Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bible Study vs Bible Reading plans

Bible reading plans are not nearly as beneficial as Bible Study.

It's always good to read the Bible.  The Bible itself says that the Word of God is "quick (alive) and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb 4:12).  It is able to "pierce" and "divide" the soul and spirit.  The Bible is the most powerful weapon the believer has in the spiritual AND physical realm. While it is good to read and study the Bible, HOW we read and study the Bible matters a great deal.

In John Chapter 6 Jesus is teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum.  It is after He has fed the 5000 and the people are coming to Him looking for more bread (John 6:26-27).  He takes the opportunity to point out God's method of providing spiritual nourishment that will lead to everlasting life (John 6:27,32-33,48-51,63).  Christ says that He is the Bread of life and makes an important connection between the manna experience of the Children of Israel in the wilderness and the need for believers to daily partake of the Bread of Life. 
Joh 6:49  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
Joh 6:50  This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 
Joh 6:55  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
Joh 6:56  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 
 This begs the question: How does one do this?  How does one "eat the flesh" and "drink the blood" of the Bread of Life?

Joh 6:63  It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
In order to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Bread of Life we need to live by the words that He speaks.

Mat 4:4  But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
In recounting the manna experience, Moses under inspiration, acknowledges this fact:
Deu 8:3  And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Bread of life means that we are to partake daily of the Word of God.  As there is Chemical energy that can be harnessed through the digestion of good food, so there is Spiritual energy to be harnessed by a careful study of the Word of God.  Failure to eat daily will lead to malnourishment and a weakened body and mind.  Failure to eat daily of the Spiritual food that is the Word of God will lead to a weakened mind and soul.

There is more to be said on this but here is the point I'm trying to make in this specific post. Feasting on the Word of God involves eating the right amounts daily.  When we eat too much, we are not able to digest ANY of it properly.  When we eat too little we become malnourished.  The parallels between daily Bible Study and the manna experience can be seen in these few verses from Exodus 16:
Exo 16:16  This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.
Exo 16:17  And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.
Exo 16:18  And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.
Exo 16:19  And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning.
Exo 16:20  Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them.

Bible reading plans (while good) that result in reading the Bible through very quickly can lead to spiritual over-eating.  It passes right through our system without being properly digested.  In the physical realm, when we over-eat we can get indigestion.  So it is in the spiritual.  It is most beneficial to eat slowly and in small portions so that we can nourish our body and maximize the benefits from the food that we eat.  Consider the following statement from the book Desire of Ages pg 390
As our physical life is sustained by food, so our spiritual life is sustained by the word of God. And every soul is to receive life from God's word for himself. As we must eat for ourselves in order to receive nourishment, so we must receive the word for ourselves. We are not to obtain it merely through the medium of another's mind. We should carefully study the Bible, asking God for the aid of the Holy Spirit, that we may understand His word. We should take one verse, and concentrate the mind on the task of ascertaining the thought which God has put in that verse for us. We should dwell upon the thought until it becomes our own, and we know "what saith the Lord."  {DA 390.4}

I believe that God prefers targeted and deliberate Bible Study over quick Bible Reading plans. One chapter a week or five verses per day may do more good to our spiritual condition than the "fast food" of Bible reading plans.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for this detailed explanation. I understand how Exo 16:18 parallels with bible study, however, I am having a difficult time connecting it to Exo 16:20. If you have time, can you shed some light on the connection. Thank you.

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  2. Thanks for your comment and your question. I wrote a detailed post and then it got erased! :( So here is a quick summary of the parallels.

    1) Studying a lot one day does not mean we should "skip" a day. As the Israelites who stored up the manna from one day with the hope of using it the other day illustrated that we need a vital connection to God EVERY day. In some ways they were being self-sufficient in trying to secure their physical needs and not trust in God each day. We can't do that either... Bible study should be done every day. It is God's way of helping us to realize our dependence on Him... and that it we live by every Word that proceeds from His mouth. If we neglect to study each day our Christian experience can start to look like the manna that was stored by the Israelites that did not heed the instructions that were laid out for them. And why would we not want to study each day when God's mercies are so new?

    Lam 3:22-23 (NIV) Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness.

    2) The manna was gathered in the morning for a reason and it helps to show a relationship with respect to the timing of our Bible study. Consider these two passages:

    Psalm 143:8 (NIV) Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

    Mark 1:35 (NIV) Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

    The most ideal time for Bible study is in the morning. It helps to set the tone for the day and helps us meditate, contemplate and assimilate what God would have us to know so that we can deal with the tasks of that day. Jesus was our example and that is what He did. I'm not sure what profession you're in but medical professionals (physicians especially) are really in danger of this violating this principle... and the previous principle of studying every day. As Christians we need that vital connection with Christ EVERY day at the beginning of the day.

    Thanks for your question. It helped me to reset my priorities as I thought again about the principles of Bible study. I hope my links were not too tortured.

    Blessings,

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. Your explanation helps out a lot. I also believe in early morning quiet time with Him. I am very jealous of my time with Him and try my best to guard it. The earlier the better. I want the house completely quiet and still. But life happens and I wake up late to kitchen cabinets slamming, feet running up and down the stairs, doors snapping shut, etc.

      I am a homeschool mom of four boys (three at home). I cringe at these interruptions when I do finally make it to my meeting place in the house. Once I'm there, I get so involved with my study that I want to sit at His feet all morning. I leave being full, satisfied and ready for my children.

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  3. Quick question I just thought about...instead of bible reading plans, have you ever read by immersion? Meaning, to read a book of the bible in one sitting over the course of several days/weeks? Now that is good eating as well!

    I just learned about it last summer and it so fulfilling to see what the entire letter is about. I try to do this before I start my study. I'm only on the shorter books right now. It's sort of like my appetizer before the main course.

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    1. Your method of immersion sounds like a great way of studying the Bible. If I understand correctly on day 1 you would read the entire book of 1 John and do the same on day 2, 3, etc.? This would definitely give you a great deal of insight into the passage that you are reading.

      I have a couple approaches to Bible study that have worked for me. I believe in scripture memorization. There is a Bible memorization program that I used that helped me a lot... it can be found at http://fast.st. I believe in memorization because the Holy Spirit has a lot more material to work with in our Bible Study in His role as a teacher of scriptures (John 14:26). The Bible is a set of books that have a common theme and help to interpret each other (Isa 28:9-19) and when a passage is studied in the context of the entire Bible it really opens up. Studying the gospels, for example, within the context of what Malachi, Isaiah, and other prophets had to say about who Christ would be and what He would do really sheds more light on the gospels. Studying the movement of the Children of Israel in light of the writings of Paul really adds more depth to their experiences. Scripture memory adds an additional tool because it allows the Word of God to stay with us throughout the day (Psalm 119:11) and also provides material for the Holy Spirit to bring to our minds as we study passages each day.

      Being a SAHM is a tough job. My wife does it now and I really understand the sacrifice it takes to be a "Hannah" or "Mary" in the home as you care for the future leaders and workers of God's church.

      There are a few sermons/talks online about how to study the bible. They can be found here: https://www.audioverse.org/english/search/?q=bible+study

      I've listened to a few of them and can recommend Peter Gregory (who goes to my church), Adam Ramdin and Eugene Prewitt as I have listened to their messages before.

      Blessings!

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    2. Thank you so much for the links. I will definitely check those out.

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