The seventh, and final key to unlock the treasure of the Bible brings together all the other keys to fulfill their purpose, namely, reading the Bible. The keys only unlock the treasure of the Bible as we actually read the Bible with each key in mind. The Bible is a book; books are meant to be read. It is an amazing thing that God has given us a book. He meant for us to read his book. God speaks to his people in his written word, the holy Scriptures. But reading the Bible is not easy for most people. Many who have tried it were not successful. Some parts of the Bible seem fairly easy to navigate, but other parts seem almost incomprehensible to many people. Reading the Bible profitably requires help from God and takes effort and discipline on our part. The purpose of the seventh key is to help us in that endeavor.
Receiving a blessing from reading the Bible requires a plan. Just reading randomly will not prove fruitful. There are many ways one can approach reading the Bible. I always encourage people to read the Bible in two basic ways, deep and wide. I believe it is imperative to read the Bible widely by reading large amounts of text. Reading through a book of the Bible in one sitting, or large portions of bigger books is great. Some people read through the entire Bible every year, or at least one or more times in their lifetime. Some read through the Bible in a longer or shorter time. The important thing is to read and be exposed to all the Bible. Since the Bible is a story, we want to read the whole story to understand it better. But we must do more. It is not enough to simply read the Bible, it must be studied. We must take small texts and dig deep into them by meditating on them. Biblical meditation is the seventh key to unlock the treasure of the Bible.
The Bible commands us to meditate on Scripture (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 63:6; 77:6, 12; 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 78; 143:5; 145:5). We see this so clearly and in such a powerful way in Psalm 1:1-2. Here we find the stark contrast between the wicked and the righteous by the focus of their hearts. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The person who is blessed by God is not one who follows after the wicked, but makes the focus of life meditating on the word of God. The righteous meditate on the word of God so that they can obey it.
There are many ways to meditate on and study the Bible that are profitable. I believe the best way to study the Bible is by a method called inductive Bible study. Inductive Bible study has as its goal to engage the text with as few presuppositions as possible and discover what the Bible says for itself. Inductive Bible study is usually composed of three stages: observation, interpretation and application. Observation of a biblical text asks the question, “What does the text say?” Interpretation involves asking the question, “What does the text mean?” And finally, application asks, “How does this text apply to my life?”
Biblical meditation differs greatly from eastern meditation in that eastern meditation seeks to empty the mind, while biblical meditation seeks to fill the mind with the word of God and the person of God. Biblical meditation is a slow, patient process. We may spend a great deal of time meditating on a few verses. Biblical meditation requires thinking about every word in every sentence of a text to understand fully what God is saying in his word. Paul exhorts Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” What Paul says is the word of God in the letter he is writing Timothy. Timothy’s responsibility is to think over (meditate) what Paul writes (Scripture). The Lord’s promise is that he will give understanding.
The activity of meditating on Scripture involves a number of steps or stages. In this sense it is a process, but it is not a technique one uses to extract meaning or the message of a text from the Bible. It is an ongoing deep and dynamic relationship with God. It happens prayerfully by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The first thing that should, but may not happen in the meditation of Scripture is prayer. Since meditation is a spiritual activity and it is God who gives the understanding, it is unwise and unprofitable to begin without prayer. This is what we see in the Bible. Psalm 119 is a meditation and a prayer about the beauty, the power and the necessity of the word of God. We find the psalmist there praying seven times for the Lord to teach him his word (Psalm 119:12, 26, 33, 64, 66, 68, 124). And five times he prays for understanding (Psalm 119: 27, 34, 73, 125, 169). He also prays in verse 18, “Open. My eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in you law.” And then in verse 36 the psalmist prays, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” It is absolute necessary, therefore, to seek God in prayer for profitable meditation on his word.
The second thing we can do as we meditate on Scripture is to read over the text several times asking six important questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. These questions will help us begin to get a sense of what’s happening in the text and what God is saying in the text. Then we go back over the text several more times reading very slowly thinking about every word and phrase considering the meaning they convey in the passage. At this point we can realize some great insights into what God is saying in his word. It is probably a good thing to write down some of our findings so we can go back over them later. As we’re slowly thinking over a passage word by word it is profitable to ask ourselves what the text is telling us about God and what it is telling us about people. We need and desire the truth of God.
The next thing we can do in biblical meditation is think about how the text applies to our lives. If we stop before this point, we will probably not have much that is beneficial to life. The word of God has transformational power. It can deeply change us. It will do so only as we apply it to our lives. We can think of attitudes and actions that the principles of the text call for in everyday life. There is usually some negative and positive application from any text. What things is my text calling me to do, and what things is my text calling me to not do? Making application from the text requires that we make it personal. As we apply God’s word to our lives, God will encourage us and give us great peace, but he will also reprove and correct us. In this way real change can happen in our hearts.
The last thing we can do is the first thing we did. We can pray. As we gain some understanding about what the Bible is saying, and what it means, we can ask God to empower us to be obedient to the truths we’ve discovered. We can also praise him and thank him for all the rich blessings he daily pours on us.
As we meditate on Scripture it opens to us the heart of God. We gain a renewed sense of his love and grace that reveals to us his plan of salvation. The Bible is necessary and a blessing for every season of life, but especially so for the dark and painful times. When we cherish God’s word enough to spend quality and quantity time meditating on it, we realize a deeper appreciation of who God is and all he’s done for us, as well as the blessing of experiencing his presence with us. Therefore we bring God glory and blessing for ourselves by utilizing each of the seven keys to unlock the treasure of the Bible.