Do you have a Bible study you attend regularly? Either at a church, a group, or online? If not, you are not alone.
There are many reasons why a person hungry to learn more about God’s word cannot attend a Bible study, one of the most likely being that they cannot find one or the ones available to them meet at the wrong time or the wrong place. This doesn’t mean that you cannot learn the Bible–you can! I’m going to give you a simple way to begin studying at home. It is called a Word Study or Topical Study.
Always pray and ask God to help you know him more and to help you obey and apply what he shows you. All teaching from God begins and ends and is through the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, God himself, breathing his life into his word as he shows it to you inside your heart, the best knowledge of God’s word will only be dead knowledge.
Pray that God will lead you to the right Bible for you at this time in your life.
Pray that God will direct you to the right verses that he wants you to study.
Pray that God will help you to understand and apply what you read.
2. Second, buy yourself a reference Bible.
You may have one already. What is a reference Bible? A reference Bible is not necessarily a study Bible. A reference Bible is a Bible that simply has a list of other verses in a center column, or a side column, or at the foot of the page.
You can see from the example above that the text on the left has verse numbers that correspond to a list of verse numbers running down the middle of the page between the two columns of scripture.
Verse 33 at the top of the page, for example, has a small, italicized letter a before the word “teach.” “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes.” That’s what the Lord is doing right now. He is teaching you how to study Scripture.
The center column has the number “33” corresponding to the verse you just read. There is a small letter “a” followed by “Ps 119.5, 12.” This means that if you turn to Psalm 119 verses 5 and then 12, you will find more verses that use the word “teach.”
Psalm 119:12 Blessed art Thou, O LORD; Teach me Thy statutes.
Verse 36, which is underlined, has the small letter “a” before the word “incline.”
Psalm 119:36 Incline my heart to Thy testimonies, And not to dishonest gain.
Turning to the center column, the number “36” is followed by a small “a” and the reference “1Ki 8:58.” Looking up that verse we see:
1 Kings 8:58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers.
When we read the above verse, we see that it begins half way through a sentence. To get the full meaning, we need to go up a verse to the beginning of the sentence, and we read:
1 Kings 8:57 The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, 58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers.
Perhaps a small desk dictionary might be useful here to understand the meaning of “incline” in this sentence. This is from Merriam-Webster.
1 :to cause to stoop or bow :bend
2 :to have influence on :persuade
- his love of books inclined him toward a literary career3 :to give a bend or slant to
Putting this together, we see that the psalmist in Psalm 119:36 is asking the Lord in prayer to “incline” or bend, that is, to persuade his heart to prefer obedience to the Lord’s way rather than preferring to spend his time trying to get rich. 1 Kings tells us that when God is with us, he does just that. The psalmist is praying to God, asking God to influence his heart to prefer the Lord’s way above the way of the materialistic world. This tells us that we are not alone, that God is the one who influences us to desire him and his word.
How might a reader apply this verse to her own life? Does she sense that her heart is growing cold towards the Lord? She should turn to the Lord and ask him to help her. Do someone else find that worldly interests of career and money are drawing their attention away from God? They should turn to him, just as the psalmist does, and ask God to help them, to influence their heart and the things their heart desires.
What I have showed today is very simple. The more you practice looking up all the little verses in the reference column, the better you will become at it.
Also, you will soon see that the Bible is a unified whole. It all connects and teaches the same message. Each part repeats in a different setting what the other parts are also saying.
You also will be studying topics, such as love, light, truth, life, faith and any of the other Christian words you can think of.
Your beginning point will be a single verse. For example,
John 3:16 “For God so (a) loved the world, that He (b) gave His (1)(c) only begotten Son, that whoever (d)believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Looking up the verses in the reference column for each one of these letters gives us the following list:
(a) loved the world Rom 5:8; Eph 2:4; 2Th 2:16; 1Jo 4:10; Rev 1:5
(b) gave Rom 8:32; 1Jo 4:9
(c) only begotten Son Joh 1:18; Joh 3:18; 1Jo 4:9
(d) believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life Joh 3:36; Joh 6:40; Joh 11:25f. (The letter “f” here means “forward.” That is, read John 11:25 and keep reading, since there are more verses that continue on the same topic.)
(1) While letters refer to verses, numbers refer to notes by the editors or translators of the particular Bible you may have. Here the (1) says the following, “unique, only one of His kind.” That is what the translators or editors are saying about the word “only begotten.”
I guarantee that by the time you have looked up all the above verses, you will have a good idea of the topic of God’s love to all people in the world!
Luke 17:12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? (ESV)
Psalm 18 prophetically announces to the Hebrew world of its day that Messiah would be raised from the dead. (Psalm 18 Bible Gateway) Verses 4-20 dramatically portray God’s direct actions in rescuing his Son from death and the grave. The reader sees God resurrect his Messiah. (Psalm 18: Resurrection of Christ)
When God rescued the psalmist King David from his near death experiences, King David took the time to share his victory with the Lord. Yes, as the one leper out of ten in the verses above in Luke, David turned back to thank and praise the Lord in worship.
Psalm 18:1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, O LORD, my strength.
Turning back to thank and praise God for the victories and rescues he supplies serves an important spiritual function.
Both King David and Christ spoke directly to God, recounting the details of God’s actions in saving them. The sharing of our hearts with God amounts to fellowship with him. We invite God directly into our experiences, where indeed he has been all along. Telling God detail by detail how he helped us in specific situations for which we prayed gives God an opportunity to respond and confirm to our hearts that indeed it was he who helped.
Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs– heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom 8:16 ESV)
Who doesn’t need such reassurance that our faith in God has been properly placed?
I know that for me, when I am pressed under in great pressure, it is easy to cry to the Lord, pouring out my heart to him in earnest prayer. Then suddenly, when the situation changes and I am safe and happy again, it is also so easy for me to go running off in joy for the freedom from pain and fear. I want to leave as quickly as possible those dark places and move on with my life.
But when I do that I’m the one who misses out on all that Romans 8:16 offers. Also, I rob God of his pleasure in receiving me into his home of worship.
Psalm 22:3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. (Psa 22:3 ESV)
The devotional exercise for this morning is to ask myself, Do I quickly run to God to tell him all about the details of the victory he just gave me, to tell him of his actions in rescuing me from my pit, just as the psalmist in Psalm 18? Or, do I forget and go running off to accomplish the next item on my agenda, just as the nine lepers in Luke 17, who forgot all about the Lord once they were healed?
For my own benefit and for your pleasure, Lord, I pray that you would work into me more of the psalmist’s response in Psalm 18.