Recently I purchased a Haitian cell phone so that I could communicate while in Haiti. To my surprise and dismay, I discovered French instructions to the phone when I cut it on. I don’t read French. At that point, the phone might as well have been a paper weight. It was useless to me. I knew what I was looking at was a welcome screen. I even guessed what it was probably saying, but I had no idea of what the actual message was. I was confused.
This got me thinking about the Bible. Many of us are looking at our Bibles this exact same way, and we are confused. We sit there with our “glorified paperweight” and we have no idea of the magnitude of the message we have before us.
Just as I did not understand my phone message and its instructions, many of us do not understand what we are reading when we read the Bible. As a matter of fact, one of the most common responses to the question “Why don’t you read your Bible?” is “I do not understand what I am reading.” Maybe you have felt like this before. I know I have. Not just with my Haitian cell phone, but with my Bible as well.
In Acts chapter eight, there is a wonderful record of Philip encountering an Ethiopian eunuch through the nudging of an Angel of the Lord. As Philip was traveling, he was instructed to go down the road toward Gaza. While traveling in this desert area, Philip came across the eunuch who was reading Isaiah. Acts records the account like this: “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him (Acts 8:30-31).”
This is an amazing occurrence of spontaneous Bible teaching from the scriptures. The outcome is equally amazing. Philip entered the eunuch’s chariot and explained to the eunuch that what he was reading in the Old Testament scriptures was in fact about Jesus. The passage, from Isaiah 53:7-8, was a prophesy of Christ’s crucifixion. “The eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:34-35).”
When I was fumbling with my cell phone and nothing was making sense to me, a friend of mine, who also happened to know French, came to my rescue. He took my phone, understanding what it said, and made some adjustments so that I too could comprehend what it was saying. On a much grander scale, this was what occurred between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. It was at the hearing of the explanation of God’s word that everything changed for the eunuch. The account continues with the eunuch becoming a follower of Jesus. He responded: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:37).” Then, he was baptized.
Understanding what we are reading in scripture is vital! Do you understand what you are reading? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?
Tips for understanding what you are reading in scripture:
- Before you read scripture, ask God to reveal Himself to you by His Spirit.
- Seek Jesus within the pages of the Bible.
- Read the Bible with someone more knowledgeable than you are and discuss it.
- Go to Bible studies at a local church or look up lectures online from a credible church.
- Ask questions of the scriptures and other people who are wiser than you.
- Go to the Bible with a dictionary in your hand and look up words that you don’t know.
- Use the internet and go to online resources that are dependable like: http://www.biblegateway.com/, http://www.blueletterbible.org/, http://www.e-sword.net/, http://www.followtherabbi.com/, www.gotQuestions.org, and there are many others.
The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Acts 8:26-40