6 Things to Look For
Have you ever gone to a doctor with a sore throat? The first thing he or she asks you to do is to stick out your tongue. Then they take a glance down your throat and say, “Aha.” Generally, right away they know what’s wrong. I could look in your mouth from now to eternity, but it would do no good because I don’t know what I’m looking for! The same principle applies to Bible study. You could spend hours paging through the Word, but it could be a waste of time if you don’t know what you’re looking for. So here are six clues to watch for in Scripture, ones that’ll help you hit pay dirt every time if you notice them. God has provided an excellent tool to help you remember them—your hand. There’s a clue for each of the fingers, and one for the palm of your hand. Look for:
Things that are Emphasized - The Spirit of God uses a number of tools to emphasize ideas, events, people, and other material in Scripture A book can emphasize something by devoting a large portion of space to it. Another way the biblical writers may emphasize their points is by telling us straight out what they are up to. A third way to emphasize something is to give it a strategic placement in the material. This comes before that, or this follows that. So the first clue to look for when you come to the Scriptures is that which is emphasized. The writers have gone to great trouble to hang a sign out that says, “Hey, this is important. Pay attention.”
Things that are Repeated - There’s probably no tool of teaching more powerful than repetition. If I want to make sure that you catch on to what I have to say, I’ll repeat it over and over, again and again, time after time. Repetition reinforces. Have you ever noticed how often Jesus repeats things to His disciples? The gospels record at least nine times that He said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Look for terms, phrases, and clauses; Reappearing people & characters; Repeated incidents or set of circumstances; Creation of patterns; and of course citation of Old Testament Scripture by the New.
Things that are Related - meaning, things that have some connection or interaction with each other. Movement from the general to the specific, is the relationship between the whole and its parts, between a category and its individual members, between the big picture and the details. Questions and Answers, are one of the most powerful tools of communication that more or less force you to think, or look, or answer. Cause and Effect is the principle noting a relationship between actions or events such that one or more are the result of the other.
Things that are Alike or Unlike - Similarities stick out. And so do Contrasts. Be aware of similes. Biblical writers give a number of terms that flag similarities, the two most common expression to look for are as and like. A device related to the simile is the Metaphor, where a comparison is made without using as or like. Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and My father is the vinedresser" (John 15:1). He's talking figuratively, not literally. He's painting a picture that illustrates a relationship. Things that are alike and unlike make use of the strong human tendency to compare and contrast. As you study the Scripture, listen to that voice inside your head saying, "Hey, this is like that passage I looked at yesterday...?!"
Things that are True to Life - The issue here is authenticity: What does the Passage tell you about reality? What aspects of the Text resonate with your experience? We obviously live in a culture that is dramatically different from the culture of the Biblical era. Yet the same human condition that Biblical characters experienced, we experience. We feel the same kinds of emotions they felt. We have the same kinds of questions they had, the same kinds of temptations. So as we read we need to ask: What problem were they facing? What was their response? What would be my response?
Dr. B's Personal Perspective
I don't find it difficult to relate myself into the Scripture because one of the practices that I use, is to insert my name for their name, or put "me" for "he or she." When I do this, suddenly the Passage comes to life and is put in a very 1st person sort of way to me. I can think about you or them all day long, but when I start seeing myself in what I am reading, not only does it make the text more understandable to me -- it also makes what God is saying more relatable to others.