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  • Writer's pictureJill Ball

The Word of God

There are as many different ways to read the bible as there are different books in the bible.

I am not a theologian, but I have read the bible regularly for 45 years, and most weeks I have listened to a sermon in church. Hopefully, some biblical wisdom has percolated through my life into my mind and heart by now.

When my beloved Grandpa died, my mother inherited his personal bible. He had inserted newspaper cuttings into favourite passages and had underlined a few verses. One of these caught my eye -

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children Proverbs 13 v 22a

I still have one of the verses that my grandpa had underlined on my fridge.

I wrote more about my grandparents in my blog Creative or Scientific, but this no longer available.

52 Books

I remember a little ditty - The best book to read is the bible - but in truth, the bible isn't just one book. It is 52 books, written by at least 40 authors.

The bible includes historical accounts, poetry, law, letters, apocalyptic writing, proverbs, prophecy, parables and the direct words of the Lord.

Most people who have read it, have favourite books and verses which have spoken to them in the past. I have read the entire bible, but I keep returning to Isaiah, Psalms, John's writing and the enigmatic sayings of Christ. However, I don't often read Leviticus.

Variety is good for us!

I used to be a member of the excellent Cleveland Art Society. We had a variety of activities and we were always experimenting with new techniques. Every new style we tried and learnt about, feed into improving our favourite medium for painting in, which for me is oil.

A balanced diet is not only healthy but interesting.

Eating only potatoes, or meat, becomes boring and we crave the food our body needs.

So it's good to read different parts of the Holy Bible.

To continue the analogy of food, we can use the same ingredients to cook a variety of meals. If I have chicken and vegetables, and a few extras, I might cook a chicken casserole or stew, or I might cook a chicken and veg pie, a curry, a stir-fry or a soup.

So it's good to read the Holy Bible in different ways.

Variety is the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.

William Cowper

Different Ways to read the bible

We can have a traditional bible study, looking at the context and answering 3 questions.

We can listen to sermons from bible teachers, who have studied the original texts in Hebrew and Greek, and even the Aramaic that Jesus spoke. There are many excellent books and podcasts available. See Three-Point Sermons

We can look for biblical themes to study, but there are different, legitimate ways to read the scriptures. See a thematic approach in the article The Holy Spirit.

We could read the story or parable simply as a story, although it will have a moral.

We could act the stories out. See Telling a Story

We can read the psalms as poems and even sing them as they were originally intended, although with modern tunes.

We can read scripture out loud, copy it out and memorise it.

We could use calligraphy to write out encouraging verses.

We could use our imaginations, researching the scene and imagining how we would feel, think or act if we were one of the participants. See Imagination

We can take a single verse to meditate upon, continually refocusing our minds on a single train of thought. See Meditation

We could learn from our Jewish or Middle Eastern brothers and sisters about the culture that the bible was written in. We all come with cultural baggage and perspective, which might mean that we miss or misinterpret the point of a story. See Middle Eastern Eyes

Out of Context

We do need to be careful that we don't take verses out of context. The worst example I've ever seen of this was in a leaflet, given to me by a well-meaning Muslim evangelist in Bradford. It stated that Jesus said, 'But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them - bring them here and kill them in front of me.'

You will find this verse in the gospels, but it is so out of context to become misinformation or fake news. The leaflet twisted the truth.

In the parable, or story, that Jesus describes a king distributing money out to his servants. The king says the above command at the end of the story. You can find the whole parable in Luke 19 v 11 - 27.

Jesus never killed anyone, or told others to kill anyone.

In this blog I'm not discussing why I believe the Holy Bible is the Word of God, or why I believe that it is reliable, accurate and historic.

Jesus himself is called The Word of God.

I'm not looking at this, although maybe I will another time.

Also God clearly speaks in other ways. In the future, we will look at the different ways He speaks. In mid May I will publish a series called The Voice of God.

This new series is about the different ways to read the scriptures and is called The Word of God.

Open Hearts

If we come with open hearts, as well as minds,

the Lord will speak to us through His living word.

We can ask the Holy Spirit to breath life into the words we read.

This gentle, encouraging song has been a favourite of mine for decades. It was written by Michael W Smith and Amy Grant in 1984. Michael wrote the melody and linked it to some verses in Psalm 119. Amy loved the original demo and was mulling over some more lyrics as she was walking back to her cabin in the dark. Hence this beautiful song was composed.

(Above an illustration from the ancient Lindisfarne Gospels)

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