I think that getting the most out of studying and reading the Bible is a subject always near to God’s people. This was David’s prayer in Psalm 119:18 when he said, “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law.” Not content with just surface knowledge, the once shepherd boy knew that God must draw the veil from his eyes so that he could behold the vast treasures of His Word.
As Spurgeon says,
“The prayer implies a conscious darkness, a dimness of spiritual vision, a powerlessness to remove that defect, and a full assurance that God can remove it. It shows also that the writer knew that there were vast treasures in the word which he had not yet fully seen, marvels which he had not yet beheld, mysteries which he had scarcely believed. The Scriptures teem with marvels; the Bible is wonder land; it not only relates miracles, but it is itself a world of wonders. Yet what are these to closed eyes? And what man can open his own eyes, since he is born blind? God himself must reveal revelation to each heart. Scripture needs opening, but not one half so much as our eyes do: the veil is not on the book, but on our hearts. What perfect precepts, what precious promises, what priceless privileges are neglected by us because we wander among them like blind men among the beauties of nature, and they are to us as a landscape shrouded in darkness!”
Thomas Watson gives some very practical steps to get the most out of our time in God’s Word each day. It has been a strength to my own heart–I trust it will be with yours as well.
Grace and peace,
Biographical Note THOMAS WATSON (c.1620-1686), was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably hard study. In 1646 he was commenced a sixteen year pastorate at St. Stephen’s Walbrook. In 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II. He was released on 30th June,1652, and was formally reinstated vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license for the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston in Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28th July , 1686.
1. Remove hindrances. (a) remove the love of every sin (b) remove the distracting concerns of this world, especially covetousness [Matt. 13:22] (c) Don’t make jokes with and out of Scripture.
2. Prepare your heart. [1 Sam. 7:3] Do this by: (a) collecting your thoughts (b) purging unclean affections and desires (c) not coming to it rashly or carelessly.
3. Read it with reverence, considering that each line is God speaking directly to you (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Psalm 19:7-11).
4. Read the books of the Bible in order.
5. Get a true understanding of Scripture. [Ps. 119:73] This is best achieved by comparing relevant parts of Scripture with each other.
6. Read with seriousness. [Deut. 32:47] The Christian life is to be taken seriously since it requires striving [Luke 13:24] and not falling short [Heb. 4:1].
7. Persevere in remembering what you read. [Ps. 119:52] Don’t let it be stolen from you [Matt. 13:4,19]. If it doesn’t stay in your memory it is unlikely to be much benefit to you.
8. Meditate on what you read. [Ps. 119:15] The Hebrew word for meditate’ means to be intense in the mind’. Meditation without reading is wrong and bound to err; reading without meditation is barren and fruitless. It means to stir the affections, to be warmed by the fire of meditation [Ps. 39:3].
9. Read with a humble heart. Acknowledge that you are unworthy that God should reveal himself to you [James 4:6]
10. Believe it all to be God’s Holy Word. [2 Tim 3:16] We know that no sinner could have written it because of the way it describes sin. No saint could blaspheme God by pretending his own Word was God’s. No angel could have written it for the same reason. [Heb 4:2]
11. Prize the Bible highly. [Ps. 119:72] It is your lifeline; you were born by it [James 1:18] you need to grow by it [1 Pet 2:2] [cf. Job 23:12].
12. Love the Bible ardently [Ps. 119:159].
13. Come to read it with an honest heart. [Luke 8:15] (a) Willing to know the entire and complete will of God (b) reading in order to be changed and made better by it [John 17:17].
14. Apply to yourself everything that you read, take every word as spoken to yourself. Its condemnation of sins as the condemnation of your own sin; the duty that it requires as the duty God would require from you [2 Kings 22:11].
15. Pay close attention to the commands of the Word as much as the promises. Think of how you need direction just as much as you need comfort (Psalm 119:9-11).
16. Don’t get carried away with the minor details, rather make sure to pay closest attention to the great things [Hosea 8:12].
17. Compare yourself with the Word. How do you compare? Is your heart something of a transcript of it, or not? (James 1:21-25)
18. Pay special attention to those passages that speak to your individual, particular and present situation. e.g. (a) Affliction — [Heb. 12:7, Isaiah 27:9, John 16:20, 2 Cor 4:17. (b) Sense of Christ’s presence and smile withdrawn — [Isaiah 54:8, Isaiah 57:16, Ps. 97:11] (c) Sin — [Gal 5:24, James 1:15, 1 Peter 2:11, Prov 7:10&22-23, Prov 22:14] (d) Unbelief — [Isaiah 26:3, 2 Sam 22:31, John 3:15, 1 John 5:10, John 3:36]
19. Pay special attention to the examples and lives of people in the Bible as living sermons. (a) Punishments [Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, Num 25:3-4&9, 1 Kings 14:9-10, Acts 5:5,10, 1 Cor 10:11, Jude 7] (b) mercies and deliverances [Daniel, Jeremiah, the 3 youths in the fiery furnace]
20. Don’t stop reading the Bible until you find your heart warmed. [Ps 119:93] Let it not only inform you but also inflame you [Jer 23:29, Luke 24:32].
21. Put into practice what you read [Ps 119:66, Ps 119:105, Deut 17:19].
22. Christ is for us Prophet, Priest and King. Make use of His office as a Prophet [Rev 5:5, John 8:12, Ps 119:102-103]. Get Christ not only to open the Scriptures up to you, but to open up your mind and understanding [Luke 24:45]
23. Make sure to put yourself under a true ministry of the Word, faithfully and thoroughly expounding the Word [Prov 8:34] be earnest and eager in waiting on it.
24. Pray that you will profit from reading [Isaiah 48:17, Ps 119:18, Nehemiah 9:20].
1. You don’t seem to profit as much as others do. Remember the different yields [Matt 13:8] though the yield isn’t as much as others it is still a true and fruitful yield.
2. You may feel slow of understanding [Luke 9:45, Heb 5:11].
3. Your memory is bad (a) remember you are still able to have a good heart despite this (b) you may still remember the most important things even if you cannot remember everything, be encouraged by John 14:26.