How do you study the precious words of God? Have you ever thought about the way you come to the Book which God breathed out by His Spirit? What might your approach be most accurately compared to?
Some seem to come to the Bible like a miner searching for nuggets and veins of gold. They come to the inspired text(s) in order to come away with some nugget of truth or vein of application. The Bible miner will typically only look at a verse or two at a time. Not much attention is usually given to the literary context of the text at hand, and it is unlikely that the historical setting of the writing will be known or considered. Holy Writ should inspire and motivate us, but that is far from the only (or even the primary) purpose of its existence (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14-4:6).
Others may approach the Scriptures as a poet might approach a muse. These individuals come seeking words to inspire them and impart meaning to their hearts/lives. We might well also compare this approach to the way a child enjoys nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Now this type of student may very well consult the literary context of the text in view, but they will not pay much (if any) attention to the historical or rhetorical context.
I humbly submit that we should strive to come to the Scriptures in the manner of a detective. For instance, a criminal investigator painstakingly searches for clues to the meaning of what happened. The skilled and honest detective diligently seeks to obtain the original narrative or facts.
May we all carefully examine each text within its immediate context, dig into the meaning of the original words and phrases employed by the Spirit, and research both the rhetorical context and the historical backdrop of the time of the writing (not necessarily in that precise order). As faithful investigators of the mind of Deity in print, let us step back and grasp the larger meaning or frame of reference. It is extremely beneficial to study the type of rhetorical tools the writer used, and to look into the overall flow of logic in play. We must give immense effort to understanding the originally intended point(s), and then proceed to build proper application on that solid foundation of pure exegesis. Let us possess the longing and excitement of the young child with the fairy tale and the prospector with the gold mine, but let us temper all of that with the skill and attention of the searching detective. Let us be uplifted by the teachings of God's words, but let us make certain that we are being inspired by the intended message.
"Now these Jews (the Bereans) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures every day to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:11; cf. Luke 4:1-13).
For His infinite worth,