“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
How does God’s Word light your path?
What should we do if we encounter a passage in Scripture that we just don’t understand? I try always to take the following steps:
First, I ask God for His wisdom and direction, and then I research the passage. The Holy Spirit can guide and direct in various ways but does not usually provide concrete information about a subject. I must do the hard work of research alongside the Spirit’s more subtle guidance. How I research the passage depends upon the particular issue I do not understand.
If the problem is the use of a word or phrase in the passage, then I will seek out the original Greek or Hebrew behind the English. This involves studying the Greek/Hebrew word’s full range of meaning, its general cultural usage at the time of the writing, its use elsewhere in the Bible, and the author’s use of that word in his other biblical writings and in the rest of the book in which the passage is found. The final step then is to determine the meaning that is most appropriate to the word’s immediate context. The immediate context is the most important determinant of meaning for any word we use and our assumption must be that the author had one meaning in mind when he placed that word in its particular sentence within the passage.
If the problem deals with a custom, expectation, or behavior of the time, then I will turn to a larger Bible encyclopedia. I also use a Bible background commentary, and/or a specific commentary on the Bible book in which the passage is found. Reviewing what is written about the passage in more than one resource/commentary can be very helpful in determining controversial passages which are being interpreted today in more than one way. Controversial passages must be handled much more carefully and thoroughly in order to glean the underlying points of argument among modern scholars.
Don’t be afraid to do the hard work of research alongside the Spirit’s guidance. You’ll be glad you did!
Lord, open up Your Word to me. Help me to grasp the message. Amen.
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