It’s no secret that I’m deeply passionate about Bible study and how every Christian (not just pastors) should be students of God’s actual Word. There are many wonderful resources on growing in biblical literacy, such as Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin and Better than Life, by Caroline Saunders. If “biblical literacy” is new to you, these are great starting places. They go in depth, but generally speaking, we rightly study God’s Word by observing it (what does the text say?), learning the context (what’s the historical setting, what was going on in the original audience, etc.?), interpreting it (what does the text mean based on steps 1 and 2?), and then applying it (how does this change the way I live?).
Many women have the desire to study God’s Word, but I’ve learned many still want that day-by-day plan. Though these are the steps, how does this practically look Monday-Saturday when we open God’s Word? I totally understand this question, because I love a good plan! For that reason, I want to share my day-by-day deep dive into the book of Haggai. Please note, this isn’t binding! This might look different if we study a longer book of the Bible. Some seasons, my day-by-day looks like focusing on the question, “What does this teach me about God?” as I read 1-2 chapters each day. Though there’s most definitely a right way to interpret God’s Word, it doesn’t have to look a certain way each day.
Day 1- We start with the who, what, where, why, etc. We need to know the book’s author, who the original audience was, what style it was written in, when was it written, and why it was written. These are answered in most study Bibles. Then, read the book multiple times. Haggai is short, so we can easily read through it five or more times!
Day 2: Read the entire book, making note of themes/keywords. These are concepts and/or phrases that appear often throughout the course of the book. In Haggai, I noticed God referred to as “ the Lord of hosts” a lot. I also noticed the theme of “working for the glory of God,” and others. After jotting these down, I read Haggai again, noting the specific verses that addressed each theme/keyword.
Days 3-10: Next, I spent one day with each theme. I read the whole book, making note of when that theme/keyword appeared, what was said, and what happened. This allowed me to slow down and focus. It helped me meditate on, “Why is God referred to as ‘The Lord of hosts’ so many times?” instead of, “What’s for dinner tonight?” This also gave much needed time to wrestle with the parts I didn’t quite understand. For example, I noticed a theme of “holy vs. unholy,” but those verses didn’t quite make sense (Hag. 2:10-19). For this, I created a “holy vs. unholy” chart, listing what was said about each. This visual organized my thoughts, which was a huge help in grasping the meaning of the text. Other days, I journaled to process what I learned.
Days 11-15. After spending time personally walking and wrestling through the text, our next resource should be Scripture itself. Scripture interprets Scripture, so these are days dedicated to looking up the cross references. These give better understanding, more context, etc. Warning: this takes time and effort. The first time I did this, I wanted to give up. It involves lots of flipping and digging! Friends, I exhort you to keep flipping and digging! If we can give effort to things of this world (like careers, academics, etc.), then we can most definitely give effort to eternal things, like studying God’s Word. Since this does take some time, I did one small section of Haggai each day. I used how the text is already divided with subheadings to determine my study. As I studied, I noted what stood out and/or what provided some clarification. Cross-references were really helpful with that tough passage I mentioned earlier. After this, I journaled things I learned. Of course, you don’t have to do this, but for me, it’s another way to process and meditate on the Word.
Days 16-20. Next, I started putting it “all together”. However, I wanted to keep the main thing my focus- God. He’s the main character of every page of Scripture, so I worked back through those same sections of Haggai with one question, “What does this teach me about God?” Using what I’d already studied, I began asking, “So, what does this mean?” and therefore, “How does this change the way I live?” Personally, I often think through application in the form of questions. These are also the days I checked out the notes in my study Bible.
An important key to each day is prayer. We have access to the Author of Scripture. It’s crazy to not speak to him! Pray before, during, and after studying. Ask, “How does this lead me to pray?” Using Scripture to prompt my prayers has been a game-changer.
Haggai is a short book, but even after 20 days in it, I know there’s still much more to learn. The exact number of days will vary according to the length of each book of the Bible. For longer books, some of these steps will probably have to be adjusted. However, each book, whether it be long or short, is worth our time and effort. Bible study isn’t a sprint. It’s a lifelong marathon of being a faithful student of God’s Word. This organizational structure is also not a command. It’s simply what works for me. What is commanded is that we delight in God’s Word, obey it, and hide it in our hearts (Ps. 119). Ask the Lord exactly how that can look in your day-to-day. He’ll be faithful to answer this prayer, and he’ll be faithful as we daily open up his Word for study.