Enjoy Personal Study of God’s Word
“I shall certainly meditate on all your activity, and with your dealings I will concern myself.”—PSALM 77:12.
1, 2. (a) Why must we set aside time for meditation? (b) What is meant by “meditate” and “ponder”?
AS DISCIPLES of Jesus Christ, we should be deeply concerned about our relationship with God and our reasons for serving Him. Today, however, most people live at such a fast pace that they allow no time for meditation. They are totally wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of materialism, consumerism, and mindless pleasure-seeking. How can we avoid such an exercise in futility? Even as we set aside specific time each day for essential activities, such as eating and sleeping, we must likewise allow time each day to meditate on Jehovah’s activities and dealings.—Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4.
2 Do you ever stop to meditate? What does it mean to meditate? One dictionary defines the word as “to focus one’s thoughts on: reflect on or ponder over.” And the word “ponder” means “to think about: reflect on . . . to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply.” What meaning does this have for us?
3. To what is making spiritual advancement directly related?
3 For one thing, it should remind us of what the apostle Paul wrote to his fellow servant Timothy: “While I am coming, continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching. . . . Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.” Yes, advancement and progress were expected, and Paul’s words showed that there was a direct relationship between pondering over spiritual matters and making advancement. The same is true today. To enjoy the satisfaction of making spiritual advancement, we must still “ponder over” and “be absorbed” in things having to do with God’s Word.—1 Timothy 4:13-15.
4. What provisions can you utilize to help you ponder on Jehovah’s Word regularly?
4 The best time for you to meditate depends on you and your family routine. Many ponder on a Bible text early in the morning when they read from the booklet Examining the Scriptures Daily. In fact, some 20,000 volunteers in Bethel homes around the world start their day with a 15-minute consideration of the Bible text for the day. While only a few in the Bethel family give a verbal comment each morning, the rest ponder on what is being said and read. Other Witnesses ponder on Jehovah’s Word while on their way to work. They listen to the audiocassettes of the Bible and the Watchtower and Awake! magazines that are available in some languages. Many housewives do this while working around the house. In effect, they are imitating the psalmist Asaph, who wrote: “I shall remember the practices of Jah; for I will remember your marvelous doing of long ago. And I shall certainly meditate on all your activity, and with your dealings I will concern myself.”—Psalm 77:11, 12.
Right Attitude Brings Positive Results
5. Why should personal study be important to us?
5 In our modern era of TV, videos, and computers, reading has suffered a serious, if not debilitating, setback. That certainly should not be true among Jehovah’s Witnesses. After all, reading the Bible is like a lifeline linking us to Jehovah. Thousands of years ago, Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel. To gain Jehovah’s blessing, Joshua had to read God’s Word for himself. (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1, 2) That is still a requirement today. Because of limited education, however, some may have difficulty reading or find it laborious. So, what can help us to want to read and study God’s Word? The answer can be found in King Solomon’s words recorded at Proverbs 2:1-6. Please open your Bible and read these verses. Then we will discuss them together.
6. What attitude should we show toward knowledge of God?
6 To begin with, we find this exhortation: “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; . . .” (Proverbs 2:1, 2) What do we learn from these words? That the responsibility falls on us individually. Note the supposition “if you will receive my sayings.” That is a big “if” because most of mankind pay no attention to God’s Word. For us to find joy in studying God’s Word, we must be willing to receive Jehovah’s sayings and treat them like a treasure that we do not wish to lose. We should never allow our daily routine to cause us to become so busy or distracted that we begin to treat God’s Word with indifference, even with misgivings.—Romans 3:3, 4.
7. Whenever possible, why should we be present and pay attention at Christian meetings?
7 Do we really “pay attention” and listen carefully when God’s Word is being expounded at our Christian meetings? (Ephesians 4:20, 21) Do we ‘incline the heart’ so as to get discernment? Perhaps the speaker is not the most experienced, but while he is handling the Word of God, he is worthy of our careful attention. Of course, in order to pay attention to Jehovah’s wisdom, we must, whenever possible, be present at Christian meetings. (Proverbs 18:1) Imagine the disappointment of any who might have missed the meeting in the upper room in Jerusalem at Pentecost 33 C.E.! Though our meetings are not as spectacular as that one, the Bible, our basic textbook, is discussed. Thus, every meeting can be a blessing for us if we pay attention and follow along in our Bibles.—Acts 2:1-4; Hebrews 10:24, 25.
8, 9. (a) What does personal study require of us? (b) How would you compare the value of gold to understanding the knowledge of God?
8 The wise king’s next words are: “If, moreover, you call out for understanding itself and you give forth your voice for discernment itself, . . .” (Proverbs 2:3) What attitude or spirit do these words communicate to us? Why, an earnest desire to understand Jehovah’s Word! They imply a willingness to study with a view to gaining discernment, to perceiving what Jehovah’s will is. This, of course, requires effort, and that leads us to Solomon’s next words and illustration.—Ephesians 5:15-17.
9 He continues: “If you keep seeking for it [understanding] as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, . . .” (Proverbs 2:4) This makes us think of the mining exploits of men who over the centuries have searched for the so-called precious metals silver and gold. Men have killed for gold. Others have spent a lifetime trying to find it. What true value, though, does gold have? If you were lost in a desert and dying of thirst, which would you prefer: a bar of gold or a glass of water? Yet, with what zeal men have sought gold, with its artificial and arbitrary value!a With how much more zeal we should seek wisdom, discernment, and understanding of God and his will! But what are the benefits of such a search?—Psalm 19:7-10; Proverbs 3:13-18.
10. What can we find if we study God’s Word?
10 Solomon’s exposition continues: “In that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:5) What a staggering thought—that we sinful humans can find “the very knowledge of God,” Jehovah, the Sovereign Lord of the universe! (Psalm 73:28; Acts 4:24) The philosophers and so-called wise men of the world have for centuries tried to understand the mysteries of life and of the universe. However, they have failed to find “the very knowledge of God.” Why? Although it has been available for thousands of years in God’s Word, the Bible, they dismiss it as too simple and thus fail to accept and grasp it.—1 Corinthians 1:18-21.
11. What are some benefits of personal study?
11 Here is another incentive that Solomon highlights: “Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.” (Proverbs 2:6) Jehovah freely and generously gives wisdom, knowledge, and discernment to anyone who is willing to search for them. Surely we have every reason to appreciate personal study of God’s Word, even if it does require effort, discipline, and sacrifice. At least we have printed copies of the Bible and do not have to make handwritten copies, as some in ancient times did!—Deuteronomy 17:18, 19.
To Walk Worthily of Jehovah
12. What should be our motive in our pursuit of the knowledge of God?
12 What should be the motive behind our personal study? To appear to be better than others? To display superior knowledge? To become, in effect, walking Bible encyclopedias? No. Our aim is to be walking, talking, practicing Christians, always ready to help others, in the refreshing spirit of Christ. (Matthew 11:28-30) The apostle Paul warned: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) Therefore, we should have the humble attitude that Moses displayed when he said to Jehovah: “Make me know, please, your ways, that I may know you, in order that I may find favor in your eyes.” (Exodus 33:13) Yes, we should desire knowledge in order to please God, not to impress men. We want to be worthy, humble servants of God. How can we attain that goal?
13. What is needed for one to become a worthy servant of God?
13 Paul counseled Timothy about how to please God, saying: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” (2 Timothy 2:15) The expression “handling . . . aright” is from a compound Greek verb that originally meant “straightly cutting,” or ‘to cut straight.’ (Kingdom Interlinear) According to some, this suggests the idea of a tailor cutting fabric according to a pattern, of a farmer plowing furrows in a field, and so forth. In any case, the end result must be true, or straight. The point is that to be a worthy and approved servant of God, Timothy had to ‘do his utmost’ to be sure that his teaching and his conduct were in accordance with the word of truth.—1 Timothy 4:16.
14. How should our personal study affect what we do and say?
14 Paul made the same point when he urged fellow Christians in Colossae “to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him” by “bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10) Here Paul relates being worthy of Jehovah to “bearing fruit in every good work” as well as “increasing in the accurate knowledge of God.” In other words, what counts with Jehovah is not only how much we value knowledge but also how closely we adhere to God’s Word in what we do and say. (Romans 2:21, 22) This means that our personal study must affect our thinking and our conduct if we want to please God.
15. How can we protect and control our mind and thoughts?
15 Today, Satan is bent on destroying our spirituality by promoting a battle of the mind. (Romans 7:14-25) Therefore, we must protect and control our mind and thoughts in order to prove worthy of our God, Jehovah. The weapon we have is “the knowledge of God,” which is capable of “bringing every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.” This is all the more reason for us to pay attention to daily Bible study, as we want to flush out selfish, fleshly thoughts from our mind.—2 Corinthians 10:5.
Aids to Understanding
16. How can we benefit ourselves as Jehovah teaches us?
16 Jehovah’s teaching brings spiritual and physical benefits. It is not sterile, academic theology. Thus, we read: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.” (Isaiah 48:17) How does Jehovah cause us to walk in his beneficial way? First, we have his inspired Word, the Holy Bible. This is our basic textbook, to which we refer constantly. That is why it is good to follow along at Christian meetings with an open Bible. The beneficial results of doing so can be seen by the account of the Ethiopian eunuch, recorded in Acts chapter 8.
17. What happened in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, and what does this illustrate?
17 The Ethiopian eunuch was a convert to Judaism. He was a sincere believer in God, and he studied the Scriptures. Traveling in his chariot, he was reading the text of Isaiah when Philip ran alongside him and asked: “Do you actually know what you are reading?” How did the eunuch answer? “‘Really, how could I ever do so, unless someone guided me?’ And he entreated Philip to get on and sit down with him.” Then Philip, directed by holy spirit, helped the eunuch to understand the prophecy of Isaiah. (Acts 8:27-35) What does this illustrate? That our private reading of the Bible is not enough. Jehovah, by his spirit, uses the faithful and discreet slave class to help us to understand his Word at the right time. How is this done?—Matthew 24:45-47; Luke 12:42.
18. How does the faithful and discreet slave class help us?
18 Although the slave class is defined as “faithful and discreet,” Jesus did not say that it would be infallible. This group of faithful anointed brothers still consists of imperfect Christians. Even with the best of intentions, they can be mistaken, as such men sometimes were in the first century. (Acts 10:9-15; Galatians 2:8, 11-14) However, their motive is pure, and Jehovah is using them to supply us with Bible study aids to build up our faith in God’s Word and promises. The basic provision for personal study that the slave has given us is the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. It is now available, in whole or in part, in 42 languages, and 114 million copies in several editions have been printed. How can we use it effectively in our personal study?—2 Timothy 3:14-17.
19. What are some features of the New World Translation—With References that can be helpful in personal study?
19 Take, for example, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References. It has columns of cross-references, footnotes, a miniconcordance in the form of “Bible Words Indexed” and “Footnote Words Indexed,” and an Appendix with an extensive coverage of 43 subjects, including maps and charts. There is also the “Introduction,” with its explanation of the many sources used for this unique translation of the Bible. If it is available in a language that you can understand, by all means get well acquainted with these features and make use of them. In any case, the Bible is the starting point for our study program, and in the New World Translation, we have a version that properly emphasizes the divine name as it highlights God’s Kingdom rule.—Psalm 149:1-9; Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:9, 10.
20. What questions about personal study now require an answer?
20 Now, we might ask: ‘What further help do we need to understand the Bible? How can we make time for personal study? How can we make our study more effective? How should our study affect others?’ The next article will consider these vital aspects of our Christian advancement.
a Since 1979 the value of gold has fluctuated between a high of $850.00 per ounce [31 g] in 1980 to a low of $252.80 per ounce in 1999.
Do You Recall?
• What does it mean to “meditate” and to “ponder”?
• What attitude should we have toward study of God’s Word?
• What motive should we have in our personal study?
• What aids to Bible understanding do we have?
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Members of the Bethel family find it spiritually strengthening to start each day by considering a Bible text
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Valuable time can be redeemed by listening to Bible tapes while we travel
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Men worked hard and long to obtain gold. How much effort do you put forth to study God’s Word?
Courtesy of California State Parks, 2002
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The Bible is a treasure that can lead to everlasting life