How does God guide us through the study of the Scriptures?

by Steven Chan

You may have heard of how some find guidance from God and His Word by randomly opening the Scriptures in the morning and placing the finger on a verse and then read it as God’s guidance for the day. As one account goes, the verse that person happened to put his finger on was Matt 27:5: “Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.” He did not like what it said. He opened the bible again and placed his finger on another verse, and it read: “Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37). He found that troubling, and so he opened the Bible the third time, and this time his finger landed on this verse: “Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” (John 13:27) “Is God telling or signaling to him that he should quickly go and hang himself?” he wondered.  Of course not! Nowhere in the Bible do we read of God telling His people to find guidance from the Scriptures in this manner.

We do read that when the Israelites returned to Jerusalem after their 70 years exile in Babylon, Ezra read the Scriptures to them and explained the sense of the scriptures to them: “(They) helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading…And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.” (Neh 8:7-8,12). When they understood the word of God, they did what was required of them by God (Neh 8:14-15).

Similarly, when the Ethiopian eunuch read the prophet Isaiah, he did not get the sense of what Isaiah was writing about: “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him…So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:30-31, 34-35). When the eunuch understood the gospel concerning Jesus Christ and his need for salvation, he asked: ““See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”

In both instances, there were no “signs” or “signals” given by God to tell the readers of the Scriptures what they were required to do. Neither we should study the Scriptures in a “random” manner seeking “mystical” directions from God. They had “teachers” to guide them to understand the Scriptures and when they understood the Scriptures, they knew what they had to do, and they did exactly what God required them to do.

Today, God has also given “teachers” in the body or church of Christ to guide us to understand the Scriptures so that we may grow up in our understanding of God and His Revealed Will, and be mature in our faith such that we will not be “misled” or “tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine introduced by the craftiness of men in deceitful plotting” (Eph 4:11-16); we would be able to “speak the truth in love”, and we may be able to “discern between good and evil” (Heb 5:12-14).  When we have understood the Scriptures, then we need to do what God requires of us: “Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. …But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:21-22, 25)

God gave us His Inspired Scriptures to guide and equip for every good work (2 Tim 3:15-17). God’s Word is powerful and can accomplish His purpose: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb 4:12-13) “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isa 55:11)

The Psalmist loved to meditate on God’s Word because “the entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psa 119:130). So, the Psalmist testifies: “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. 101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. 102 I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore, I hate every false way.” (Psa 119:97-104)

Let’s be diligent to study God’s Word and meditate on it so that we may gain the wisdom from God that will help us to make the right decisions and choices in our lives (Psalms 1) “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).  “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:58).  “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9).