Last week you marked the passage that you are studying. If you are not a visual person, the exercise might not have seemed very important. But if, like me, you respond best to visual stimuli, you probably made at least one amazing discovery.
The next exercises that Dr. Gugliotto (http://empowerministries.org) suggests are: Summarizing the Passage and Probing the Passage.
Summarize the Passage
This is fairly simple and straight forward. As you look over the passage that you have marked, write down the repeated people, places, or ideas that you notice. Then write a brief paragraph summarizing the entire passage. You are not trying to paraphrase the passage. (Although that is a great exercise as well.) Here you are simply trying to distill the passage down to it’s essence.
The summary might take you longer than you first imagined. I find that writing long is generally easier than writing short.
Probe the Passage
After you have boiled the passage down to its essential elements, go back to the entire passage. It might look a bit different to you now. You might see things you did not notice before. To intensify this experience, you need to begin asking questions.
The easiest ones are the 5 W’s: who, what, when, why, how (The w is at the end). Be bold in your question asking. You will naturally begin by asking questions that you can already answer. But don’t stay on that familiar ground. Ask question, even questions that might seem absurd. Let me give you some examples.
Look up Psalm 23. It is very familiar to most people. So here are some not so obvious questions.
“The Lord is my shepherd:” What is a shepherd? What is the relationship between a
shepherd and his/her sheep?
“I shall not want.” What does it mean to want? Have I ever really wanted for
Do you see what I mean about questions that are not obvious? These questions can be directly related to the structure of the passage (Why did the author use that word?), to the content of the passage (Where is Corinth?), or to the personal application of the passage to yourself (Is the Lord my shepherd?).
There you have it. Short and sweet.
Well, the instructions are short, but you may find that these two exercises take you a little bit of time. Stretch it out over several days. Comeback to the passage again and again to ask new questions. Make it part of family worship.
The point is to spend as much meaningful time in God’s word as possible.