Last week, we discussed one method for studying a passage of Scripture: looking up the definition of almost every word in the verse by using the Hebrew dictionary in the back of the Strong’s Concordance.
Today, we’re going to discuss another great method for studying Scripture: “Subject Analysis.” Subject analysis is described in great detail by Tim LaHaye in his book How to Study the Bible for Yourself. I encourage you to read this book!
Let’s say you’re facing a challenging situation. Maybe you lose your temper a lot. Let’s do a search in God’s Word.
- You can go to your bookshelf and pull off your concordance. You flip to the A’s and look up “anger.”
- You could also download a resource such as E-Sword.
- You could also go to Bible Gateway and do a keyword search on anger. You can even limit your search to Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament, or whatever you want.
Now, read each one of the Scripture passages listed. On some lined paper, write down the basic thought of each verse. In some cases, you’ll want to read a few verses before and after the verse so that you understand the context of the verse. You could have several pages of notes written when you’re done!
Next, try to summarize what you’ve learned. If you don’t mind writing, Tim LaHaye suggests summarizing the key teachings of the Bible (on “anger”, let’s say) in just one page. Then he says to reduce it to just one paragraph, then just one sentence. Verbal people like me then enjoy going to their spouses and “waxing eloquent.” 🙂 I’ve found that I don’t really know how well I understand something until I’ve tried to explain it to someone else.
Finally, punch holes in your notes and file them in a 3-ring notebook, possibly in alphabetical order. Now you’re ready to refer back to your study or to help someone else. Wow!
How long does this process take? It depends, but allow at least an hour — maybe more! I often break up the process over several days, but on the other hand, if the subject is very close to my heart, I enjoy spending a longer hunk of time all at once.
Let’s try it. Today’s verses are Psalm 34:11-14:
“Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it” (NIV).
There are lots of topics on which we could do subject analysis (in fact, I encourage you to pick one and try it yourself this week). We could study “the fear of the LORD,” the “tongue,” etc. My kids were bickering recently, so I’d like to study “seek peace and pursue it” so that I can teach my kids what God’s Word says about peacemaking. (Do you see how practical this is?)
Let’s use the online keyword search at BibleGateway.com. (Why don’t you open up a window in your Internet browser now, and follow along with me?) Let’s type “peace” into the “Quick Search” bar near the top. (I’ll be searching in the NIV… you use the translation of your choice.)
Oh, dear! 247 results? That might be too many! Let’s go to the “Keyword Search.”
- I’ll type “peace” into the search box.
- Below, I’ll choose the Bible translation I want.
- Preferably, since I don’t have time today to do the entire Bible (even though, if I were really doing this on my own, I WOULD), I’d like to look at Psalms and Proverbs by marking “Limit Search to Wisdom Books” (one of the choices in the dropdown box.
Well, Psalms and Proverbs (and a few from some other books) will keep us plenty busy for now with 30 results. I’m now going to begin the process of reading each verse and summarizing it.
- Psalm 4:8 says, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” I would write down, “When I’m in peace, I can sleep. I know God will protect me.”
- Psalm 7:4 says, “If I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe…” Uh, oh! This isn’t even a complete sentence. I’m going to expand my search to the whole chapter so that I can read the context of this verse. Verses 3-5 seem to apply. “O LORD my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands — if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe — then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust.” So on my sheet of paper, I’ll write, “It is wrong to repay evil to someone who hasn’t done me any wrong. God should allow my enemy to punish me,” or something to that effect.
- Psalm 29:11 says, “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.” After reading this, I’d write, “Peace is a gift from the LORD, given to His people, His followers.”
- Now we’re back to our Psalm 34. Verse 14 says, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” I would write down, “If I want peace, I have to pursue it. I also have to put aside (turn from) evil and do good to others.”
Ideally, I would keep this up until I had read all the references listed. For the sake of time, I’ll stop here today. But can you see a pattern emerging? What have I learned about peace?
- That it is a gift of God, given by His great protection of me, only as I follow and obey Him.
- That I need to have a clean heart, having put aside evil.
- That I need to pursue peace with others, that it takes hard work, etc.
We’ve learned a lot from just four verses, and we haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg of what’s available for us to learn. And this was just one possible subject analysis from this passage of Scripture.
May I remind you of a verse from the New Testament?
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, KJV).
A verse that my son had to look up in a school assignment was,
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful“ (Joshua 1:8).
God’s Word truly has every answer to every question and problem that arises. Our job is to study, to dig in, to uncover all the treasures it contains. I can tell you with confidence that the more we dig, the more wisdom God gives us. It really is exciting!
(…and I’m looking forward to hearing what “subject analysis” goes on in YOUR homes this week!)
Dianne Freeman says
After reading your study suggestions, Anne, I tried a variation during my study of Ephesians 4:13 this morning. I could not get my mind around the phrase, “…attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
So I went to the Bible Gateway site and looked up 6 different translations of that phrase! Here is my distillation of what I learned–
The whole completeness of God lived in Jesus’ human body, and here is the promise for me: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit also fill me up with life and power.
Anne Elliott says
That’s awesome! Really! I’ve been using it to study what the “abundant life” in John 10:10 is. I really think the best use of this technique is that it helps us meditate on (chew and mull over) Scripture all day long. By the time we look things up like this and really dig in, we can’t HELP but think about it.
And to think about God filling us up with life and power… well, that’s certainly an awesome thing to meditate on! Wow…
Thank you for sharing!
I’m a public school teacher who is being lead by God to start a Rhema Club for 6-8 graders in our school. I’m new to Bible study and am trying to design a concept unit on faith. Your post here has inspired me to keep searching. Thank you for the ideas of how to search on the internet and the links.