In order for us to interpret and understand the Bible we must first read it carefully, observing all the details. We must observe it at the sentence level, at the paragraph level, and at the discourse level. In unit 3 we listed some features to look for—cause-and-effect, repetition, general-to-specific, and so forth. In unit 4 we added five additional features to look for when reading at the discourse level: connections between paragraphs and episodes, story shifts (major breaks and pivots), interchange, chiasm, and inclusio. This expanded list is far from exhaustive. The purpose of the features we have listed is to get you started in careful reading. We have presented some of the major literary features to look for. But as you are finding out, reading carefully—really observing closely—involves looking at all the details and asking numerous questions of the text.
Keep in mind that we are still only at the first step of grasping God’s Word. Later in the book we will move on to discovering the meaning and applying the meaning. These early chapters, however, are critical, because if you bypass the careful reading step and move straight to application after only a superficial reading, you will almost certainly miss the meaning of the passage. In addition, the Bible will become boring for you because you will never see anything in it that you haven’t already seen. If you read carefully, however, and observe, observe, observe, you will be much more likely to arrive at the true meaning, and the Bible will become interesting to you because you will be seeing new things.
Because it is God’s Word, the Bible is a unique piece of literature. It is like a mine that never wears out. One can dig in it for a lifetime and not exhaust it. Likewise, when we study the Bible, we are engaging in a conversation with the infinite God. He is able, of course, to communicate with us in simple, surface terms. But God wants us to go beyond that initial conversation. He himself is neither simple nor easily grasped by just skimming surface information. He has provided us with his written Word, which is rich and deep and sometimes complex.
Both of us (Duvall and Hays) have been studying the Bible seriously for over thirty years, yet we continue to see new things—new insights that we never noticed, new connections we never made, new truths and new understandings of God and the life he has called us to that we never saw before. This keeps the Bible fresh and exciting for us for it keeps our relationship with God fresh and exciting. Our hope and prayer for you is that you will continue to read God’s Word carefully and study the text with discipline. Make this a lifelong pursuit. The rewards are rich.