Last week I met with one of my key leaders about growing in understanding of Scripture. I mentioned that there are three main ways of studying the Bible: the micro, the medium, and the Big Picture methods.
The “micro” method is where we look at a key verse or verses and memorize them. Psalm 119 speaks of “hiding God’s law” (word) within our hearts. I’ve memorized many key verses in the Bible over the course of my life, and it has been extremely helpful to recall them in the heat of life situations. For example, when my heart gets overwhelmed or anxious I remember Philippians 4: 6 which reminds me: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present my requests to God.” The Navigators’ organization has some great tools to help with memorizing short passages of Scripture.
The medium method is looking at larger portions of Scripture in its context. The problem with only using the micro method is that it is easy to take verses out of context, and therefore lose the true meaning of the text. In the medium method, I will read a book of the Bible one section at a time – usually a chapter or a couple of paragraphs (depending where the natural break occurs). In this method, I use the Observation-Interpretation-Application sequence where I seek to understand what the author is trying to say before I start coming to conclusions. There is more to discuss about this method, but suffice it to say that this has been my “bread and butter” in getting the Word into my life.
The Big Picture method is what I want to discuss in greater detail. While it is helpful to gain the meaning of the individual verses and books of the Bible, it is in looking at the Big Picture that gives best perspective of God’s story through Scripture. Unfortunately, I think this is where Christians are lacking the most in their Biblical growth. However, when we understand the Big Picture, the Big Story, of the Bible it makes the other methods of Scripture study come alive.
One of my younger friends, Robbie (who is pretty new in the faith) started reading the Bible cover to cover in January. He finished reading it just after Easter! As he shared about this with our small group, the other members (who have been Christians for years) were astonished at this young man’s faith and perseverance. Most of them had never read the Bible cover to cover.
We shy away from the task of reading the entire Bible because of its’ immensity: 66 books, over 1,000 pages (in tiny print). One would have to read several chapters a day to read the Bible in a year. Robbie said that he read the Bible for 1-2 hours each day. For most of us, in our busy schedules, that is a daunting task.
Sometimes it is helpful to get some inspiration, guidance and context from someone who understands the Big Picture. One of the best books I’ve ever read that gives the Big Picture story of the Bible in a condensed form is “The Divine Rescue” by Edward Fudge (2010, Leafwood Publishers). Fudge communicates the story of Scripture in compelling and dramatic language (like a good novel, I found it hard to put the book down!), yet with excellent scholarship (it’s definitely not “watered down” – his background information was insightful, profound, and “spot on” to what I learned in seminary). He covers Genesis to Revelation, and all with the Big Picture story in mind. He explains the different genres (literary styles) of the Bible and how they fit into the Big Picture in brilliant fashion. You don’t have to be a seminary student to understand it. But after reading it, you might have a deeper perspective on the Bible that most seminary grads do not have. Most of all, you will fall deeper in love with the Creator God and His amazing rescue of us from sin, death and darkness.
If you read this book, I guarantee that you will be more inspired and informed the next time you read the Bible. You may even be so inspired to read the whole thing, cover to cover!