Friday, April 20, 2012

Studying John the Baptist, the Spirit is a great teacher

We had a nice study at church Wednesday night. We are going through Matthew, and we are up to Matthew 3. This chapter introduces an adult John the Baptist. and I loved exploring it. The people in our study will talk and share and contribute, which makes it interesting and collegial.

This blog post serves a dual purpose. It is good to employ some metacognition when studying the Word. That means thinking about your thinking. Knowing about your knowing. When you're learning, understand not only what you're learning, but how you're learning it. To that end, I want to share what I learned about John the Baptist this week, and also how I learned it. I am hoping that this will raise your own awareness of how the Spirit may be working in your own study life.

So I was reading Matthew 3. When I first begin to read a section or book, I just read it. I let the words flow and I don't stop to consult a concordance or look at a commentary. I just read. I let the word engulf me and wash me. I think it's important to let the word speak for itself, uninterrupted.

Then I read it again. At this second reading I also resist the temptation to stop and look up stuff. At the third reading, I start digging. Now, at the first or second reading, but certainly by the third, a word or a verse will "jump out" at me. You know what I mean. If it happens at first I jot a note down and keep reading. But by the third reading, the Spirit seems to be pulling me to one certain point in the verses. This time is was John being a Nazirite. I mean, there is a rich variety of points to ponder in the chapter. Certainly John's message of repentance, there's the reference to the prophecy in Isaiah, there's Jesus's baptism, there is the history behind the Pharisees and Sadducees. But the Spirit pulled me to the behavior of John and whether he was a Nazirite from birth.

So then I pray. I ask the Spirit to dispense wisdom to me in what He wants me to learn. It is one of His ministries. (Ephesians 1:16-17; James 1:5; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10). After prayer, I begin research. In this case, I looked up Nazirite in the bible. Matthew 3 does not state that John the Baptist was a Nazirite, but Luke 1:13-17 seems to indicate that John would be specially consecrated from birth, and the addition of the prohibition of never drinking wine is one of the Nazirite vows. The verses say nothing about the most physically evident of the prohibitions, that the person making the vow shall never cut his hair as long as he is under the consecration, but I believe circumstances are such that I believe John was a Nazirite from birth. Luke 1:80 states he went to live in the deserts and from then on he consecrated himself to God completely, separating from society.

After I looked up the Nazirite vows in the bible in Numbers 6:1-21, and also looked up the verses relating to other Nazirites from birth- namely Samson and Samuel, I stopped to pray again. I asked the Spirit to continue to lead me in the direction He wanted me to go to learn what the Lord was making known. I can't say I know how I got to Numbers and Luke and Judges and Samuel 2, just that it is a work of the Spirit to lead me to the right verses that relate to the study I'm engaged in. It is an answer to my prayer to be led and taught.

It is really interesting, how the Spirit works in this. A study always builds on something that came before and will build on something that will come after. A year might go by, and then some verse will "jump out at me" in another study of the future and I'll remember this one, and a connection will be made.

Oftentimes, after I use the bible as primary source in the first through third readings, I'll listen to a preacher I trust preach on it expositionally. This extends the study. And of course, I'll go to class and listen to my home teacher and the comments from my fellow saints, folding in the insights gained from those places. The most important thing at this point is two fold: pay attention to what the Spirit says, and make notes. We often pray, but it is equally important to pay attention to the answer to prayer. Don't send up a prayer for wisdom and insight and then move ahead so fast you leave your ears behind!

I picture the study of the Word as sewing a tapestry. Every nugget of learning through this process is a thread that weaves through the tapestry. The first and most important result of a study is to learn more about God. The bible is His revealed truth to us. It's the only untainted way to learn Him and His ways. The bible contains words about who God is, what He is doing, what He will do, what he expects, and more. So I ask myself, what did I learn about Him through this? How does what I learned help me understand Him, my position before Him, and/or what I need to do to make corrections in any of the above?

Ultimately, a good bible study for me will include reading the Word, prayer, submission, and open mind, a notebook, and a willingness to use good study aids, such as concordance, commentary, or a solid bible teacher, and participation in my home church.

A good study would not be complete without seeing how the Word can be applied to my life. I ask the Spirit to let me know how to apply this new knowledge. The Word is not only the Word for head knowledge, it is for heart knowledge and for encouraging the saints and applying in life. So I ponder John, being filled with the Spirit, and think about how he consecrated himself so that he would remain pure. I thought about how bold he was to proclaim curses on the Pharisees. I thought about how humble he was to say that his time was over, he must increase and Jesus must increase. His humility was also displayed when Jesus came to John for baptism, and John said he wasn't worthy to loosen His sandal. There are many messages to learn from John the Baptist, and I am sure the Spirit will reveal more to me in time, along with increasing the fruits He wants borne from this knowledge. Faith into action, based on the prayerfully studying the Word. I love studying the bible. I hope you do too.

1 comment:

  1. In studying the life of John the Baptist, from the beginning he was set apart. In a way we are to be a type after him a forerunner proclaiming the in the Spirit the Christ. In Christ we are to be as John was set apart, a Nazarite. I find it interesting that his father because of his unbelief was made mute. Is this what is happening to the church? because of their unbelief, they are made mute.
    You make a valid point about are being quick to make our request's known, are we as quick to wait for the Lord to speak. Praying as it was modeled in the Lord's prayer is one that lines us up with God the Father's will more than it being communication in telling Him what is going on. Being pure is the result of staying undefiled or unpolluted. To be amongst them but not part of them. Oh, be washed in the soul cleansing Blood of the Lamb.

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Kay Cude poetry: The Wondrous Draw

Kay Cude poetry, Used with permission. Click to enlarge. It gets really big.