Eighteenth-century Scottish pastor Thomas Boston said this about the best way to gain nourishment from Scripture:
“Read with a holy attention, arising from the consideration of the majesty of God, and the reverence due to him. This must be done with attention, first, to the words; second, to the sense; and, third, to the divine authority of the Scripture, and the obligation it lays on the conscience for obedience.” (HT: Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings).
Our attention must be focused in order to discern the meaning of a passage. Focused attention involves studying the Bible using insights from language, genre, literary context, and relevant background information. It can also consist of memorizing, meditating on, and prayerfully reflecting on Scripture. Most importantly, recognizing that Scripture carries the stamp of “thus says the Lord” helps us realize that we are encountering God as we read. Seeing the Bible as God’s revelation of himself prepares us to draw near to God with worshipful, teachable, and obedient hearts.
The goal of Bible reading is to experience transformation through God’s Word, by the work of the Spirit. Why be content with just letting the words skim off of the surface of our lives (see James 1:21-25)? With holy attention we can be intentional about letting God speak to us and shape us as we read the Bible.
Greg MaGee, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies