When a Smudge is more than a Smudge


There is difference between reading the Word of God and observing the Word of God. That difference is important.That difference is essential in understanding the Word of God. Learning to observe the Word is essential to accurately handling the word of God.

I love movies that don’t cause me to think all that much. To be fair, though, I also love movies that make me think or remember historical events. I suppose the type of movie I want to see depends on my mood. One of my favorite movies to watch when Im in my “turn brain off” mode is National Treasure 2. I find that movie fun to watch even though there are violent parts and reminds us of the assassination of President Lincoln and the American Civil War that we seem to continue to fight.

In one scene in this movie, Ben, Abigail, and Riley are examining a document that purports to show that Ben’s ancestor was part of the group of conspirators that killed President Lincoln. As they examine the document in question they come across something. Ben draws Abigail’s and Riley’s attention to it. Riley says ” yeah, it says smudge”. Both Ben and Abigail found the”smudge” interesting and investigated further. Riley seemed dismayed by the process. Well Ben and Abigail kept looking and their perseverance paid off. What Riley saw only as a smudge turned out to be a cue that began their quest to clear Ben’s family name. Sometimes this happens in our approach to the Bible. What some see as just a little smudge others see as something relevant and probably important. How do you see the Bible? How do you read it?

There is difference between reading the Word of God and observing the Word of God. That difference is important.That difference is essential in understanding the Word of God. Learning to observe the Word is essential to accurately handling the word of God.

When we read the Bible with have the the words processed in our brain and we gain a superficial understanding of what was just read. We often times rush through our reading in order to get to the next portion of Scripture to read. Although this reading of the Bible far too often passes for our study of the Bible, it really shouldn’t. Let’s take a look at observing the Bible and how that impacts not only our understanding of the Bible but also our progressive sanctification.

When we observe the Bible we see more than the smudges that others see as unimportant. When we observe – instead of read or simply see – we understand better what the author meant with words he chose.When we understand better the author’s intent when he wrote a particular passage. When we better understand the passage, the better application we can make to our life and make real life change. Isn’t that the purpose of reading the Bible? Isn’t our goal to change and become more like Christ? Of course it is!

Observing the Bible includes more than simply reading. Think of observing as reading more than the words of the page but hearing the author speak to your heart and mind. To observe means more than seeing a smudge. When we observe we look at many more things than just the obvious.

One of the things that we “see” when we observe the Bible is the specific contexts of the passage we are reading. Now what do I mean by using the plural “contexts”? There are three things that are important to consider their particular context.

The first context we consider is the grammatical context. This means that we look at the grammar of the passage to give us clues to its meaning. These include how the sentence is structured, what is the object, and what how the verb functions. When we consider the verb especially, we really need to know if it is active (the subject is doing the action), passive (the subject receives the action of the verb), or middle (the subject does the action of the verb in an more intense way than the active voice). We also want to consider the syntax of the passage. Syntax is best described as the rules of grammar that give meaning to the passage. All these variables go into observing the grammatical context of a passage.

Another context to consider is the historical context of the time. Words have meaning at particular moments in time. These meanings don’t always stay the same throughout the time the word is used. Sometimes a word changes meaning or falls out of use altogether as time marches on. But these changes don’t impact the meaning of the word when it was first used. We must understand what was happening in the culture where and when a particular word or passage was written.

The third context we consider when observing the Word of God, is literary context. This context is concerned with the how the words appear to us. “What type of literature is this passage?” is a common and important question we need to ask. There are various types of literature contained in the Bible. In  the Old Testament there is what is termed Historical Narrative. This is the typically how stories are told. The  there is Poetry. Hebrew poetry is unlike the poetry we may have learned in school. The Psalms are a great example of Hebrew Poetry.

Another type of literature is Prophetic. This type of literature is concerned with future events. Oftentimes this type of literature is misunderstood because we fail to recognize the the special rules for interpreting prophecy. Then there is Gospel literature. Gospel literature is kind of tweener literature. It is between Old Testament and New Testament. It occurred in the period of transition. Then there Epistolary literature. This is where the church get its marching orders. Understanding which type of literature we are reading is an essential step in understanding, properly applying, and accurately handling the Word of God.

So what do you think? Is a smudge just a smudge? Or should we take a deeper look at it? Well when it comes to the Bible we far too often look at the difficult parts of the Bible as a smudge and move on when. If we are like Ben and Abigail in National Treasure 2, then we will take our time and look deeply into the Bible so that we can reap the rewards of observing the Bible rather than simply reading it.

After all, the treasure of the Word of God is far more valuable to our being Christlike than what any of our ancestors did.