One of the keys to getting something from your study time is staying engaged. This is easier said than done with some passages. I have a good friend who is a pro when it comes to Bible study, but she has absolutely no interest in the tabernacle, and will read over those descriptions. Genealogies, lists, building details, battles all present challenges in keeping focused. However, I find one of the toughest kinds of passages to study are the very familiar. In other words, how do you go about keeping it fresh when you study something you’ve read often?
Two weeks ago, I had to teach David and Goliath for Sunday school. I’ve been in church since I was a kid and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I’ve heard or read this story thirty or forty times. Here are some ideas to keep the story (or any story) fresh.
1. Read it out loud – We have a tendency to read ‘over’ things we think we know. (This is what makes me a terrible proofreader for my own stuff.) Reading out loud forces us to slow down and pay attention to each word. You also get the added benefit of hearing the words as well as reading them. If you’re in a class, try reading in parts rather than verse by verse. Have someone read David’s dialogue, someone for Goliath’s, Saul’s and any of the other people and then have a narrator fill in.
2. Details – David makes a point of describing his efforts to protect his father’s sheep. Then Scripture tells us he takes his shepherd’s staff and put 5 stones in his shepherd’s bag. What’s the connection? I think David was going out to protect his Father’s sheep- Israel- from an attacker. Oh and some folks believe the reason he picked up 5 stones was because Goliath had 4 brothers. David may have figured he’d have to whip them too before the battle was done. (2 Samuel mentions the deaths of Goliath’s brothers in battle.) Picking up on these little details will go a long way to keeping it fresh.
3. Other characters – We have a fair idea what the battle was like from David’s and from Goliath’s perspectives, but what about Saul’s? Or David’s brothers? Or the foot soldiers on either side? Do you think the witnesses told that story for the next 30 or 40 years? I bet they did.
4. My teacher’s materials had an exercise that went through the story identifying whose power each person was relying on. (The only person who gained a victory was the only person relying on God’s power and not his own. Hmmm.)
God’s word is living, and it is a limitless well of wisdom and insight. Ask Him what new angle He can give you on some of these old, familiar stories.