How to Understand the Bible – The Word Made Flesh
Knowing how to understand the Bible can prove to be a challenge for many individuals. None of us likes to appear ignorant by saying, “I don’t get it. What does that mean?” Yet, the Bible assures us that it is possible to discern the meaning of God’s Word with clarity. “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).
Attempting to understand everything that affects our bodies and minds confronts us on a daily basis. For example, do we describe our dining experience as “ingest, chew, and swallow?” While accurate, these words lack enthusiasm, creativity, and uniqueness. The Bible overflows with wondrous words like “everlasting, glorious, radiant, faithful, and merciful”—all providing insight into the nature of God. As a result, we long to satisfy our appetites to know God better—while savoring the experience. So let us learn how to feast upon Scripture so that we may be filled.
In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul presents the challenge to “correctly handle the word of truth.” One way this may be accomplished is by selecting a single word, such as “bread,” to establish a starting point. Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48). The first step in understanding begins with asking some basic questions. Is Jesus’ reference to “bread” applicable today? Why would Jesus refer to Himself as this specific food?
Thousands of years ago, bread was the all-important staple food of the ancient Near East—making it synonymous with life itself. Just as God had provided manna, “bread from heaven,” to satisfy the hunger of the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus would satisfy the people’s deepest hunger—everlasting life for those who believe in Him (John 6:51).
Suppose you were not familiar with the instances of where “bread” played a crucial part in the Scriptures? A concordance is an invaluable tool in providing a deeper understanding of the Bible.1 We would then discover at least five instances in which “bread” played a significant part in understanding the nature of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
How to Understand the Bible – The Heart of the Matter
A brief portion of Scripture frequently shows us how to understand the Bible as well. Suppose we were to select Psalm 23, a well-known passage. Children recite its verses by memory in Sunday school. The words become a prayer that refreshes the troubled soul. Psalm 23 resonates in the heart because it affirms God’s love, protection, and faithfulness.
Begin by reading slowly through each verse, digesting each heavenly morsel. Now, as you read aloud the psalm again, take note of the phrases that trigger an emotional response or call attention to some personal need, such as:
How to Understand the Bible – The Order of Things
Traditionally, there is a pattern that man employs in the learning process. We obtain knowledge, which yields understanding, and ultimately provides wisdom. God’s ways, however, are higher and supernaturally designed for the maximum benefit of His children. As a reminder, “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).
Notice the change in the order from man’s learning process—wisdom, knowledge, then understanding (Proverbs 2:10; Isaiah 11:2). The Bible’s poets and sages associated wisdom with the very nature of God and His powerful, eternal Word. Wisdom was the very companion of God at creation (Job 28:20-27). Meditating on God’s Word provides wisdom, providing a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, resulting in a growing knowledge as we obey His commands (Psalm 119:97-102).
The Psalmist savored the Word of God. “How pleasing is what you have said to me—tasting better than honey” (Psalm 119:103). What benefits will you receive from delighting in the rich food of Scripture? Just as our digestive system distributes nutrients to our bodies, God promises to nourish our mind, heart, and soul. From the beginning, God has always desired that we know Him better. Understanding the Bible reveals who God is, giving us a proper understanding of Him—here on earth and eternally.