STUDY ARTICLE 7
Get More out of Your Bible Reading
“How do you read?”—LUKE 10:26.
SONG 97 Life Depends on God’s Word
1. What shows that the Scriptures were important to Jesus?
IMAGINE what it was like to listen to Jesus teach. How often he referred to the Holy Scriptures from memory! In fact, in his first recorded words after his baptism and in some of his last words before his death, Jesus quoted from the Scriptures.b (Deut. 8:3; Ps. 31:5; Luke 4:4; 23:46) And during the three and a half years between those two events, Jesus often publicly read and quoted from the Scriptures and explained them.—Matt. 5:17, 18, 21, 22, 27, 28; Luke 4:16-20.
2. As he grew up, what helped Jesus to get well-acquainted with the Scriptures? (See cover picture.)
2 Years before he began his ministry, Jesus read and heard God’s Word repeatedly. At home, he no doubt heard Mary and Joseph quote from the Scriptures during daily family conversations.c (Deut. 6:6, 7) We can be sure that Jesus attended the synagogue every Sabbath with his family. (Luke 4:16) While there, he must have listened carefully as the Scriptures were read. In time, Jesus learned to read those Sacred Writings on his own. As a result, Jesus not only came to know the Scriptures well but also loved them and allowed them to influence his actions. For example, recall the incident in the temple when Jesus was just 12 years old. The teachers who were well-versed in the Mosaic Law were in “amazement at [Jesus’] understanding and his answers.”—Luke 2:46, 47, 52.
3. What will we consider in this article?
3 We too can come to know and love God’s Word as we regularly read the Scriptures. How, though, can we get the most out of what we read? We can learn from what Jesus said to those familiar with the Law, including the scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees. Those religious leaders read the Scriptures often, but they failed to benefit from what they read. Jesus highlighted three ways in which these men were not getting the most out of the Scriptures. His words to them will help us improve in our ability (1) to understand what we read, (2) to find spiritual treasures, and (3) to allow God’s Word to mold us.
READ TO UNDERSTAND
4. What does Luke 10:25-29 teach us about reading God’s Word?
4 We want to understand the meaning of what we read in God’s Word. Otherwise, our reading may not fully benefit us. For example, consider Jesus’ conversation with “a man versed in the Law.” (Read Luke 10:25-29.) When the man asked what he needed to do to gain everlasting life, Jesus directed him to God’s Word by asking: “What is written in the Law? How do you read?” The man was able to give the right answer by quoting the scriptures about loving God and loving neighbor. (Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:5) But note what he said next: “Who really is my neighbor?” The man revealed that he did not understand the real meaning of what he had read. As a result, he did not know how to apply those scriptures correctly in his life.
Reading to understand is a skill that we can develop
5. How can prayer and reading at a slow pace enhance our understanding?
5 We can increase our understanding of God’s Word by developing good reading habits. Here are some suggestions that can assist you. Pray before you begin reading. We need Jehovah’s help to understand the Scriptures, so we can ask him for his holy spirit in order to concentrate. Then read at a slow pace. That will help you comprehend the material. You might find it beneficial to read aloud or to follow along with an audio recording of the Bible. You will thereby engage more of your senses, which can deepen the impression that God’s Word makes on your mind and heart. (Josh. 1:8) When you are finished reading, pray again to thank Jehovah for the gift of his Word and to ask for his help to apply what you have read.
6. Why can asking yourself questions and taking brief notes help you as you read? (See also picture.)
6 Here are two more suggestions to enhance your understanding of the Bible. Ask yourself questions about what you read. As you consider a particular account, ask: ‘Who are the main characters? Who is speaking? To whom is he speaking, and why? Where and when is the action taking place?’ Such questions will help you to think about and follow the main ideas of the passage. Also, take brief notes as you read. When you write, you force yourself to put thoughts into words, which helps to clarify your thinking. Writing also helps you remember what you read. You might jot down questions, record the results of your research, summarize main points, note how you can use what you have read, or simply record your feelings. You may find that writing down such notes can help you view God’s Word as his personal message to you.
7. What quality do we need as we read, and why? (Matthew 24:15)
7 Jesus identified an important quality that we need if we are to understand what we read in God’s Word—discernment. (Read Matthew 24:15.) What is discernment? It is the ability to grasp how one idea relates to another and how it differs from another and to see what is not immediately obvious. In addition, as Jesus indicated, we need discernment to identify events that fulfill Bible prophecy. We also need this quality so that we can benefit fully from everything we read in the Bible.
8. How can we read with discernment?
8 Jehovah gives his servants discernment. So turn to him in prayer, and ask him to help you develop this quality. (Prov. 2:6) How can you work in harmony with your prayer? Carefully analyze what you read, and note how it relates to other things you know. To assist you, consult our Bible study aids, such as the Research Guide for Jehovah’s Witnesses. These tools will help you to discern the meaning of a Bible passage and to see ways in which you can apply it in your life. (Heb. 5:14) As you read with discernment, your understanding of the Scriptures will grow.
READ TO FIND SPIRITUAL TREASURES
9. What important Scriptural truth did the Sadducees overlook?
9 The Sadducees were thoroughly familiar with the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, but they overlooked important truths contained in those inspired books. For example, consider how Jesus responded when the Sadducees challenged him about the resurrection. He asked them: “Have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account about the thornbush, that God said to him: ‘I am the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob’?” (Mark 12:18, 26) Although the Sadducees had surely read that passage many times, Jesus’ question revealed that they had overlooked an important Scriptural truth—the teaching of the resurrection.—Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38.d
10. What should we be alert to as we read?
10 What lesson is there for us? When we read, we want to be alert to all that a verse or a Bible account can teach us. We want to perceive not only basic teachings but also deeper truths and principles that lie hidden beneath the surface.
11. In line with 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, how can you find treasures in the Bible?
11 How can you find spiritual treasures when reading the Bible? Consider what 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 states. (Read.) Note that “all Scripture is . . . beneficial” for (1) teaching, (2) reproving, (3) setting things straight, and (4) disciplining. You can obtain those four benefits even from Bible books that you do not use often. Analyze the account to see what it teaches you about Jehovah, about his purpose, or about godly principles. Consider how it is helpful for reproving. Do this by noting how the verses help you to identify and reject wrong tendencies or attitudes and to remain on a faithful course. Examine how the passage can be used to set straight, or correct, a wrong viewpoint, perhaps one you have encountered in the ministry. And look for any discipline the verses provide that can train you to reflect Jehovah’s thinking. When you keep these four benefits in mind, you will find spiritual treasures that can enrich your Bible reading.
LET YOUR READING MOLD YOU
12. Why did Jesus ask the Pharisees the question “Have you not read?”
12 Jesus also asked the question “Have you not read?” to reveal that the Pharisees had a wrong view of the Scriptures. (Matt. 12:1-7)e On that occasion, the Pharisees claimed that Jesus’ disciples had violated the Sabbath. In reply, Jesus cited two Scriptural examples and quoted a verse from Hosea to show that the Pharisees had missed the point of the Sabbath law and had failed to show mercy. Why were these men not molded by their reading of God’s Word? Because they read it with a critical and proud spirit. Their attitude kept them from getting the sense of what they read.—Matt. 23:23; John 5:39, 40.
13. With what attitude should we read the Bible, and why?
13 We learn from Jesus’ words that we need to read the Bible with the right attitude. Unlike the Pharisees, we must be sincere and teachable. We must “accept with mildness the implanting of the word.” (Jas. 1:21) If we are mild, we will allow God’s Word to take root in our heart. Only if we avoid a critical or proud spirit will the Bible’s lessons about mercy, compassion, and love shape us.
14. How can we tell if we are allowing the Bible to mold us? (See also pictures.)
14 The way we treat others can indicate if we are allowing God’s Word to mold us. The Pharisees failed to let God’s Word reach their heart, and as a result, they “condemned the guiltless ones.” (Matt. 12:7) In a similar way, how we view and treat others reveals whether we have let God’s Word mold us. For example, are we inclined to mention the good we see in others, or are we quick to point out their flaws? Are we merciful and ready to forgive, or are we critical and given to holding grudges? Such self-examination can reveal whether we are letting what we read shape our thoughts, feelings, and actions.—1 Tim. 4:12, 15; Heb. 4:12.
READING THAT LEADS TO HAPPINESS
15. How did Jesus feel about the Holy Scriptures?
15 Jesus loved the Holy Scriptures, and his feelings were prophetically expressed in the words found at Psalm 40:8: “To do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is deep within me.” As a result, he was happy and successful in serving Jehovah. We too can enjoy happiness and success if we work on getting God’s Word into our heart.—Ps. 1:1-3.
16. In what ways do you hope to get more out of your reading of God’s Word? (See the box “Jesus’ Words Can Help You to Understand What You Read.”)
16 In harmony with Jesus’ words and example, let us sharpen our Bible-reading skills. We can improve our understanding of Bible passages by praying, reading at a slow pace, asking questions, and taking brief notes. We can use discernment by carefully analyzing what we read with the help of our Bible-based publications. We can expand our use of the Scriptures, even passages we are less familiar with, by looking for spiritual treasures in such accounts. And we can let God’s Word mold us by maintaining the right attitude as we read. When we apply ourselves in these ways, we will get more out of our Bible reading and draw ever closer to Jehovah.—Ps. 119:17, 18; Jas. 4:8.
SONG 95 The Light Gets Brighter
a All of us who worship Jehovah strive to read his Word daily. Many others also read the Bible; yet, they do not really understand what they read. That was true of some people in Jesus’ day too. By examining what Jesus said to those who read God’s Word, we will draw lessons that can help us get more out of our Bible reading.
b At the time of his baptism and his being anointed with holy spirit, Jesus’ memory of his prehuman existence was evidently restored to him.—Matt. 3:16.
c Mary knew the Scriptures well and referred to them. (Luke 1:46-55) Likely, Joseph and Mary could not afford personal copies of the Scriptures. They must have listened carefully when God’s Word was read at the synagogue so that they could recall it later.
d See the article “Draw Close to God—‘He Is the God . . . of the Living’” in the February 1, 2013, issue of The Watchtower.
e See also Matthew 19:4-6, where Jesus asked the Pharisees this same question: “Have you not read?” Although they had read the creation account, they overlooked what it taught about God’s view of marriage.
f PICTURE DESCRIPTION: During a meeting at the Kingdom Hall, one of the brothers who assists in caring for the audio and video makes several mistakes. Yet, after the meeting, the brothers commend him for his efforts rather than focus on his mistakes.