God’s Leadership Manual - Principles for the Study
Moses (originally Moshe, in Hebrew) was a great leader of Israel. He was born into a difficult time in the history of the Israelites, yet God had wonderful plans and purposes for him. While the enemy of God was enforcing the complete destruction of all Jewish boys, Moses’ parents had an even greater authority to obey rather than obeying the authority of man. A Biblical theme that is true throughout all times is that as Bible believing people we are submitted to God’s truths and not the ideas of men - especially if the authority in charge wants your complete destruction. We are encouraged to stand strong in God’s promises. God developed Moses into a man of God, speaking to him face to face. By the world’s standards, Moses was an unlikely candidate to lead the children of Israel from their bondage into freedom and yet God saw in him a great leader. As men of this generation, we have a calling to leadership, as well, that we ought to live out daily. We have a calling to be followers of God’s Word – Jesus (Yeshua, in Hebrew). As husbands, we are commanded to love our wives as Messiah loves His congregation. As fathers, we have a great responsibility to raise up godly offspring. As members of society, we are to leave the world a better place for future generations, both physically and spiritually. Let us take this journey together discovering Moses and learning how to be comfortable with reading, interpreting and applying God’s word to our lives so that we can live out our higher calling and touch many lives in the process.
It is important for us to set-up some personal goals for our study. Please take time in prayer and answer the following questions:
- Why do I study the Bible?
- What are my goals, in general, for studying the Bible?
- What are my objectives for studying the Bible in a group setting?
- Do I have room to grow in my understanding of the Bible?
King David so beautifully wrote of the importance of the study of God’s word:
"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11
Anything and everything that is not in agreement with God’s word is sin. If we want to please our Father God we should follow the commitment that David made. We are to store up or to memorize the Scripture, not merely for rote memory, but with understanding and application in our daily spiritual walk. We are to know it so that we are not tossed to and fro by various teachings. It is our responsibility alone. Over the centuries, Jewish people were known as "People of the Book". They had the highest literacy rates compared to other nations living around them. Why do you think this was so? You guessed it - because of the Scriptures! God used common people to write down His inspired words and He asks all people to know Him and to understand His inspired Word. We, too, can be "People of the Book" by applying ourselves to learning and developing Biblical discipline. So, let us set our hearts to be disciplined in learning and growing in Biblical knowledge and throughout the year- let us stay the course!
We live in a day of Information Technology (IT). Information is readily available to us yet we also live in a day when Biblical literacy is in a decline. Ed Stetzer writes in his article titled The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches:
"Christians claim to believe the Bible is God's Word. We claim it's God's divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren't reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day."
We have instant access to numerous Bible translations ranging from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, along with Biblical dictionaries, commentaries and volumes of historical documents. For our journey, we are going to use the Bible as a primary source of truth. Since none of us are well versed in the original languages, we can utilize Biblical Dictionaries to understand the meaning of the original words.
The Concept of 1st Mention
This concept will help us to seek out the original meaning of words. Words have a tendency to change their meaning over time. For example, the English word stench used to be used for both good and bad smells but nowadays it is only associated with a distasteful smell and its positive meaning was replaced with other words like smell or fragrance. Can you think of any modern English words that have changed over time to now mean something quite different from its original meaning? In order to understand the original biblical word meaning, we must go back to where it was 1st mentioned and based on the context of the text we can understand its meaning. Let us take the English word "Grace" used in Ephesians 2:8-9:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
The English word "Grace" in this verse corresponds to the Jewish-Greek word charis – Strong’s Number G5485. You can use either http://studyBible.info or e-Sword desktop application to get the original Greek reference. For this article I used http://studyBible.info.
- Go to http://studyBible.info, then select KJV with Strong’s Numbers version of the Bible
- In the search box, type in Ephesians 2:8-9:
- The following result will be displayed:
- As you can see, Strong’s Numbers are displayed in green above the actual English words. This is perfect. Click on G5485 to get the Greek dictionary definition.
If you search thru the KJV with Strong’s Numbers Bible that have G5485 Strong’s Numbers for the Greek, you will find all of the mentions of this word only in the New Covenant (Testament) scriptures. This is an incomplete search because the Bible wasn’t originally written in Greek and the Greek language and culture itself was polytheistic and had no concept of the Judaic foundation having One God, sending an anointed Messiah to redeem the world to restore humanity to a loving and personal relationship back to Him. So how then do we find the meaning of this Jewish-Greek word in Old Covenant (Testament)? Great question - I am glad you asked! All of the New Covenant writers were familiar with what is known as the Septuagint (sometimes abbreviated LXX). This Jewish-Greek translation of the original Hebrew text was done by Jewish Rabbis in order to deliver a version of the Bible to Greek speaking Jews to read and understand. This translation predates any Christian translations or theologies and was commonly available to the Hellenistic Jews of the time. Here are the steps I take to get the 1st mention meaning of a Hebrew word:
- Go to http://studyBible.info/
- Select Septuagint OT and Westcott-Hort NT version of the Bible.
- Type in G5485 in the search, then enter:
- You will get over 30 results and all of them from the Old Covenant (Testament). The 1st result is what we are looking for:
- If you select Genesis 6:8, you won’t be able to read it since it is in Greek. We still don’t know the original word in Hebrew, but don’t worry, we are getting closer.
- Next in the search box, select KVJ with Strong’s Numbers and press search.
- The final result should be the Hebrew word for Grace, which is "Hen" with Strong’s Number: H2580
Our search for the 1st mention of the English word "Grace" brought us all the way back to the story of Noah. In order to better understand Ephesians 2, we need to read the entire account of Noah. The principle of salvation thru faith by grace then is not a New Covenant (Testament) idea. Noah was saved through faith based on God’s favor towards him. Noah also had to be obedient and build a boat all the while telling the local people of the impending danger looming ahead. From the very beginning, God desired that none would perish, and as in Noah’s time, it was every individual’s decision to either believe the message or to reject it. As believers, we are given the same responsibility to share with others the message of God’s love and favor that we find in Yeshua the Messiah. Moving forward, I strongly encourage you to utilize these methods of research if certain words or principles are not clear to you.
Online Bible Study Tools
Today, the majority of people use their smart devices to browse thru the internet. If you have a phone, tablet, etc. the following online tools are a great start. They provide access to various English Bible versions, dictionaries, commentaries etc.
If you prefer off-line studies on your desktop, here is a fantastic & free Bible study tool that will make the study of God’s word enjoyable http://www.e-sword.net/. It has all of the online tools, plus many more additional books that can be downloaded and utilized.
Throughout the centuries, there are various ways people decided to interpret the Scriptures. Some of the methods produced a complete separation of the literal meaning of the text, which resulted in strange man-made ideas that are contrary to the original meaning of God’s word. For our study, we will take a literal-historical method of interpretation of the scriptures. Words have meaning and the meaning is not read into the words but rather discovered based on the proper context of the text. As we have seen in the case of the word "grace", it carries with it a principle and idea that goes all the way back to the first book of the Bible. We can now better understand the passages in Ephesians where Paul goes on to talk about the unveiling mystery of Jewish and Gentiles believers becoming one body, as Noah himself was a gentile and God’s plan of salvation was for ALL who believed as they joined together in the greater body of believers.
The Golden Rule of Interpretation
Dr. David L. Cooper formulated a golden rule of interpretation that we are going to apply:
"When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise."
The Law of the Context states: A text apart from its context is a pretext for anything anyone wants it to be. We always look at a verse as a part of the larger context and must not be taken out of its context. "Context" of the Scripture can refer to the historical or literary context. The literary context includes words, sentences, and paragraphs preceding and following the passage. This is the part of our study where grammar plays a large role. We must pay attention to each word in the text. Nouns represent the objects of the text and verbs its actions. Verbs concern themselves with the verb tenses. It can make a huge difference if the action is in the past, present or future tense. Observation of the text is crucial. It takes time to train the mind to slow down while reading the Scriptures and asking questions such as Who, What, When, Where Why and How? Why is this passage a part of this book? Who is the author of the book? Who is the author talking to? Who are the actors in the story? What does this word mean? What is the original meaning of this word? The historical context includes the knowledge of the culture, economy, geography, climate, agriculture, architecture, family life, morals, and social structure. It might be helpful to study the history of a time period that a certain book of the Bible is written during. When was the book written? What is the historical context of the book? The Bible is a historical narrative on humanity and conveys God’s unending love for us.
Our fellowship in God’s word is a top priority and holds unending value to our lives. We must continue to grow into it and never grow out of it. The Scriptures are unchanging and as we grow in the knowledge of God we grow in deeper understanding of His character, of His will and of His promises. I hope that this short exercise on the study of the Scriptures will provide a lifelong framework for an ongoing study of His word. Be blessed in your pursuit of Him!