How Did You See That? A Case for Scripture Saturation

david-travis-aVvZJC0ynBQ-unsplashSometimes in a class or after a sermon, someone will ask? How did you see that, which is shorthand for saying: How did you make the connection from Joshua’s baptism to that of Jesus? Or, Daniel in the Lion’s Den to Jesus’s death and resurrection? 

Many times the answer is: Well, I read it. I heard another teacher preach it. Or, a commentary made the connection. Other times, however, I must say: Well, I just remembered it—from reading the Bible last year, this week, or, even sometimes, ten years ago. This latter answer leads the point of this post. 

Good preachers don’t just know and use the good commentaries. They have good biblical instincts; instincts that come from reading, re-reading, studying, discussing, and sitting under God’s Word. Certainly, this means reading good books, but it also means reading the Good Book. A. LOT.

In seminary, this approach to Scripture was given the term: Scripture Saturation. This term comes from David Prince, who in answering this same question said plainly that such connections are found not by reading commentaries, but by saturating yourself with Scripture. No commentary. he argued and I am repeating, can replace the reading of the Bible, for often it is only through Scripture Saturation that various connections are made. Often, it pleases the Spirit to reveal things to us, only as we read the Bible.

Today, this question surfaced again in an online Simeon Trust workshop on Ecclesiastes. In this session, Ryan Bishop showed a connection between Ecclesiastes 8:14–17 and Isaiah 55:8–9. The question came up: How did you see that? And the answer was not that Alec Motyer or Barry Webb showed it to me, but “I remembered it from a sermon I heard a year or so ago?”

That’s how it works: By reading, re-reading, studying, discussing, meditating, stewing over, and sitting under the Word, we become saturated with God’s Truth. And then, with hearts full of the Bible, it comes to mind as we read other portions of Scripture, or prepare a message, or share the gospel with a friend. Many times, the Spirit begins to bring to life connections that we would not see in any other way.

Indeed, commentaries are helpful, even necessary for arriving at a faithful understanding of the Bible. They are typically written by men and women who are saturated with Scripture. But more than reading books about the Bible, reading Scripture again and again is the best way to understand the Bible and to see its contents.

I call this the “parable principle.” God often reveals his biblical truth only through repeated readings. At the same time, he conceals his truth from those who think a singular reading of the Bible will disclose all that Scripture has to say. Such a reality makes reading the Bible imperative and exhilarating, as we continue to see how the whole Bible fits together. Moreover, this principle explains why seasoned preachers will see things that younger teachers do not. Conversely, those who read the Bible as a unified whole (even if young) will be more prepared to see the connections in Scripture before those who read verses and books as isolated compartments in the Bible (even if older).

In practice, sometimes we only see things after we’ve read them a few dozen or a few hundred times. That’s not because they weren’t there in the text from the beginning. Rather, such progressive understanding comes from our minds being renewed by more and more of the Bible. Indeed, just as the apostles were identified because they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13); the same is true for disciples today.  

For this reason, we should give ourselves to reading the Bible and reading the Bible a lot. While preachers can and should certainly focus their devotional reading to their current sermon series. It is also important to read from the whole Bible and to do so regularly. Earlier this year, I outlined a way of reading Scripture that focuses on such saturation.

If interested, you can find the outline here. And if you have kept up with this blog you may see some of the ways I have been reading Scripture this year. And others may notice how I’ve failed to live up to the promise of providing content each month. I do apologize. I’m reading, but haven’t kept up writing. Lord willing there will be more coming. 

Fortunately, the best part about a Bible reading plan is reading the Bible. So brothers and sisters, keep reading God’s Word. Keep delighting in what you find there. Don’t aim to check off a box or get through a plan. Feed yourself on God’s Word and watch how the world of the Bible opens up and reveals to you the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Reading the Bible Better: What Makes a Valid Chiasm?

chiasm_textStructure is not simply artificial device or literary elegance. It is a key to meaning. Oversight of structure may result in failure to grasp the true theme.
— Ernst Wendland —

This week, I enjoyed participating in my second Simeon Trust workshop. To those who teach the word regularly I can think of few ways to invest three days that will encourage and equip you more in your “Word work.” (You can also find great resources on their website).

At our workshop we focused on Prophetic literature, specifically on the book of Isaiah. Therein, the topic of finding a text’s structure was discussed, which brings us to the point of this post: chiasms.

Chiasms are literary structures that shape the words of Scripture in a X-like manner (hence, chiasm for the Greek letter X [Chi]). That is, chiasms work like a series of concentric circles, with an outer ring (A, A’), an inner ring(s) (B, B’), and an emphasized center (C). For instance, Jonah 1 presents a chiasm, with multiple layers.

A The LORD HURLED a storm (4)

A1 The mariners were afraid and joined YHWH in hurling cargo (5a)
A2 Jonah was unafraid and went down to sleep (5b)

B The captain confronted Jonah with God’s Words (‘Arise, call out …)

C The sailors query Jonah (7–8)

D Jonah identifies himself (9)

E The sailors are exceedingly afraid (10a

10b  X Fleeing the Presence of the LORD = God’s Discipline

E’ The sailors want to know what they can do (11)

D’ Jonah suggests that the sailors drown him – repent? (12)

C’ The sailors try to save him and themselves (13)

B’ The sailors call out to YHWH ‘let us not perish’ (14)

A’ The men HURLED Jonah into the sea – the storm stopped (15)

A1’ The men feared YHWH exceedingly (16)
A2’ Jonah was swallowed by a fish (17)

(For other chiasms see Genesis 1–11Matthew 3:1–4:17; 1 Corinthians 11–14).

While most acknowledge the use of chiasms in Scripture, there is greater disagreement on what designates a true chiasm. Put into the form of a question: How do we know when a passage is truly “chiastic” and not just the literary creation of the interpreter? What validates a chiasm? Continue reading

Expositional Preaching is ‘Empowered Preaching’

empoweredLast month I attended a Charles Simeon Trust workshop with about 40–50 pastors in Indianapolis, Indiana. As a preacher unapologetically-committed to expositional preaching, I was deeply encouraged to join such large number of other ‘expositors.’

In the three-day seminar, we walked through the whole book of 2 Timothy and ‘worked out’ with a number of hermeneutic tools (i.e., reading strategies) for understanding and preaching epistles. Space doesn’t permit me to share all the highlights of seminar, but one thing is worth mentioning: In defining expositional preaching, David Helm reshaped my thinking about exposition with his emphasis on “empowered preaching.” He defined expositional preaching as “empowered preaching that rightfully submits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text.”

Helm’s point is that “expositional preaching” is not just limpidly restating the truths of Scripture. Empowered preaching is Spirit-filled preaching that reveals the living Christ through the faithful exposition of God’s Word. And this kind of preaching comes not just from solid hermeneutics; it comes from the Spirit of God and prayer—a point he well explains in his compact book on preaching, Expositional Preaching Continue reading