In our last lesson, we learned that reading the Bible well requires us to be good observers. And in order to be a good observer what are the two qualities we need? Curiosity and patience.
A Problem with Mere Observation in Bible Study
But do you see a problem with people who only approach the Bible as observers? In other words, every time they approach the Bible they are looking for information and ways to dissect that information. I don’t mean that there’s anything wrong with that approach in itself. But what could be wrong if that’s the only approach we used?
The problem is that if the Bible is really God’s Word, we shouldn’t only approach it as scientists seeking to dissect it. Why not? Because if it’s God’s Word, then it is God speaking to us and that means we’re involved because a person being spoken to must respond. A mere observer can remain distant, but someone who’s being spoken to is personally involved.
For example, you could stare at a tree and seek to make a list of observations about it, but if the tree started speaking to you and telling you what to do, you would then have to make a personal choice.
In addition, when people share personal things with us, we don’t merely analyze their words, we take them to heart. When your mom or dad gives you words of encouragement, do you merely analyze those words—looking for things like repetition—or do you simply take their words to heart?
Finally, not only can observers remain at a distance, but they can think they’re in charge. “What do I see? What are my questions?” As we saw in our last lesson, there’s a place for those things, but if that’s the only way we approach the Bible, we’re not treating it as God’s Word.
There’s an ancient approach to Bible reading that helps us avoid the pitfall of only being an observer. That approach is called lectio divina meaning sacred reading. Lectio divina focuses on internalizing or inwardly digesting the text. As Jeremiah said, “Your words were found, and I ate them” (Jer. 15:16). It’s not enough to only cut up our food into nice little pieces; we also have to chew it and swallow it. It can’t nourish us if we keep it on our plates.
The basic way to practice lectio divina is this:
- Read the passage out loud and slowly a few times, pausing between each reading.
- During the pauses silently meditate on the words. This time of meditation involves two things: attempting to listen to what God may be saying to you through the text and (if the text is a narrative) imagining yourself in the text.
- After the last reading, turn your thoughts into a silent prayer.
*Some people like to read the Bible while kneeling to remind them that they are involved in a spiritual exercise.
Practice lectio divina using Mark 1:9-13.
Write a journal entry for Mark 1:9-13. Imagine that you were with Jesus during his baptism and his temptation and you go home and write about it in your personal journal. Include your five senses.
We’ll fill in a few of the details in Mark 1:9-13 in our next lesson.[This post is part of my course on Mark 1–7.]