The Bible is a wonderful gift, one that gives us the very words of God. It is entirely holy and can speak to you in ways that are utterly profound, yet entirely simple. At the same time, that very same wonderful gift can begin to look very much like a textbook while in seminary.
Having the Bible become a textbook is a very easy thing to let happen. I found myself struggling with that a lot in my undergraduate studies. Each new class required me to look at different books of the Bible and break them down to their bare root meaning, and I didn’t even have to look at the original languages yet. It became very hard for me to separate devotional reading from homework reading. For a time I couldn’t just allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me while reading, I just had to approach the text as if I were breaking it down for another ten page paper. When I realized what I had been doing it broke my heart. I decided then that I needed to find a way to separate the Word of God from a homework assignment.
For me to break the cycle of overanalysing Scripture, I had to go back to the reason I even wanted to study it further: I loved Jesus, and I absolutely loved the Word. It spoke to me, it breathed life into my soul, it corrected me and guided me through life and gave me hope through some of the hardest things I had ever experienced.
I had to consciously sit down and pray that God would speak to me again through His Word. I literally asked God to walk me through the Scriptures and point things out to me that I hadn’t learned or studied. And He was faithful.
As you walk through the season that is seminary, you will be digging into Scripture deeper than you ever have before. You’ll learn the original languages (if you haven’t already), and you’ll learn how to break it down to learn what the text is really saying. Don’t allow yourself to let the Bible become your textbook.
The very best advice I can give to you would be to pray before you read, during your reading, and when you’ve put the Bible down for the day. Pray that God would illuminate the Scriptures for you, pray against the urge to break it down, and pray that God would use His word to change you into the person that He would have you to be (you won’t get that from any textbook).
The next piece of advice I would give you would be to read devotionally something other than what you are currently studying in your courses. Do you have a lot of classes focusing on the history of the Old Testament? Read something from the New Testament. Studying from the New Testament? Read the Psalms.
Above all, remember why you’re in seminary to begin with. You fell in love with the God of the Scriptures and felt Him calling you to go. Allow those 66 love letters to overwhelm your soul once more.
By Michael A. Murphy Michael is a husband and father to three children. He and his wife will be moving their family from Michigan to Colorado to attend seminary this fall. Mike and his wife, Denise, blog together at theevertree.wordpress.com