God’s Word Is Alive
How You Can Understand the Bible
DO YOU read the Bible but find it hard to understand? Many people do. Do you know why? Something that happened in the first century near the present-day Gaza strip in Israel provides insight regarding what is needed to understand the Bible.
A man in charge of the financial affairs of the queen of Ethiopia had learned about the God of the Jews, Jehovah. So he traveled all the way to Jerusalem to worship him. You can see the Ethiopian official returning to his African homeland by way of the desert road that runs down to Gaza. The scroll that he is holding is that of Isaiah, and he is reading aloud from it as he travels along.
That is the Christian disciple Philip running alongside the chariot. He was directed by God’s spirit: “Approach and join yourself to this chariot.” As Philip catches up with the chariot, he hears the Ethiopian man reading from what is now in our Bibles Isaiah chapter 53, verse 7, namely: “As a sheep he was brought to the slaughter, and as a lamb that is voiceless before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth.” Philip is just now asking: “Do you actually know what you are reading?”
The Ethiopian is a humble man who wants to learn more about the true God and his purposes. So he acknowledges: “Really, how could I ever do so, unless someone guided me?” With that he urges Philip to get in the chariot, and asks: “I beg you, About whom does the prophet say this? About himself or about some other man?”
Philip explains that this passage in Isaiah is a prophecy about Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was recently killed like a sacrificial lamb, Philip explains, but he has risen from the dead. He is the Savior promised by God! Then Philip also uses other scriptures to prove in a convincing way that Jesus is that promised Savior. Now the things that the Ethiopian had read make sense! So as they continue traveling, he says: “Look! A body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?” At that Philip baptizes this new disciple of Jesus.—Acts 8:26-39.
This Bible account shows how you, too, can receive help to understand the Bible. Philip was in close contact with the apostles in Jerusalem and was a member of Jehovah’s visible congregation. He was not merely an independent Bible reader who gave his opinion on the Scriptures, so he could help the Ethiopian to benefit from the instruction that Jehovah God was making available through His organization. (Acts 6:5, 6; 8:5, 14, 15) To understand the Bible today, you also need to receive guidance from representatives of God’s true congregation.