George Muller, a giant figure in the history of the church, cared for 10,024 orphans in his lifetime explored with great faith and enthusiasm the inner life, faith and prayer. That’s what we remember about him. But his words surprised me when I read them–
“What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and….not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.”
Bible Study isn’t a casual stroll through a book. Bible study isn’t googling various themes to help us find scriptures to fit our own personal predilections. It is an adventure into the voice, plan and providence of God. It is a living expedition that changes the reader not the interpretation. It’s pondering, applying, researching, and listening.
Here are five benefits to an exegetical strategy of Bible study.
- We get the big picture and the larger story. Historically (and currently), certain unfortunate groups have zeroed in on one chapter or even one verse of the Bible in order to develop their worldview. These efforts pervert the meaning of scripture because it ignores the Canon in favor of a particular nuance found in a particular part. Once we look at the bigger picture, the larger story, that’s when the Bible gets interesting, my friend! We see shards of truth in the details but nothing can compare to the full mosaic of the Word as we see the progression of Scripture.
- Exegetical study reveals what God is saying rather than what we want Him to say. Exegetical Bible study begins with hands empty and open to God. If only we would constantly have the attitude: “Lord, I’m going to go deep, read with eyes afresh and heart open and allow You to speak truth. I will set my personal predilections aside and put on the full armor expecting that You will shake my foundation.”
- We grasp Scripture and apply it appropriately. Most people, when they think about theology, envision demanding degrees, multisyllabic mysteries, and complicated conundrums. But the truth of God’s word is much simpler than some make it out to be. I love this thought from Soren Kierkegaard:
“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”
- You’ll enjoy the diversity of genres and styles. Unlike a textbook that’s filled with codes, formulas and theorems, God gave us a book of stories, poems, metaphors, sayings, commandments, laments, and prophetic reveals. Through exegetical study of scriptures the brilliance and clarity of God’s story comes alive with dynamism and surprising depth. We breath deep the truth of God’s character and the power of his grace. It’s a unified message told in a variety of methods and styles. Even the four Gospels blend together; telling the same story but doing so differently. John’s Gospel is poetic and teaming with symbols and purposeful progressions. Luke’s Gospel, the Gentile voice with a vision of suffering humanity and those lost in the margins of society. Luke’s orderly account is very different from the “fasten-your-seatbelts” Gospel of Mark.
- Organic discoveries are the best kind. It’s great to bask in the wisdom and inspiration of David Jeremiah, David Platt, Tim Keller and other amazing writers, but discovered truths from God’s word of the homegrown variety often have a greater, more personal impression on my life. I think you’ll agree. There are times when I discover something so relevant to my own crucible or to the struggle of those I love that I can’t resist sharing it. It brings me to life. It wrecks me in such a visceral way that I know it is the Holy Spirit at work.
Surely, to exegete scripture is to unravel a message and the mystery of the whole counsel of God. It’s hopping on board to the message and seeing where it takes you. You might not know it when you start, but its destination is always life-changing and beautiful.