If You’re Reading Your Bible This Way, You’re Doing It Wrong

When I talk to people about what I believe now, some people ask, “Where’s your source? Where in the Bible does it say that?” To be honest, my response usually sounds a bit elusive and sketchy. Many times, I have to simply say, “You won’t find this explicitly written in the Bible.”

The obvious conclusion for my conversation partner is, “You’re just making stuff up!”

However, that’s not the reason we read the same Bible but walk away with different conclusions. Additionally, it makes it a lot easier to dismiss what I say on account of the sheer amount of people who have walked away with outlandish conclusions. I get it.

Nevertheless, why am I walking away with completely different conclusions than the average Christian? Am I reading certain commentaries? Do I have access to better supplemental resources? Am I a linguist who comprehends the language better? Am I smarter? Am I crazy?

The short answer is: I learn differently.

I’m not talking about being a visual or auditory learner. I’m not saying I learn better, either.

Discovering Torah has taught me a new way to learn. This way of learning is meant for anyone who would approach it and adopt it!

Let’s think about the way many of us dig deeper when studying Scripture. Let’s start with a commonly misunderstood word—torah. At first, like most Christians, I understood torah to mean “law.”

We arrived at this conclusion by looking up the definition of the word in the original language—Hebrew. We probably looked up where the word was first used to get proper context and usage. This is good practice.

Many people’s understanding of ‘Torah’ does not extend beyond: it’s the first five books, it’s law, Israel couldn’t obey it because it was too hard, and we don’t have to because Jesus did it.

All of that might make sense if Torah does mean “law,” but it doesn’t. Upon a deeper search, it more closely means “instruction, way, path, guide.”

Many of us stop looking there—likely concluding, “Torah is the instruction or way.” Great! But, if I already believe that Torah is essentially irrelevant today, what good does this do me? I wouldn’t even know how to apply this to my life! “Maybe it USED to be the path we should follow, but now we have Jesus?” “Maybe it has good teaching in it.” At this point, we’re just guessing and can fall prey to filling in the gaps in order to make it make sense.

While I learned a more accurate definition of Torah a long time ago, I still had to live out and test the reality of what it means.

Our studying of Scripture has to extend beyond quiet sessions of reading, ferociously turning pages, and scribbling down notes. We do not truly learn that way.

It was not sufficient for me to learn the definition of “torah”. I must additionally learn the picture and behavior of it.

To read and pour over a text is a passive way of learning—especially if it stops there. While, there is nothing wrong with reading, that is not where our learning truly happens. Learning happens through movement. In Scripture, originally written in Hebrew and always upholding the Hebraic perspective, we discover movement and dynamism.

Why learn Scripture through the Hebraic perspective in the first place?

Hebrew is the perspective through which the Bible is written. Even when we read the texts written in Greek, we are still to read it within the cultural perspective of the Hebraic people.

Hebrew is an active language. English is not.

Hebrew is meant to be lived. It is a behavioral language–the written expression of life and how it works. This is the picture and function of Torah. That’s why the Torah is much more than the first five books.

Let’s think about the Gospel of John. In John 1:1, we read, “In the beginning was the word, the word was with God, and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”

Over time, we’ve come to understand this verse to be referring to Jesus as the Word. “Word” in the Greek is logos—meaning expressed idea, reason, plan. So, we conclude that Jesus is the expressed idea that God had. He’s the blueprint!

That’s cute and it makes sense. We can even piggyback off of this idea and think: if Jesus is the expressed idea, we must be meant to model ourselves after Him so that we too can be expressions of God’s ideas. It feels great because it feels like we’re comprehending something profound!

However, if we already have formed erroneous doctrines, we’ll attach newly discovered truths to these ideas. So, let’s be slow to process this.

Let’s add John 14:6 to the mix. Jesus is recorded saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is no shortage of verses in the Old Testament that directly refer to the Torah as truth, as life, and as the way.

Let’s review:

  • Torah is the instructions/ideas for how life works
  • Torah shows us what pleases God as it reveals His nature
  • Jesus is the living version of God’s instruction/ideas
  • Jesus is the way to the Father
  • Torah reveals the Father

When we put it all together, we discover that Yeshua/Jesus IS the Torah! Jesus shows us what pleases God. When we follow Torah, we follow Jesus. When we follow Jesus, we follow Torah.

Mind. Blown.

This is a lovely place to start. But, we’re not done here.

The connection we just formed cannot fully be internalized until we go out into our every day lives and make observations. We will essentially investigate the validity of this claim. As we live, we will either find it stands up or it doesn’t.

Think about the psalms. We call the psalms worship and praise. Rightfully so! In the psalms, David is chronicling his observations! He is living and through the activity and events of his life, he is finding what He’s known about God to be true! David was ACTIVELY learning!

Worship understood as singing is a passive activity. Praise understood simply as shouting and celebrating is passive.

Worship is the day to day activity of life. It can never be separated from that. Through every action and thought, we are observing what we value/worship. Praise is a response after having challenged something. Praise is the conclusion or culmination of activity!

Now, this may sound like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. Understand, anything that is active lives. Anything that is passive and only passive will eventually die.

Is your learning dead? Is your understanding dead? Is your revelation dead?

One might simply think of this process of learning I’ve laid out in a couple of ways.

Word. Definition. Picture. Behavior.

Wisdom. Understanding. Knowledge.

Seed/Roots. Trunk. Branches. Fruit.

When we learn, we become. We do not simply have knowledge, we become it. We don’t simply have light, we become it. You have not learned until and unless it has gripped your behavior.

All of the illustrations above start with something that doesn’t seem to have life yet. It isn’t until it “springs up” that we see the truth of what it is. Many of us put a seed in the ground or hold it in our hands and convince ourselves that we’re growing something or we’ve already learned something. We have to be willing to go through the process in order to have the fruit of our active labor!

Learning is cyclical. At the culmination of the process, therein lies the capacity to reproduce! I.e. fruit have seed in them. The fruit is becoming (active).

Life is learning. Life is active. Life is work.

Think of Adam. We joke that before God gave Adam a wife, he gave him a job. What we actually witness is Adam learning. In his working, he is learning. Life is work. Work is active. Learning is active. Work is sacred.

A warning: it is very easy to get caught up in busy work that makes you feel like you’re working, learning, or being active. Busy work is movement, but it’s not active. Picture Israel wandering in the wilderness.

I’d previously wandered all my years in Christianity and didn’t realize it. I hadn’t been willing to go through the process of exploring and challenging a thing in order to determine the truth of what it is.

Before, I spoke from an unconfident, know-it-all energy. This was my overall energy because I was unwilling to go through the process of actually learning something. While my words sounded strong then, the activity in my life was weak. I spent all my time passively learning—thus passively applying ideas to my life.

So, when I speak today about what I believe, I speak with an intensity unparalleled to the way I once spoke. I speak with confidence because I’ve tested what I speak of. I speak from confidence and not weak know-it-all energy. The difference today is I am willing to be wrong which means I’ve only just started learning.

To be honest, so many people (myself at one point) are dissociated with themselves and life that this process will be incredibly jarring when they first begin. Many will be discouraged and feel like, “What’s the point?” This process will make them feel like something is wrong or nothing is happening. Some will fight it because they are unfamiliar with truly observing themselves and the world. It is so incredibly foreign that some will be depressed due to what they observe. Some will feel like they’re being unproductive because “they’re not spending enough time with God.”

If you ever find yourself worried about whether or not you’re spending enough time with God, remember this: Nothing you do is happening outside of Him. Even when He would sit someone outside the camp of Israel, it was for the purpose of cleansing so that they could return and be active within the community (think of Miriam). Even if you feel sat aside by God today, remember there is always a deeper purpose of reconciliation and healing that He is accomplishing in you.

Every thing you do and witness all day is an opportunity for Him to access you to teach you! I know it feels good to set aside time to show you’re being intentional about hearing from Him and learning from Him, but you are just as present with Him in the things that seem nonsacred or unplanned—even more so if you will see his invitation to learn from Him in everything.

To make this more concrete, keep these things in mind:

  1. It is not enough to learn the definition of a word. You must continue to learn the picture and eventually the behavior.
  2. Learning happens at every moment of the day.
  3. Relying on explicitly stated Bible verses will cripple your opportunity to learn.
  4. The learning process will always start with exactly where you are. You will first practice observing your own behavior.
  5. This process will feel challenging and uncomfortable. Embrace the unknown and discomfort.
  6. The opportunity to learn will often come from spaces you didn’t expect.
  7. This takes time. So, give yourself grace. Typically, we can feel like we’ve learned a lot because we’ve consumed a lot in a short period of time. Truthfully, you will not retain a vast majority of it. What you do retain will be what is useful.

Go slow as you learn. If you learn exactly where you are, that will always be more effective than setting out to learn what you think you ought to know by now or what so-and-so knows. God desires to teach each of us.

Author: Darveiye

One of the most foolish yet sensible things a human can do is to believe that YHWH is real. Follow my blog: @sensiblefool

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