the definition of words, and see how it fits in context. Second, actively look for ways to make application. For example, if you’re studying a passage about proper use of the tongue, look for opportunities during the day to use your tongue for good, like expressing thanksgiving to someone or offering a word of encouragement. The key to proper meditation is answering two questions: “What does it mean?” and “How do I apply it?”
- Study topically. Choose a topic like love, joy, or peace. Get out a pen and a notepad, then open up the bible and look for passages that deal with that topic. Write the passages down and categorize them. Once you have finished that step, organize your notes to see the full picture of how the bible discusses the topic. Then commence meditation.
- Study textually. Choose a text. It can be a small section, like a parable, an entire chapter, or a book. Read it several times (preferably aloud). Look for key words and phrases. Look for passages to memorize. Look for transition words like “therefore,” and petition verbs like “urge” and “beg.” Ask questions about the text. What is the historical background? What is the main idea of the text? What is main point being emphasized?
Christians are to have a positive influence on this world. We are salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16) in a world that desperately needs both. We recognize this fact but sometimes wonder how to begin chipping away at darkness. Why not begin by increasing our knowledge of God’s Word so that we may help others to do the same?