Recently I wrote a short piece describing what I believe is an important part of being a good expository preacher or teacher – the ability to simply see what is there in the Biblical text.
One of the points I made was that learning to do this is not easy, and many things can get in the way. Here are some thoughts on the things that may hinder simply seeing what is there in the Biblical text.
A General Lack of Curiosity
Some people just aren’t curious enough. They need to look at the Biblical text and interact with it by using questions: What does that mean? Why did it say it that way? Why is this word repeated? What would this look like? A good course or seminar on Inductive Bible Study might help you to learn how to come to the Biblical text with curiosity.
Not Enough Time to Think About the Text
If you constantly feel under the pressure of deadlines and hurry through your study times, it is easy to miss obvious things in the Bible text. Part of seeing what is there in the Bible comes from meditation on the text, and meditation takes a certain frame of mind that can think through the passage and “chew the cud,” so to speak. Rush through your reading of the passage and you’ll miss a lot.
A Bible that is Marked Either Literally or Mentally
If you like to mark up your Bible, you might want to use an unmarked one the next time you study. All those notes and highlights and underlines have their place, but it can make you come to the Bible with the thinking, “I already know this.” Looking past the markings from time to time can be a big help. It’s also possible to mark up your Bible mentally – you look at those verses and think you already have them figured out. Mentally push the reset button and try to use fresh eyes on the text.
Too Much of Looking to Others for What the Text Says
Bible commentaries and the teaching of others on a text can be helpful, and they certainly have their place. Yet I think it is important to first spend time with just you, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible passage. Read it carefully, think it through, and spend time working through the text yourself – then go to the commentaries or teachings of others.
Looking to the Wrong People
Who are the Bible commentators or teachers you use for a pattern? If you are using teachers and commentators that don’t do a good job explaining the text, then you are looking at a poor example. If you look to those who don’t deal well with the text themselves, it will reinforce bad patterns in your preparation and preaching.
Love for the Bible Has Grown Cold
This is a difficult point but must be made. Sometimes – even with Bible teachers and preachers – they simply lose their love for the Bible. It just isn’t so interesting or wonderful to them as it once was. If this is you, it is important to be honest about it, to confess it before God, and to sincerely ask Him to change your heart. Ask Jesus to help you see the wonder in His Word once again.
Remember Who is Dead and Who is Alive
Every once in a while, a kind person will say something like this: “You really make the Bible come alive in your teaching.” Everyone appreciates such a compliment, and we are thankful that people are encouraging enough to say such things. At the same time, we always remember: the Bible is alive, and it brings life to me. It isn’t as if the poor Bible lies there, dead and dormant – until you or I come and somehow breathe life into that cold, stiff book. We know the truth: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible brings life to us, (not the other way around), and we need to let its life be displayed through simply seeing what is there in the Bible text in our teaching and preaching.