How to Study the Bible Session 5

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How to Study the Bible Session 5

How to Study Your Bible V

Over the past three Wednesday nights, we have learned that becoming better Bible detectives involves learning how to read faster and more efficiently. We have learned how to read our Bibles thoughtfully, repeatedly, patiently, selectively, prayerfully, imaginatively, and meditatively. We learned to ask six questions of every text that will help unlock any passage of Scripture.

Working with a Paragraph

We started with one verse of Scripture several weeks ago, Acts 1:8, and made some observations. We need to step up to a paragraph. The paragraph is the basic unit of study. It represents a complete thought. The paragraph deals with one main idea or topic. It is ideal for observational study.

When the Bible was written there were no verses and chapters, just units of thought. 1200 years after Christ, scholars began carving them up into the divisions that we have today. They did so to enhance Bible study, but their efforts are by no means inspired by the Holy Spirit. In fact, many of the breaks are artificially imposed upon the text. So, it is important to study paragraphs.

We are going to study a paragraph tonight. Nehemiah 1:4-11. Let’s remember the six key questions as we read.

Verse 4
What is the significance of “Now” and “these words”? “Now” is a connective, and “these words” reveal that there is some information concerning context that we need to know.

We find some very important clues in Verse 1. These are the words of a particular man named Nehemiah from a particular family. There are also 3 prepositional phrases that tell me a lot about “when” and “where.” In the month of Chislev, in the 20h year, and in Shushan the capitol. A good Bible dictionary can help. Chislev is the 9th month beginning in November and extending into December. We are talking about early winter. We do not find out what the “20th year” means until Chapter 2.

Shushan is the capitol. There were two palaces in this kingdom. Shushan was the winter palace and Ek-batana was the summer palace. But Nehemiah was at the one in Shushan and it was no shack. It covered 5000 acres!

So, here is a man living in a luxurious palace and he gets a report. From whom? Hanani and his brothers. Nehemiah asks a two-fold question. He asks about people and place. So, Verse 2 asks a question and naturally the response follows in Verse 3. The response is 3-fold. The remnant is in great distress, the wall is broken down, and the gates are burned down. Notice that Nehemiah’s first question was about people, then the place. His first concern was for people. Now we have the context.

Once Nehemiah hears about his people and his city what does he do? Four things: he weeps, mourns, fasts, and prays. Nehemiah has an emotional and a spiritual response to the report.

Verse 5
We now have the prayer of Nehemiah. Notice the elements of this prayer. What element of prayer do we see here? Adoration. Nehemiah begins by adoring and praising God for who He is and what He has done.

Verse 6-7
The 2nd element of prayer is now found. He begins to confess his personal sin and the sins of his people as well. Seeing God as He is helps us to see who we are…sinners in need of His mercy.

Verse 8-11a
The 3rd element of prayer is seen in these verses. Nehemiah begins to petition God. He is praying for himself, his people, his city, his nation, his country. Notice that he petitions God on the basis of His promises. Nehemiah’s prayer is a model for how we can approach God. The prayer is tied directly to the report of Hanani and his brothers. His immediate response is prayer but based upon the Word of God.

Verse 11b
Most people simply skip over the last part of Verse 11, but it is terribly important. Remember no detail is unimportant. What was a cupbearer? Rulers in these days trusted no one, except the cupbearer. Nehemiah was in charge of tasting the king’s wine. He was a very important person. The cupbearer was 2nd in command. He had direct access to the king. Nehemiah’s position in the kingdom reveals how God would use him strategically to accomplish His purposes. That is why the Holy Spirit includes this important detail. Later we discover that, because Nehemiah held such an important position, the king allowed him to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls and the city. We have certainly made quite a few observations about this paragraph.

Use whatever observational methods or techniques we have studied and make some observations from Jonah 4:5-8.

• Who is the author of the book?
• To whom is the book written?
• Who are the characters in the book?
• Who is speaking?
• To whom is he speaking?
• Etc., etc., etc.

• What is the atmosphere of the book or passage? friendly? Chastening? Loving?
• What is the author’s general topic? What is he saying about his topic?
• What is the CONTEXT?
• What are the key words? What do they mean?
• What? What? What?

• When was the book written?
• When did this event happen? In relation to this other event?
• When was this prophecy fulfilled, or has it been?
• “When” questions are important to ask especially in narrative literature such as the Gospels. This will help give you the time perspective.

• Where was the book written?
• Where were the recipients of the book living?
• Can you locate the places mentioned on a map?
• Where else does this topic appear In Scripture?

• Why was the book written?
• Why does he include this material and not other things?
• Why does the author give so much space to that topic and so little to another?

• How many? How many times does the author use the same word in this book,
chapter, passage, verse?
• How long?
• How much?
• How does he do this? Say this?
• How does this relate to the preceding statement? …to the succeeding statement?