One day a rabbit was boasting about how fast he could run. He was laughing at the turtle for being so slow. Much to the rabbit’s surprise, the turtle challenged him to a race. The rabbit thought this was a good joke and accepted the challenge. The fox was to be the umpire of the race. As the race began, the rabbit raced way ahead of the turtle, just like everyone thought. The rabbit got to the halfway point and could not see the turtle anywhere. He was hot and tired and decided to stop and take a short nap. Even if the turtle passed him, he would be able to race to the finish line ahead of him. All this time the turtle kept walking step by step by step. He never quit no matter how hot or tired he got. He just kept going. However, the rabbit slept longer than he had thought and woke up. He could not see the turtle anywhere! He went at full-speed to the finish line but found the turtle there waiting for him.
My purpose in starting this blog with a simple illustration of a turtle and rabbit race is because understanding scripture is much like a race between a turtle (slow) and rabbit (fast). Studying scripture is an interpretive journey as outlined in Duval and Hays book, Grasping God’s Word. The interpretive journey is four basic steps that guide us through the process of reading, interpreting, and applying the Bible.
Step 1: Grasping the text in their town
Step 2: Measuring the width of the river to cross
Step 3: Crossing the Principlizing Bridge
Step 4: Grasping the text in our town
Yes, these steps appear to be a complex process, but as you begin to move through these practical steps your journey will become more interesting and will keep you in the race of understanding God’s word. When studying the word be committed, disciplined, willing to move slow and stay most importantly stay persistent. If you move straight from your initial reading of a passage to the application of that passage, you will remain tied to your previous understanding of the text. Do not get ahead of the process in understanding scripture, take your time and eat the book! God told Ezekiel, “And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey” (Ezekiel 3:3).
My personal practice of reading, studying, understanding and applying God’s Holy Word has matured over the years. When I first starting my journey as a student of the word, my approach was to read and apply. Then, I moved to read, apply and understand. Now, I read, study, mediate (understand) and then apply. This progression of study has enhanced due to wisdom, simply, I want to go deeper in the word so that God’s revelation is revealed and clear. What I have learned about studying scripture is, we need to study the word, not just read the word, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth”(2 Timothy 2:15).
Dr. Cornẻ Bekker a Doctoral professor at Regent University gives us a clear description of understanding the Holy Word of God through exegesis, “this is the process of interpretation where you are trying to find the original meaning of the verse. It is finding out what was the message that was heard by the original recipient of the Bible.” This process is difficult for us, but with the Holy Spirit, we are able to interpret the scripture and receive the message. Keep in mind that our goal is to grasp the meaning of the text God has intended and for you to not create your personal meaning from the text. Scripture interprets Scripture!
In conclusion, we need to apply the process of understanding (exegesis) of the scripture slow and focused like the turtle. In Peterson’s book, “Eat This Book,” the revelation of eating the book is relevant to the Christian life because when we submit to spiritual reading we allow the words of the bible to enter our souls as food enters or stomach, spreads through our blood, and becomes holiness and love and wisdom. As a leader, this excites me because just as Jeremiah and Ezekiel were told to eat this book God also commands us to eat the book, pull the words from the pages of the bible and allow them to permeate our souls in order to teach the scripture in truth and not an error. “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16). Stay in the race, the finish line is always promised to the one who is focused till the end!
Be blessed in the Lord!
Ketra L. Davenport-King
Bekker, C. (2012). Introduction to Hermeneutics: Exegesis and Leadership. Retrieved from 2012 Summer Residency seminar at Regent University. Virginia Beach.
Bible, ESV.T. E. (2008). The Holy Bible. Illinois: Crossway.
Duvall, S.J. & Hays, J.D. (2012). Grasping God’s word: A hands-on approach to reading, interpreting, and applying the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Peterson, E. H. (2006). Eat This Book. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmands Publishing Company.