Studying Scripture: The Observation Method

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:2

 

            I could continue to go on and on with posting Scripture references about the importance of God’s word in our lives.  God has revealed himself to us through the writings of prophets, apostles, kings, and even doctors!  It is these writings that allow us to get to intimately know the God of the universe.

            However, this can be a very intimidating process.  Most of us (including myself at times) often have no idea of where to start and what to do once we get started.  While I have been introduced to several different methods of studying the Bible, I have recently been trying another method that I like pretty well.  It seems simple on the surface, but is not so simple in practice.  The goal is to read a passage or chapter of Scripture and make thirty observations on the text.

           Now, I know what you may be thinking.  “How am I supposed to make thirty observations on maybe ten or fifteen verses?”  Exactly.  This is something that is meant to stretch you and reveal things about the writing and the Lord to you that you may not have otherwise noticed.  You will get to know the nuances of the author better as well, which can help to make the context of his writing more clear.  While this is not easy in practice, it is a great way to study the Scriptures.

            There are only a few things that you will need to know going in.  First, take a few minutes to pray intentionally before examining the passage.  I have found that it is much more difficult to understand/retain things if I do not ask the Lord for guidance beforehand.  Second, be sure to read the passage at least a couple of times before dissecting it, so that when you go through verse one, you already have the overarching theme in mind.  Then, just write down anything that stands out to you.  If you make a minimum of six observations each day from Monday-Friday, then this can become a very sustainable practice and something you look forward to every day. 

            There are a couple of warnings/helpful things that I want to point out as well.  When studying the Bible in this way, it is usually best if you are going through an entire book or letter.   If you don’t do this, then it can be difficult to understand the meaning or context of chapter four if you haven’t read chapter one.  Also, be sure to remember the overarching themes and truths of the Bible.  If something seems out of place, make sure you check the context again and see if the rest of Scripture agrees.  If not, then you need to rethink your interpretation.  If you make a mistake or just feel stuck, don’t be afraid to reference a sermon or commentary.  You probably won’t be very good at this right away (I’m still not) and that’s okay.  The goal is to continue to study God’s word and develop a more intimate relationship with him as a result.

            There is one more thing that I will say concerning this exercise.  While it can work beautifully by yourself, this is a practice that produces so much good discussion in a group setting.  I would highly recommend doing this with a couple of other people and study a book or letter together.  Even when you make thirty or more observations, sometimes it can be easy to miss what is right in front of you until someone else is there to point it out.  It is an incredible opportunity to build one another up and encourage each other as you all pursue a more personal relationship with the God of the universe.  I hope this method will encourage you to read the Bible with vigor and excitement as you continue to let the Word of God sharpen you.