How to Interpret the Bible, Part 1: Ask God For Help

Daniel openly defies the king’s decree and prays to God
Illustration by Jim Padgett, Distant Shores/Sweet Publishing, under CCA-SA license

This is part 1 of the series “How to Interpret the Bible“, so if you have not yet read the introduction, you should do so.

When studying the Bible, why not pray to God for help understanding it?  I have seen a lot of lists about biblical interpretation, but oddly enough, this never seems to make the list!  I did see one that said to “ask the Holy Spirit” for understanding, but it seems that comment alone means that person needs a little more understanding.

There is something Jesus said that alone should give us sufficient reason to do so:

14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

Mt 13:14-16

Jesus told this to his true disciples.  This passage should make it obvious that unless one is called and has his or her mind opened, there is no hope of understanding.

And, whose mind gets opened?

44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Jn 6:44

God calls many (Mt 22:14), but it is up to each of us to respond.  Yet, many men and women have called upon God as they understood Him, and yet they were not granted true understanding.  They may have been sincere, they may have been earnest, but would they have been willing to give up the ways they have been told to worship and behave by men who claimed the authority to speak for God?

The reality is that very few have been willing to go against the grain and do what the Bible says!  The truth is that people get emotional about their favorite things and spiritualize entire passages of the Bible away!  You know what I’m talking about, for we are all capable of doing so!

It takes humility.  It takes total submission to God (which, BTW, is another article in the queue).  Unfortunately, this is something most people simply are not willing to do.

In the end, who will God call?  To whom will He give understanding?

18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

~ Ps 34:18

66 Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

~ Isa 66:1-2

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

~ Mt 5:3, 5

“Meekness” has become somewhat of a curse word in today’s vocabulary, similar to “submission”.  However, it is important to realize that meekness is submission towards God and not necessarily towards men.  It is important that we submit to human leaders placed over us in as much as they are submissive towards God.  Moses was called meek (Nu 12:3), but he also broke the first set of tablets the Ten Commandments were written on and then caused the Israelites to drink water with gold ground up from the idol mixed up in it!  While I doubt these particular actions were viewed favorably by God, it still shows that “meek” needs to be viewed in context.

When we make the distinction between eisegesis and exegesis, as discussed in the Introduction, humility before God as we ask Him for understanding cannot be underestimated.

Interestingly, and not intentionally, it is humility that ties #7 back to #1 in the list of items on how to interpret the Bible.  It is an ongoing process that does not end until the day we die, if we do it properly.

From here, you may:

Go back to the Introduction

Go on to Part 2

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