It can be hard to know how to read the Bible. After all, what other book on our shelves is as ancient and mysterious!
I’ve found the key is to break it down and read story by story. As I read, I like to enter into the scene with my imagination and take a look around to see what I can discover.
That might sound a little strange, but let me show you what I mean with a story from the Bible.
How to Read the Bible:
As you read, let yourself imagine the story unfolding like a movie or, if you have a vivid imagination, a book. This story is a dramatic moment. Isaiah is an important man from the Old Testament, and he is having a vision:
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above.
What does this look like to you? Look around at the throne room, are there marble columns? Gold or rubies? What does the throne look like? How does the train of the Lord’s garment look as it fills the whole room? Seraphim is a fancy word for angels. What do they look like to you?
They cried one to the other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.
Can you feel the rumbling and shaking of the doors? Are they opened or closed? Is there even a door or is it just a doorway? Can you smell the smoke as fingers of it curly into the room? What color is it, dark or light? Gray? White?
Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
In Isaiah’s culture, they believed if you saw God you died. Isaiah seems worried this could be true for visions too, and he’s scared he’ll die on the spot. What would you feel like if you were seeing this vision right before your very eyes? Would your heart race and your palms sweat? Would you fall on your knees or hold your hands in front of your face?
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar.
An angel with tongs! Do they look like the tongs you use to grill or totally different? Are they bigger or smaller? More fancy or plain? What does the hand look like that holds them or is it even a hand? Does the angel fly overhead from the altar to Isaiah or just off the ground? What else do you notice?
He touched my mouth with it, and said, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”
What would that feel like to touch an ember to your lips? Would it burn? Would you feel yourself being cleansed as all the sins of your lifetime were purged in an instant? Would it feel like freedom? Joy?
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”
What did Isaiah’s face look like as he said this? Did Isaiah raise his hand like a kid on the playground hoping to get picked for a team? Was he happy and confident he would be chosen or scared and unsure? Did he jump in place and maybe dance around a bit or was he stoic and still?
Pause for a moment
In the quiet just picture the whole scene and ask God if there’s anything He wants to say to you about it. Is there any detail in particular about the story you feel your mind drawn to?
Perhaps the part about the shaking doorways intrigued you or the burning altar, maybe the seraphim or the voice of the Lord Isaiah heard?
Sit quietly and see where your mind goes
Now rest in that and feel it wash over you. How does it speak to your life right now? Maybe God wants to simply share in the intrigue of this story with you? Maybe he wants to heal a hurt or talk to you about something you’ve been wrestling with?
Perhaps nothing comes to you in the silence and that’s okay.
Pay attention as you go about your day
You might notice your mind being drawn back to this story as it connects to something that happens or a detail you notice about your life or your world. If this happens, look deeper. See what God might have for you there in the detail. What he might be trying to reveal.
Before bed, think about what you noticed.
Tonight, before you go to bed, spend a few minutes reflecting on what you noticed in your prayer time and throughout your day. If you want, re-read the story. You can find it by clicking here: Isaiah 6:1-8 or look it up in a Bible.
Write it down
In can be fun to jot down what you’ve learned or what stands out to you, so you can look back on it at the end of the week.
When you are first trying to figure out how to read the Bible, it can feel like a bit of a struggle. But, like anything else in life, the more you do it the more natural it will feel.