Study—Rewarding and Enjoyable
“If you keep seeking for it . . . , you will find the very knowledge of God.”—PROVERBS 2:4, 5.
1. How can leisure reading bring us much pleasure?
MANY people read simply for pleasure. If the material is wholesome, reading can be a source of healthy relaxation. Apart from their regular Bible-reading program, some Christians derive real enjoyment from reading randomly in the Psalms, Proverbs, the Gospel accounts, or other parts of the Bible. The sheer beauty of language and thought brings them deep pleasure. Others choose for their leisure reading the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Awake! magazine, biographical accounts published in this journal, or printed matter on history, geography, and nature studies.
2, 3. (a) In what way can deep spiritual information be compared to solid food? (b) What does study involve?
2 Whereas casual reading can be a form of relaxation, study requires mental effort. English philosopher Francis Bacon wrote: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” The Bible falls eminently in the last category. The apostle Paul wrote: “Concerning him [Christ, as prefigured by King-Priest Melchizedek] we have much to say and hard to be explained, since you have become dull in your hearing. . . . Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:11, 14) Solid food must be masticated before being swallowed and digested. Deep spiritual information requires reflection before being absorbed and retained.
3 A dictionary defines “study” as “the act or process of applying the mind so as to acquire knowledge or understanding, as by reading, investigating, etc.” It follows that more is involved than merely doing cursory reading, perhaps underlining words as we go along. Study means work, mental effort, and the use of perceptive powers. While study requires effort, however, this does not mean that it cannot be enjoyable.
Making Study a Pleasure
4. According to the psalmist, how can the study of God’s Word be refreshing and rewarding?
4 Reading and studying God’s Word can be refreshing and invigorating. The psalmist declared: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise. The orders from Jehovah are upright, causing the heart to rejoice; the commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine.” (Psalm 19:7, 8) Jehovah’s laws and reminders revive our soul, enhance our spiritual well-being, bring us inward joy, and make our eyes shine with a clear vision of Jehovah’s wonderful purposes. How delightful!
5. In what ways can study bring us great pleasure?
5 When we are able to see good results from our work, we tend to enjoy doing it. Thus, to make study pleasurable, we should be quick to use the newly acquired knowledge. James wrote: “He who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.” (James 1:25) Immediate personal application of points learned brings great satisfaction. Doing research with the specific purpose of answering a question put to us during our preaching or teaching work will also bring us great happiness.
Developing a Fondness for God’s Word
6. How did the writer of Psalm 119 express his fondness for Jehovah’s word?
6 The composer of Psalm 119, perhaps Hezekiah while yet a young prince, expressed his fondness for Jehovah’s word. In poetic language, he said: “For your statutes I shall show a fondness. I shall not forget your word. Also, your reminders are what I am fond of . . . I shall show a fondness for your commandments that I have loved. Let your mercies come to me, that I may keep living; for your law is what I am fond of. I have longed for your salvation, O Jehovah, and your law I am fond of.”—Psalm 119:16, 24, 47, 77, 174.
7, 8. (a) According to one reference work, what does it mean to “show a fondness” for God’s Word? (b) How can we show our love for Jehovah’s Word? (c) How did Ezra prepare himself before reading Jehovah’s Law?
7 Explaining the word translated “show a fondness” in Psalm 119, one dictionary on the Hebrew Scriptures states: “The usage in v. Ps 119:16 parallels the [verbs] for rejoicing . . . and for meditation . . . The progression is: rejoice, meditate, delight in . . . This combination may suggest that purposeful reflection is the means by which one comes to take delight in the word of Yahweh. . . . The meaning includes an emotive element.”*
8 Yes, our love for Jehovah’s Word should come from our heart, the seat of emotion. We should take pleasure in lingering over certain passages that we have just read. We should muse over deep spiritual thoughts, become absorbed in them, and meditate on them. This requires quiet reflection and prayer. Like Ezra, we need to prepare our hearts for the reading and study of God’s Word. Of him it is written: “Ezra himself had prepared his heart to consult the law of Jehovah and to do it and to teach in Israel regulation and justice.” (Ezra 7:10) Note the triple purpose of Ezra’s preparing his heart: to study, to make personal application, and to teach. We should follow his example.
Study as an Act of Worship
9, 10. (a) In what ways did the psalmist show concern for Jehovah’s Word? (b) What does the Hebrew verb translated “concern [oneself]” mean? (c) Why is it important for us to consider the study of the Bible as “an act of worship”?
9 The psalmist states that he showed concern for Jehovah’s laws, commandments, and reminders. He sings: “With your orders I will concern myself, and I will look to your paths. . . . I shall raise my palms to your commandments that I have loved, and I will concern myself with your regulations. How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern. More insight than all my teachers I have come to have, because your reminders are a concern to me.” (Psalm 119:15, 48, 97, 99) What is implied by ‘concerning oneself’ with Jehovah’s Word?
10 The Hebrew verb translated “concern [oneself]” also means “meditate, muse,” “go over a matter in one’s mind.” “It is used of silent reflection on God’s works . . . and God’s word.” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) The noun form “concern” refers to “the psalmist’s meditation,” “his loving study” of God’s law, as “an act of worship.” Considering the study of God’s Word as a part of our worship adds seriousness to it. It should therefore be done conscientiously and with the benefit of prayer. Study is a part of our worship and is done to improve our worship.
Digging Deeper Into God’s Word
11. How does Jehovah reveal deep spiritual thoughts to his people?
11 In reverential admiration, the psalmist exclaimed: “How great your works are, O Jehovah! Very deep your thoughts are.” (Psalm 92:5) And the apostle Paul spoke of “the deep things of God,” profound thoughts that Jehovah reveals to his people “through his spirit” operating on the faithful and discreet slave class. (1 Corinthians 2:10; Matthew 24:45) The slave class diligently provides spiritual nourishment for all—“milk” for new ones but “solid food” for “mature people.”—Hebrews 5:11-14.
12. Give an example of “deep things of God” that have been explained by the slave class.
12 To comprehend such “deep things of God,” it is necessary to study prayerfully and reflect on his Word. For example, fine material has been published that shows how Jehovah can at once be just and merciful. His exercising of mercy is not a watering down of his justice; rather, divine mercy is an expression of God’s justice as well as his love. When judging a sinner, Jehovah first determines whether it is possible to show mercy on the basis of his Son’s ransom sacrifice. If the sinner is unrepentant or rebellious, God allows justice to take its course without unwarranted mercy. Either way, he is faithful to his elevated principles.* (Romans 3:21-26) ‘O the depth of God’s wisdom!’—Romans 11:33.
13. How should we show appreciation for “the grand sum” of spiritual truths revealed thus far?
13 Like the psalmist, we thrill at the fact that Jehovah shares many of his thoughts with us. David wrote: “To me how precious your thoughts are! O God, how much does the grand sum of them amount to! Were I to try to count them, they are more than even the grains of sand.” (Psalm 139:17, 18) Although our knowledge today represents only a fraction of the innumerable thoughts Jehovah will reveal throughout eternity, we deeply appreciate “the grand sum” of precious spiritual truths revealed thus far and dig ever deeper into the sum, or substance, of God’s Word.—Psalm 119:160, footnote.
Effort and Effective Tools Needed
14. How does Proverbs 2:1-6 underscore the need for effort in studying God’s Word?
14 Deep Bible study requires effort. This fact emerges very clearly from a careful reading of Proverbs 2:1-6. Notice the active verbs that wise King Solomon used to underscore the effort needed to acquire divine knowledge, wisdom, and discernment. He wrote: “My son, if you will receive my sayings and treasure up my own commandments with yourself, so as to pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment; if, moreover, you call out for understanding itself and you give forth your voice for discernment itself, if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God. For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.” Yes, rewarding study requires research, digging, as if searching for a hidden treasure.
15. What Biblical illustration highlights the need for good study methods?
15 Spiritually enriching study also requires good study methods. Solomon wrote: “If an iron tool has become blunt and someone has not whetted its edge, then he will exert his own vital energies.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10) If a workman uses a cutting tool that is not sharp or if he does not use it skillfully, he will waste his energy and his work will be shoddy. Likewise, the benefits from time spent studying may vary greatly, depending on our study methods. Excellent practical suggestions for improving the way we study can be found in Study 7 of the Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook.*
16. What practical suggestions are given to help us engage in deep study?
16 When a craftsman sets about his work, he lays out the tools he will need. Similarly, when we begin a study period, we should select in our personal library the study tools we will need. Remembering that study is work and requires mental effort, it is also good to adopt an appropriate posture. If we wish to stay mentally alert, sitting on a chair at a table or a desk may prove to be more effective than lying in bed or sitting in a cozy armchair. After concentrating for a while, you might find it beneficial to do some stretching or go outside for some fresh air.
17, 18. Give examples of how to use the fine study tools available to you.
17 Many incomparable study tools are also available to us. Foremost among these is the New World Translation of the Bible, now available in whole or in part in 37 languages. The standard edition of the New World Translation is equipped with cross-references and a “Table of the Books of the Bible” that provides the name of the writer, the place written, and the time period covered. It also has an index of Bible words, an appendix, and maps. In some languages, this Bible is printed in a larger edition, known as the Reference Bible. It contains all the above features and many more, including extensive footnotes, which are also indexed. Do you take full advantage of what is available in your language in order to help you dig deeper into God’s Word?
18 Another priceless study tool is the two-volume Bible encyclopedia Insight on the Scriptures. If you possess this work in a language you can understand, it should be your constant companion when you study. It will supply you with background information on most Bible topics. A similarly helpful tool is the book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial.” When beginning to read a new book of the Bible, it is good to examine the corresponding study in the “All Scripture” book to get the geographical and historical setting, plus a summary of the Bible book’s contents and their value to us. A recent addition to the many study tools in printed form is the computerized Watchtower Library, now available in nine languages.
19. (a) Why has Jehovah provided us with fine tools for Bible study? (b) What is needed for proper Bible reading and study?
19 Jehovah has provided all these tools by means of “the faithful and discreet slave” to enable his servants on earth to ‘seek and find the very knowledge of God.’ (Proverbs 2:4, 5) Good study habits enable us to come to a better knowledge of Jehovah and to enjoy a closer relationship with him. (Psalm 63:1-8) Yes, study means work, but it is work that is enjoyable and rewarding. It does take time, however, and you are probably thinking, ‘Where can I find the time to do justice to my Bible reading and personal study?’ This aspect will be considered in the closing article of this series.
New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, Volume 4, pages 205-7.
See The Watchtower, August 1, 1998, page 13, paragraph 7. As a project of Bible study, you might review both study articles in that issue as well as the articles “Justice,” “Mercy,” and “Righteousness” in the Bible encyclopedia Insight on the Scriptures, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. If this manual is not available in your language, fine counsel on study methods can be found in the following issues of The Watchtower: August 15, 1993, pages 13-17; May 15, 1986, pages 19-20.
• How can we make our personal study refreshing and rewarding?
• Like the psalmist, how can we show “fondness” and “concern” for Jehovah’s Word?
• How does Proverbs 2:1-6 show the need for effort in studying God’s Word?
• What fine study tools has Jehovah provided?
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Quiet reflection and prayer help us develop love for God’s Word
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Do you make full use of the available study tools to dig deeper into God’s Word?