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A Guide to Bible Study Methods Found in Scripture

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1 Samuel 16:7 Don’t Judge By Appearance

Posted by adventbiblestudy on August 25, 2013


1 Samuel 16:7 NLTse But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Once again this is an easy scripture to find in the New Testament. When we highlight words Samuel repeated, they lead us straight to John 7:24.

John 7:24 KJV Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

When texts are segregated it is very difficult to know exactly what subject they are dealing with. Some people can guess, God is telling Samuel not to judge by his appearance or height in reference to David. But who or what is Jesus referring to? The only way to answer the question is to go back to the Bible and collect more texts from John chapter 7. The obvious place to check is of course in preceding verses.

John 7:21-24 NLTse Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. (22) But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) (23) For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? (24) Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”

Once again, Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders. Jesus knows what they are thinking. Of course Jesus is led by God’s Spirit, but if you think of it, most people knew what the Pharisees were up to whenever they encountered Jesus. The Sabbath is at the center of the debate. The Pharisees searched for Jesus during the Feast of Tabernacles, finally finding Him preaching at the temple. Jesus accused them of working on the Sabbath. Every Jewish boy was circumcised on the eight day. When that day fell on the Sabbath, priests performed the duty as if it were any other day. Pointing out the tradition of circumcision was given to Abraham before Moses was given the law, Jesus gave them something to think about. Did any of the Pharisees consult scripture to find out what point Jesus was trying to make? Did they pay attention to Jesus’ conclusion? “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” The Pharisees obviously felt more comfortable relying on themselves, than consulting God’s Word and Spirit.

So far this explains little about looking past outside features. The preceding texts show why Jesus used the statement, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment,” but fails to provide a proper example of righteous judgment.. In the Pharisees mind, priests were properly interpreting the law. Jesus had a deeper understanding of the law He was trying to teach, but that required additional time and study by the Pharisees, who were also dedicated to the Sabbath. Based on Jesus’ response, there is more to understand about the law and Sabbath than what appears on the surface. We learn a little more about looking beyond the surface by looking at texts immediately following Jesus’ statement.

John 7:25-27 NLTse Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? (26) But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? (27) But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.”

We can see some of the people who lived in Jerusalem were able to look beyond the surface to see the religious leaders were trying to kill Jesus. Do you think the Pharisees publicly announced their plans? What or who told those people the Pharisees plans? What gave them the ability to look beyond the elaborate dress and holy attitude, the image Pharisees tried so hard to maintain? Then again, the Pharisees obtained their goal, casting doubt on Jesus. Those people believed at least one of the prophecies the Pharisees misinterpreted. People failed to look at scripture themselves. Relying on religious leaders can put people in a very dangerous position. Its evident people in Jerusalem felt it was safe to pick and choose what to believe from religious leaders and what to set aside. An attitude alive and well today.

Putting the two examples together a lesson on how to look deeper is revealed. Looking back and comparing lessons is one of the most important Bible study methods Jesus taught. What do these two examples have in common? Jesus sent the Pharisees back to scripture. Some of the people in Jerusalem failed to see Jesus as the Messiah because they didn’t go back and review a number of scriptures explaining exactly where the Messiah will come from. In essence we are shown the key to looking beyond the surface. Going back to God’s Word and relying on His Spirit is the beginning of understanding.

Another vital step to digging deeper into the spiritual lesson is to study the introduction and summation of the chapter. Since we are comparing an Old Testament scripture with its New Testament fulfillment, this step becomes more important. We need to look at connecting factors between the Old and New Testament chapters as well as how each explains the subject texts being studied.

John 7:1-5 NLTse After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. (2) But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, (3) and Jesus‘ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! (4) You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” (5) For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.

Not even Jesus’ brothers believed He was the Messiah. Talk about lacking the ability to look beyond the surface. Can you imagine growing up with Jesus and not seeing how different He was. What did they expect to see in a Messiah? Were they stuck on the prophecies the religious leaders fed to them? What lesson is this showing us when Jesus’ family could not understand? It shows us the mistake a lot of people make. They think they know Jesus, but really don’t believe He is the Messiah simply because they do not know what the Messiah is. What lesson do we learn when we see Jesus was not able to reach His brothers, people he lived with. They ate, worked, rejoiced, suffered, toiled, and worshiped together. Why couldn’t Jesus reach them? Even though Jesus was not able to reach His brothers, the summation shows a group Jesus was able to reach.

John 7:45-53 NLTse When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” (46) “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded. (47) “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. (48) “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? (49) This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!” (50) Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. (51) “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked. (52) They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself–no prophet ever comes from Galilee!” (53) Then the meeting broke up, and everybody went home.

The Pharisees had enough of Jesus. They didn’t have a plan, but knew something had to be done. Satan pushed them into action. The Pharisees sent a group of guards to arrest Jesus. They could figure out what to do after they had Him in custody. It seemed to be an easy assignment. Jesus was easy to find. The only thing the guards had to worry about was the possibly of some of the people offering resistance. Considering Jesus taught people how to love and put away violence, the guards hoped Jesus’ followers would not put up a fight. They would soon find out if those people practiced what Jesus was preaching. A thought occurred to the guards as they traveled to Jesus. What if the Pharisees were using them? What if the Pharisees were using the guards to test Jesus and His followers? This would be the perfect plan to trap Jesus and use something against Him. It seemed to be a flawless plan. If the guards arrested Jesus, the Pharisees would accomplish their goal by silencing Him. If Jesus and His followers resisted, the Pharisees would show the world He was a fraud. As they approached Jesus, the guards could see how they were nothing more than pawns in the hands of the Pharisees.

When the guards found Jesus, they stopped to look at the group of people surrounding Him. The smart thing to do was scope out the situation to plan the proper approach. Jesus was surrounded by too many people to count. The guards were certainly outnumbered. On a second glance the guards noticed most of the people were women and children. The few men gathered in a small group close to Jesus. Too close for them to make a move while He was speaking. After accessing the situation the guards thought it would be better to wait until after Jesus finished speaking. It seemed the proper thing to do. After all, if they quickly accomplished their task, the Pharisees would certainly find a new task for them. Maybe one more difficult, or less pleasing to deal with. The guards decided waiting was the best course to follow.

The guards noticed one head after another turned to watch them for a moment, then turned back to Jesus. No one got up to confront the them. That was a good sign. The guards could see the longer they waited, the clearer they could assess the situation. Their plans to arrest Jesus was not the only thing becoming clearer to the guards. As they listened to Jesus, His words began to make sense.

Another important lesson on Bible study is to look behind the scenes. Is this what Jesus meant by looking beyond the surface? Knowing a little about the setting the guards found themselves in helps to look deeper into the subject. Notice how the Pharisees accused the guards of being deceived and insinuated everyone listing to Jesus has been deceived? Notice the lack of facts the Pharisees used to defend their beliefs? Sometimes missing details can tell you a lot about a situation. The goal of any Bible study is to give time for the Spirit to communicate. God’s Spirit can only share information you are ready to accept. This is why Bible study becomes such a deep personal matter. Each person sees one detail. Some details you see, others cannot see or understand. Some details may be impossible to explain while others flow out like a stream of life giving water. In every case, the amount of time you put into study is directly related to the depth of understanding. You can learn how to write your own stories by following a few simple steps.

  • Pray
  • Look at repeated words and terms in the texts.
  • Look at previous texts to see how the author led into the story.
  • Look at following texts to see how the author elaborates on the subject.
  • Look at the introduction and summation of the chapter to find the main theme.
  • Look at the introduction and summation of the chapter to determine context.
  • Use repeated words and thoughts to gather related texts which of course follow the same context.

Use your knowledge of history, the setting characters find themselves in, how they dressed, what they ate, how they made a living, the political atmosphere,, and any other physical traits relating to the scenes in the Bible. The majority of this information should come from the Bible. Allow God’s Spirit to work on those scenes in your mind. Take a walk among the people. Look at what they are wearing, how they are paying attention, their physical reactions to what is going on in the story.

Think of how each character would react to the situation? Are they single minded or wavering? What are their general thoughts? Which actions would result from their thoughts on the subject? What may be the results of the actions they have to choose from?

Anyone can write stories about the Bible. It doesn’t require extraordinary skills or an expert command of English rules. Sticking to basics makes is easier for an audience to understand. Stores can be written for your own children or those in church. Stories often become sermons, posts on Internet sites or used in other media. All of these are ways of sharing your faith. The deeper you dig, the better equipped you are to share God’s message. Keep all of these methods in mind as we look at another example. In this example we will continue to compare 1 Samuel chapter 16 to John chapter 7. We find a number of interesting details adding to the story in the introduction and summation to 1 Samuel chapter 16.

1 Samuel 16:1-3 NLTse Now the LORD said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.” (2) But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” “Take a heifer with you,” the LORD replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the LORD. (3) Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me.”

The introduction of 1 Samuel 16 shows us the main theme of the chapter. God gave up on Saul, so He sent Samuel out to anoint a new king. Notice how God shared information with Samuel. This also teaches a lesson in obedience as well as giving an example showing how God communicates with His prophets. God revealed only what Samuel needed to know at the time and answered his questions to comfort him. This reminded Samuel of his reliance on God. There is one connecting factor between the introduction of 1 Samuel 16 and John 7. Samuel was afraid Saul would kill him. Jesus knew the Pharisees were trying to kill him. Now we can see the connection between two chapters which makes it easier to see how each adds to the same spiritual lesson. The summation to 1 Samuel 16 adds more detail.

1 Samuel 16:21-23 NLTse (21) So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer. (22) Then Saul sent word to Jesse asking, “Please let David remain in my service, for I am very pleased with him.” (23) And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.

The summation of 1 Samuel 16 answers a lot of questions, allowing us to look beyond the lesson on the surface. The term, tormenting spirit is repeated to draw attention to the spiritual lesson. We clearly see a tormenting spirit controlled Saul. Looking on a deeper level we also see this is a condition suffered by the Pharisees. Saul wanted to kill Samuel, the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus. Both were controlled by their tormenting spirits. We also see David tried to bring Saul relief from the tormenting spirit. That is exactly what Jesus did when He sent the Pharisees back to scripture. Another parallel we see in the overall story is found in the word brothers. Jesus’ brothers did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. David’s brothers found it difficult to accept him, the youngest of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel. We know David is a symbol pointing to Jesus’ role as king. It is important to remember, David represented Jesus’ role as king, but not priest. Another example of how we need to look way beyond the surface to see the whole story. David was chosen when He was very young. Jesus was chosen long before the foundation of this world. David ministered and respected the enemy. While hunted in the mountains and wilderness by Saul and his army, David never lost respect for the king of Israel, even though he was trying to end his life. The same is true with Jesus. He never gave up trying to reach the religious leaders. No matter how the religious leaders tried to put an end to His ministry, Jesus used all His powers to call them back to God.

Samuel had no idea what God had in store. He never stopped praying for Saul. Samuel often felt a need to go back to Saul as his spiritual guide. Samuel knew Saul needed one. He knew Saul was lost without a guide. But Samuel was obedient to God. Unless he received a direct revelation from God, Samuel had no business confronting Saul about his sins. Samuel felt so helpless watching people suffer under Saul’s iron fist. Looking back, Samuel saw how God’s Word was once again fulfilled. Israel got everything God warned they would receive when He granted their wish for a king. Looking at what he experienced, Samuel thought of how the world would suffer in the future by turning their backs on God in favor of a human leader. Why would they give up an infinite God for a finite human leader? The answer was obvious to Samuel.

Looking at Jesse’s sons, Samuel thought Israel needed a strong leader. Samuel though back on the day he anointed Saul, who was a head taller than almost any man in Israel. Surely God is impressed by stature. At least Israel was. It didn’t take long for the entire nation to accept Saul. Although the transition did have its up and downs.

After going through all of Jesse’s sons present at dinner, having them turned down by God one at a time, Samuel asked if there was any other. Samuel knew God could not have made a mistake. He knew he was in the right house at the right time. Of course there was another. One of the brothers went out to fetch the youngest son. As they waited Jesse and his sons asked Samuel what God planned on doing about the condition of the country. They could see Saul cared little for the people he was anointed to serve. Samuel didn’t have an answer. He thought about how God cared for His people and compared it to Saul’s leadership qualities. Samuel didn’t say a thing other than to point out, Saul had a lot to learn.

When David walked in, Samuel saw a boy just past the age of helping his mother around the house. Samuel pondered on lessons a boy can learn from his mother. Samuel looked over at Jesse wandering what role he played in David’s education. How will Jesse prepare David to be king of Israel? God confirmed David was the one. Samuel pulled out the oil and anointed David to be the next king of Israel.

On the journey home, Samuel thought back on the day he anointed Saul, comparing it to David. Samuel noticed how God gave Saul the gift of prophecy and other gifts, but offered no such help to David. What was God’s plan for David? What qualities did David posses that Samuel didn’t see? Samuel knew he needed practice looking beyond the surface.

As you can see, combining a series of known facts about the Bible make a story on their own. The key is to take your time. Allow God’s Spirit to bring the facts together and show you how to order them. One of the best kept secrets in the Bible is how it uses pauses. Jesus was a master at using pauses. Look at how Jesus posed questions. When He did, Jesus waited for the answer. There are a few like Peter with a need to instantly answer a questions. Many more considered facts before answering. The Bible also installs pauses which are seen when the subject or scene suddenly changes. This is also a signal in Bible study to go back and compare texts to see how they are related. The fact is, the Bible was written to build one lesson upon another to teach a greater spiritual lesson. Learning to compare texts is a simple matter requiring little time and effort. With a little practice, anyone can develop a closer relationship with God’s Spirit and develop the skill of writing the lessons they learn.

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