2017 ECPA Christian Book Award Finalist (Christian Living category)Are you getting the spiritual nourishment you need?Optimal health requires optimal nutrition. The same is true spiritually speaking. Without sufficient and regular biblical nutrition, our inner lives begin to suffer the consequences. We become shallow and selfish, more demanding and less gentle, and quick to react impatiently, rashly, and angrily. These are telltale signs of inner malnutrition.In Searching the Scriptures, respected Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll shows us how to dig deep into Scripture and uncover its profound truths for our lives. He outlines the principles of Bible study that will help you understand God’s Word, apply it, and communicate it clearly to those around you. Too many people try to go it alone, without a guide, for this life and the next. Chuck explains how we can fix our own spiritual meals, then invites us to feast on nourishing truths we can discover in God’s Word.
|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.00(d)|
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Searching the Scriptures
Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs
By Charles R. Swindoll, Stephanie Rische
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Charles Swindoll
All rights reserved.
SURVEYING THE SHELVES
Understanding the Basic Story of the Bible
People are frustrated. Maybe you are one of them.
Here's the deal. You pick up a Bible, and you've got this big, thick book with thin pages and tiny print. You've been told that it's the all-time bestseller, that thousands — more like millions — of people have had their lives changed or their marriages transformed by what is written there. But as hard as you try, you still can't make heads or tails of any of it! Others may have been helped and comforted, but you're stumped. As a matter of fact, you're completely confused. As much as you want to understand all this, none of it makes sense.
What's wrong? What's missing? Even though you are fairly intelligent and are dedicated to going deeper with God's Word, why can't you get excited about it?
If the Bible were a gourmet meal, you'd certainly find yourself starving to death. Just as you need to know your way around the kitchen if you want to learn to cook, you need to know the basic structure of the Bible and the main staples of the nourishment it provides. You'll also want to discover some of the unique flavors God's Word offers. That's what we'll try to do in this chapter. We'll first look at how the Bible is put together. Then we'll discover why we should take time to study it and learn what it can teach us. By breaking Scripture down into smaller sections, we'll get a better handle on what God is saying to us. Along the way, we will also begin to see the consistency, importance, and beauty of God's message. So let's get started!
AN OVERVIEW OF THE BIBLE
The first thing we need to know is that the Bible includes a total of sixty-six individual books. Some of these books are personal letters, some are songs, and others are like journals or diaries; and then there are law codes and histories. The words of the Bible were breathed by God and recorded by approximately forty human authors over a period of approximately 1,500 years. As Paul explains to his protégé Timothy, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right" (2 Timothy 3:16).
The Bible is divided into two major sections: the Old Testament, which anticipates the coming of Jesus, the Messiah; and the New Testament, which presents Jesus as the Messiah and explains His ministry and purpose.
One surprising aspect of Scripture is that the books don't appear in chronological order. No wonder so many people are frustrated when they try to understand the Bible!
It's helpful to remember this: the Bible is put together much like a newspaper. Think of the way a newspaper is laid out. All the news stories are placed in one section, the sports reports and statistics are put in another section, the business or lifestyle stories are grouped together in yet another section, and the want ads are in another.
Likewise, in the Bible, the Old Testament begins with the books of ancient history — from Genesis to Esther. Following that section, the books of poetry appear together — from Job to Song of Solomon. Finally, in the last part of the Old Testament, we come to the books of prophecy — from Isaiah to Malachi. These three major sections representing three types of literature comprise the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. The New Testament is set up in a similar way. The Gospels include the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and tell the Good News of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Acts is a book of history, and it covers the establishment of the church. Then come all the letters, which are usually divided into the letters of Paul (Romans through Philemon), and the general letters (Hebrews through Jude). Finally there's Revelation, which is a book of prophecy.
As we begin our brief journey through Scripture, we are able to see that God's Word wasn't designed to be just a pretty book sitting on a coffee table. Rather, we might think of the Bible as a delicious meal — in fact, as a feast meant to be enjoyed and savored. Each time we are hungry deep in our souls, we need to return to the Scriptures for our spiritual sustenance. Interestingly, the more we learn and grow from searching the Scriptures on our own, the better equipped we will be to teach others those tasty truths.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
The Books of History
The first course of our literary banquet is served to us in the first section of the Old Testament. Often this historical section of Scripture is called narrative because God is communicating His Word as a grand story. However, since the first five books of the Bible contain the Ten Commandments and the laws for Israel to follow, they are most frequently referred to as the Law. The story begins in Genesis 1 with God creating all things. The crown jewel of His creation? You guessed it: Adam and Eve, who bore their Creator's image. Living in perfect communion with God, Adam and Eve were given the opportunity to obey their Creator. But barely into the story, in Genesis 3, they rebelled against and disobeyed God's command. Their sin fractured their relationship with their holy God.
From this point on in Scripture, we witness again and again the horrific results of sin. At the same time, we observe the grace and forgiveness of God, who carefully unfolds His plan to redeem His creation. In Genesis 12, God chooses Abram (who later becomes Abraham) and his wife, Sarai (Sarah), to be the parents of a special nation. Eventually this nation becomes known as Israel. Through Abraham and his offspring, all the families of the earth will be blessed. What an important and wonderful promise!
The rest of Genesis tells the fascinating stories of Abraham and the next three generations. Over time they grew into a large family and wound up in Egypt because of a famine. With a flip of the page, the book of Exodus continues the story four hundred years later, with Abraham's family having been blessed by God and having grown into a nation made up of twelve tribes. Fearing their potential power, the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites. When the Israelites cried out to God for relief from unfair and excruciating labor, He responded by raising up Moses to deliver His people from Egypt and to bring them to His special Promised Land.
The narrative continues, and on the way to the Promised Land, God gave the Israelites His law to follow and live by. These codes explain how God's people are to enjoy a loving relationship with Him and each other. When the twelve tribes finally arrived at the doorstep of the Promised Land, however, they ultimately didn't trust God to deliver them. The Promised Land was occupied by the formidable Canaanites, whom the Israelites assumed were impossible to conquer. Fear eclipsed faith. Consequently, that unbelieving generation was left to die off as they wandered in the desert for forty long years. Much of that wandering is covered in the last part of Exodus and through the book of Numbers.
The book of Deuteronomy is actually a message to the grown children of the unbelieving generation that died in the desert. God called Moses to repeat and underscore His laws to this new generation. The challenge to know and teach God's Word is clear:
These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life. Listen closely, Israel, and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Notice from those words that Moses was charged with teaching the Israelites to obey God's Word. Also note that learning God's Word creates results — in this case, obedience. Furthermore, God told the people that obedience would allow them to enjoy a long life. These first few sentences of Deuteronomy 6 are saying, in summary, that obedience to God's Word results in God's blessing.
However, obeying God isn't automatic; it isn't accomplished by simply knowing His instruction. We learn here that wholeheartedly loving our great God includes teaching and explaining His Word to others. So what is the point God is communicating here? That parents have the responsibility to teach and remind their children of God's truths. This ancient command is to be obeyed today, just as when it was first given. Generation after generation is to learn, obey, and teach the truths of the Lord. Timeless passages like this apply to all generations — including our own.
This is a good time to point out that the study of God's Word is for everyone. While there is a specific role for the pastor-teacher, God doesn't limit the explanation of His Word to certain specialists. Rather, God's Word is to be learned, applied, obeyed, and passed on and on and on. Everyday people, including parents who teach their kids, are all part of His plan. Searching the Scriptures isn't restricted to any specialized group — the Scriptures are accessible to anyone and everyone.
By the way, the diligent study of God's Word isn't mentioned only in the book of Deuteronomy. It's a theme you'll find repeated throughout the Bible.
Now let's get back to the biblical story. The grand narrative progresses as God leads the new generation to conquer the Promised Land under Joshua's leadership. But sadly, once the twelve tribes settled in the land, they struggled to faithfully obey their God. That led to a period when Israel was ruled by judges whom God raised up. God would deliver His people from their enemies only to have the people repeatedly fall into sin again. It was a wicked, tragic cycle! Eventually, out of rebellion against God, the people asked God for a human king so they could be like the pagan nations around them. He gave them their request, but they lived to regret it.
The Books of Poetry
The next part of the Bible's story takes us into the beginning of the kingdom of Israel, first under King Saul, then King David, and finally King Solomon. This collection of books is sometimes called wisdom literature, because it was written to impart God's wisdom to those who believe and obey God's Word.
The book of Proverbs is one of the books of poetry in the Old Testament. Written and collected mostly by Solomon, Proverbs explains and extols wise behavior in the eyes of the Lord. Consider the beginning of chapter 2:
My child, listen to what I say,
and treasure my commands.
Tune your ears to wisdom,
and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
and you will gain knowledge of God.
For the Lord grants wisdom!
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.
He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
He guards the paths of the just
and protects those who are faithful to him.
Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,
and you will find the right way to go.
In this passage, God is reminding us to hear and study and obey His instructions. Notice the diligence involved in the study of God's Word: we are to search for it as one would search for hidden treasure. I can vividly remember the determination and diligence with which I dug into the pages of the Bible when I got serious about my faith while serving in the Marines on the island of Okinawa. What treasures I found as I searched the Scriptures! I dug even deeper when I went to seminary.
Proverbs 2 explains what is gained from the study of Scripture: wisdom to find the right course of action for one's life. The Bible, as God's inerrant Word, gives us the insight we need. This is why people who have learned to study the Scriptures are some of the most joyful, peaceful people on the planet. It takes some effort to learn how to consistently draw truth from the Bible, but it is well worth the effort. As we get into the process involved in searching the Scriptures later in this book, you will discover how beneficial such study can be.
The Books of Prophecy
God's persistent call to study His Word isn't always given as a positive command. Sometimes He confronts His people with the sin of ignoring Him and His commands. This is often seen in the books of the prophets, which are contained in the third and final section of the Old Testament. Those prophets were a strong-hearted, tough-minded bunch!
KINGS OF ISRAEL
The United Kingdom
The Divided Kingdom
Kings of Israel Kings of Judah
The books from Isaiah to Daniel make up the five Major Prophets in the Old Testament. They are called Major Prophets simply because their writings are longer. Then there are twelve Minor Prophets who wrote shorter books: Hosea through Malachi. A prophet's job was to speak for God. He communicated God's clear, firm, and often confrontational message to direct the reigning king and the people in the ways of the Lord. In one sense, this was the highest office in the land of Israel — even more important than the king. However, the prophets were often ignored, mocked, ridiculed, and even put to death by the kings or the people.
After the first three kings of Israel (Saul, David, and Solomon), the kingdom split over the issue of taxes. The northern ten tribes united and kept the name Israel. The southern two tribes joined forces under the name Judah. This period of the divided kingdom lasted until the end of the Old Testament. (Note that it's always a good idea to pay close attention when reading in 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, as sometimes the writer is addressing events in the northern kingdom and other times, the southern kingdom.)
Each kingdom had its own kings. God raised up prophets during this time to speak to the kings and the people. Here are three simple points to remember about the role of a prophet:
> As a mouthpiece for God, prophets were primarily concerned with restoring the relationship between God and His people.
> Prophets constantly called for repentance and warned of impending judgment.
> Prophets offered a message of hope as they foretold of a future when God would restore His people.
Despite the warnings from the prophets, however, no less than twenty successive kings ignored the word of the Lord, and judgment came for the northern ten tribes. In 722 BC, the powerful nation of Assyria attacked and captured the kingdom of Israel and integrated the nation into its own wicked empire.
The southern kingdom didn't fare much better. The nation had an occasional righteous king, but for the most part, it, too, was marked by disobedience. Approximately 150 years after the northern kingdom fell to Assyria, the southern kingdom was attacked by Babylon and taken into exile in 586 BC. Like the Assyrians, the Babylonians were a ruthless, cutthroat people. They destroyed everything in their way, including the capital city of Jerusalem, its walls, and the Temple that Solomon had built for God.
The prophet Jeremiah lived in the tumultuous days leading up to Judah's Babylonian exile. God's message through him is an example of a judgment from the Lord that was typical of the prophets. The Lord's words were sharp, as His people continued to ignore Him:
"My people are foolish
and do not know me," says the Lord.
"They are stupid children
who have no understanding.
They are clever enough at doing wrong,
but they have no idea how to do right!"
Excerpted from Searching the Scriptures by Charles R. Swindoll, Stephanie Rische. Copyright © 2016 Charles Swindoll. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: A Testimony From The Chef IX
Stage One Finding The Food
Chapter 1 Surveying The Shelves 3
Understanding the Basic Story of the Bible
Chapter 2 Considering True Nourishment 23
Discovering the Transforming Nature of the Bible
Stage Two Preparing The Meal
Chapter 3 Choosing The Recipe 51
Pursuing the Treasures of Scripture
Chapter 4 Reading The Ingredients 79
Observing the Text
Chapter 5 Understanding The Nutrients 107
Interpreting the Text
Chapter 6 Comparing The Flavors 135
Correlating the Text
Chapter 7 Adding The Spices 159
Applying the Text
Stage Three Serving The Feast
Chapter 8 Setting The Table 187
Preparing to Dig into God's Word
Chapter 9 Tasting A Sample 209
Learning Where We Fit in the Story
Chapter 10 Feeding The Hungry 231
Presenting the Truth
A Final Word: Bon Appétit 249
Providing Nourishing Meals for Yourself and Others
About The Author 253
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I grew up listening to Pastor Swindoll’s messages on Insight for Living, and then had the pleasure of attending Stonebriar Church for several months, hearing his sermons in person. All of his messages are bed-rock solid, and have impacted me throughout my life. In “Searching the Scriptures” Pastor Swindoll lays out his method for crafting those messages, and how to apply that to our own Bible Study. He correlates the process of planning, preparing, and cooking a meal to the steps of Bible study. I enjoyed this allegory, as it was easy to follow and put into practice. There are certain starting foundations and patterns to follow to get the most out of what you’re consuming – whether the food be physical, or spiritual. You will need to allow time and mental space to work through this book – there’s a lot to absorb in each chapter, and they just build upon themselves. The study questions help to facilitate that well. The author’s writing style is very conversational, which also helps the reader in understanding what is being said. In all it was a very enjoyable, and quite instructive, read. I greatly recommend! I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley
Bible teacher Chuck Swindolll brings an insightful word whether on the radio or in a book. In his latest book Searching the Scriptures, he shares how to dig into Scripture for ourselves and discover the truth of God’s Word for our lives. “… studying the Bible is not only possible but doable. This habit is indispensable for life and ministry. There is no substitute! Searching the Scriptures yields a richness in life unlike any other.” (page 16) He shares the principles and steps he has learned from other learned Bible teachers which enabled him to understand Scriptures and then clearly communicate those truths to others. It means applying oneself to the Word so that the Word can apply itself to you. “The Bible does not yield its truths to lazy minds!” (page 17) He outlines the study method he has used for years in four steps: Observation. We need to look carefully at the words in front of us, paying attention to details. Become a detective to what is happening in the passage and its meaning. Read slowly and prayerfully. Interpretation. We need to come to an understanding of what the text means. This is slowing ourselves down, perhaps using other resources to dig deeper into the events. Correlation. We need to compare Scripture to Scripture so that we build our understanding precept upon precept, connecting passages to one another. Our desire is for the whole truth of the Bible to emerge and connect. Application. This is making the Word personal to our own lives. It occurs when we allow Scripture to grip our hearts and minds and cause us to change or into action. Excellent book and resource for both those new to the study of Scripture and those seeking to refresh their reading. ***Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I am disclosing this as required by Federal Trade Commission.