We’ve been comparing love for God’s Word and preparation in it to a human relationship. We know that doing relationships well involves some competency and learning some effective behaviors–think of them as tools–that improve the relationship. Let’s apply to exegeting Scripture.
First of all, a love for the Word includes a love for preparation. That’s not to say hard work isn’t involved because it definitely is. But a true expositor is not burdened by the work even though it is hard.
What are the tools that an expositor needs to employ? There are several guiding principles and the first is structure. Every text has a structure that can be discerned through hard work. That structure reveals the emphasis of the passage, which is what should be preached and taught. As you study, ask yourself, “How did the writer put this material together?” The Holy Spirit inspired the author to put his thoughts together in the way that he did.
A related principle is that the text type influences greatly how the author put the material together. There are three basic text types: discourse, narrative, and poetry. Each type reveals its emphasis differently.
A second essential tool or principle is context. As mentioned previously, the great challenge for an expositor is the dynamic tension between TEXT and TODAY. Context helps us bridge that gap. We must understand what the words meant to the original hearers before we can know what they say to our audience today. You need to look at the literary context, the historical context, the book as a whole and the whole story line of Scripture itself and the Gospel. This brings to the third tool I want to talk about.
We need to learn to discover the melodic line, the distinctive and overarching message of the particular book you are studying. Every symphony has a series of notes that recur throughout the entire piece. A book of the Bible is like that, with an essence of the book that informs every passage in it. Learn to identity the melodic line of a book.
The Psalmist said, “Lord, I love Your Word!” We know in life that not all love is requited. But this is never true regarding Scripture. Our love for it–for its wisdom and its truth–are always returned in abundance measure. That’s why we should continue to pursue with all of our hearts.