O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
Psalms 5:3 (KJV)
My goal for today is to enlarge on our first foundational principle of Bible study, but, before I launch into that topic, let me enlarge a little on something I said in last week’s post. What I said was: “I do my Bible time first thing every morning because that’s what fits my schedule best.” That’s true, but it’s more than just schedule. Morning time is when my mind/heart is freshest and (mostly) uncluttered. During the day I pick up all kinds of worries and concerns. Images from the news, a TV program, or even just interacting with people on the street, clutter my thinking and can even cloud the connection I have with God. In the morning, all that clutter may or may not be cleaned up, but at least it is usually piled neatly to the side. Being cleaned up like that makes it easier for me to hear what God is speaking in the Spirit/spirit. It starts my day out right to read the Bible, ponder what God is saying to me, and seek Him in prayer.
I recall one time when I had just started a new job and I hadn’t yet managed to synch my wake-up-eat-and-get-ready schedule with the commute time. Often I was rushing out the door with barely enough time to get to work so I could teach my classes. Until I got the timings all adjusted right, I often had barely five minutes to sit down, read a few verses and then rush out the door. Well, that’s where I was at, for the moment, and it was okay. It wasn’t much, but I still started my day out with God, made Him first in my life and that short five minutes gave Him a (very short) opportunity to speak into me. He did, too. Speak to me, that is. He honored my efforts to put Him first.
The Bible is True!
Principle #1: God’s word is true regardless of our perceptions or feelings.
Here’s a verse you’re going to hear me quote a lot as we work through these discussions. It comes from 2 Peter 3:8-9.
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
There are sixty-six books in the Bible and God used around 40 different men to write them. Those men were “moved by the Holy Spirit” as they wrote the words we now call scripture. When we study the scripture it is useful to know about the person doing the writing, what kind of guy he was and what kind of culture he lived in. Knowing those things gives the Holy Spirit a tool He can use as He leads us into hearing what He has to say through the passage we are reading. We need to be careful, however, that we don’t let the author’s background overly influence the conclusions we come to. The Bible is not a matter of even the (human) author’s interpretation. That person’s application of the words he was writing would have undoubtedly been influenced by the events and culture of his day. His thinking would be modified by the friends, family, and even enemies who surrounded him. His personal circumstances would push him towards interpreting the words he was writing in ways he saw as compatible with his life. Yet the Bible tells us that these same men understood that what they were writing was for people far in their future (1 Peter 1:10-12). They had to set aside their perceptions, their feelings, their observations, and their experiences when it came to interpreting the words they were writing down. Certainly, their words had relevance to their lives and the times they lived in -- often very direct relevance. However, it was God who was really doing the writing and He had a broader audience in mind. Indeed the primary audience for the words being penned by His chosen authors, was a people who did not yet exist. That is why this first principle is so important. We must, when studying the Bible, step back from our personal mindsets. We absolutely must not let our emotions or our experiences determine what we believe about the scriptures. Everything must be submitted to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to us through the words of scripture. Once we see it from that perspective, all the rest of our puzzle pieces will fall into place.
And...that brings us to Foundational Principle #2. We interpret the Bible according to the revelation that comes from the Holy Spirit. Everything in the Christian life is dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit. More on that later.......