Tips for Understanding the Bible
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post that included a prayer to help understand the Bible better when we read it. However, even after praying at times there are still things we don’t always understand right away. There are occasions where we may want to do a little further study when we are having trouble understanding. Today I thought I’d share with you some of my own processes and tips for understanding the Bible based on things that seem to help me, personally.
I’ve been a consistent Bible reader and “student” for many years now, and there are STILL things I don’t understand. It might be a word, a custom, or it might even be when the Bible seems to contradict itself. We’re not crazy, abnormal, or unintelligent if we read some things that seem a bit confusing or out of whack! Even pastors who have been studying scripture for decades have questions and don’t always understand everything that they read. Take heart…we’re in good company!
A different take on struggles with understanding
Recently, after reading some of his devotions on my Bible app, I started following a guy named Dave Adamson. He has an Instagram feed with daily photo devotions that are always absolutely amazing! One of his posts this week fit right in line with how we struggle when we read the Bible at times. Dave had some tips for understanding the bible when we struggle based off of the story of Jacob, who was renamed Isaac. He posted a picture of his girls wrestling on the lawn at the National Mall in Washington DC. He compared it to how we wrestle with God and with scripture sometimes…
“See, I used to carry a lot of guilt whenever I questioned a paradox in Scripture or disagreed with something I heard in church. But there’s a story in the Bible of a man named Jacob who one night literally wrestles with God. By morning, God walks away from the fight and changes Jacob’s name to Israel, which in Hebrew means “struggles” or “wrestles with God.” This name is prophetic, signifying that God’s people will always wrestle with Him. The ancient Jews believed God invites you into this wonderful wrestling match with Him. Author Athol Dickson says, “What if God placed these paradoxes within the Scriptures to cause me to struggle for the truth? What if it is the struggle he desires as much as the truth itself?” When you wrestle with God, He’s right there with you, just like my daughters are with each other in this picture. So the next time you struggle with faith, that’s not a time for guilt, but celebration. God is inviting you to wrestle with Him so you can be connected with the Creator of the universe.”
I love how he used this analogy to free us from some of the guilt of having doubts and questions. You can also see more of Dave’s amazing photo devotions on his reading plans on the Bible app (YouVersion): 7 Hebrew Words Every Believer Should Know and 7 More Hebrew Words Every Believer Should Know. Dave also has a photo devotional book called Chasing the Light.
God wants us to understand
Nevertheless, like I said before… God wants us to read our Bible and to understand it. He doesn’t want it to be difficult or overwhelming for us. Because God is not a God of confusion, we should be at peace and not in a state of confusion. Scripture is given to us to help us, not to hinder us. It’s meant to be useful for us.
“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…” 1 Corinthians 14:33 (ESV)
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Timothy 3:16(NLT)
So on to the tips!
8 Tips for Understanding the Bible:
Find a translation that makes it easy to understand the Bible verses and passages
- Read a verse or passage in multiple translations
- Use a Bible commentary
- Read related verses or cross references
- Use a concordance
- Ask someone else
- Look up or research what you don’t understand
- Pray more specifically about a particular part that you don’t understand