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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Derek Prince » Derek Prince - How To Read God's Word

Derek Prince - How To Read God's Word

Derek Prince - How To Read God's Word
TOPICS: Bible Study, Hebrews Bible Study

For the first part of this first session I’m going to be giving you some preliminary explanation as to the way I will be teaching and how you can benefit best from it. Some of you may feel this is just a kind of option, that it’s not of much importance. But I venture to suggest to you that this could be perhaps in some ways the most helpful instruction that you receive at any time in this series because it relates to how to study God’s Word. So I’m going to explain to you now how I’m going to be teaching, how we are going to be studying and then, how you can receive the most from what we will be studying. Beginning then with the method of teaching, I’m going to be translating directly from the Greek text of the New Testament.

I’ve had the privilege of learning Greek since I was 10 years old, which is a long while ago now. I’m going to be doing this to try to give you the real original meaning as accurately as I can. I suggest that you follow, when we come to the teaching, primarily in the New American Standard Version but if you want a backup, then I suggest the New International Version. You can manage with another version, but you’ll find it a little bit confusing if I’m reading from one and you’re studying from another. My language will not be elegant because I’m going to try to maintain as far as possible the original order and just bring it out the way it is and then we can check from the other translations how well I’m doing.

This is something that my wife Ruth and I have developed. We did it kind of accidentally, we really weren’t, I don’t know what we were planning, but I said to her, "Why don’t you let me read to you from the Greek and you follow in two English versions"? (the New American Standard and the New International Version). And it so happened we were taking a couple of days of fasting and waiting on God and without any special reason I turned to this epistle to the Hebrews. God moved in a very remarkable way. It was like He arrested us and He showed us this is where it’s at for you at this time. And actually, we spent almost two entire days studying Hebrews together, just this way that I’ll be doing it with you.

I read from the original Greek translating as I went. Ruth followed in the other two versions. We compared notes and somehow God seemed to open the truth up for us in a very vivid way through that. Later, we decided to do it also with the Hebrew Bible in the Old Testament and again God blessed that, but we will not be going into that, naturally, tonight. I’ve already said, but let me repeat, the version that I’m going to follow primarily in English will be the New American Standard. I also will refer to the New International Version. I may refer to other versions, too. Neither of these versions is totally satisfactory from my point of view. Let me offer a few brief comments on them. The New International Version basically is excellent English. It’s very clearly set out, it’s beautifully printed and just for reading it’s infinitely preferable to the New American Standard.

Those of you that listen to my radio broadcast, you probably have noticed that’s the version I try to use mainly because it comes over the air so much better than other versions. It’s so much easier to grasp. One thing is that they split up the long sentences into a series of short sentences. However, there are areas in which it, in my opinion, departs too far from the original text. On the other hand, the New American Standard is much closer to the original text but I find the English almost painful, to tell you the truth, because it’s so involved, and by sticking to the original order they come out with sentences that don’t sound like English. Also, I have to say that they combine English usage from different ages of the English language, which just don’t go together. So, you’ll get a very antiquated phrase and then a completely modern word side by side. However, as an attempt to be accurate, it is praiseworthy.

I personally attach a great deal of importance to tracing a particular word all through the Scriptures. In order to do that you have to have access to the original. My complaint about nearly all translations is that they frequently translate the same original word by a different English word where it is not necessary. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. Therefore, it’s very difficult for a person that has no access to the original language to follow where the same word occurs. In my opinion, this is one of the main ways to trace threads of truth through the Scripture, is to take a given key word and follow it wherever it occurs. We will be doing this in this study and I think you’ll get an idea of how it works. I want to recommend it to you, if you’re that kind of a person, as a very fruitful way for studying the Bible for yourself. It’ll bring truth out that you never knew was there.

Now, let me deal with the method of study. As I’ve already said, it will be primarily analytical. We will be analyzing the Word of God. I want to add there are many other valid and good methods of studying, this is not the only one nor is it necessarily the best. But in my experience, it can be extremely helpful. This is the way we’re going to do it, basically. We’re going to read through the text. That is to say, I’ll be reading, translating as I go, pausing where there’s a word that could have two or three different shades of meaning, asking maybe which is the most appropriate in that particular context. Then, we will, as we read, be asking ourselves mentally two questions: What does this passage actually say? What is it really saying? And two, how does it apply practically to me? Or, to us.

I never study the Bible without a practical motive and I believe it is wrong to do so. I don’t believe the Bible should ever be merely the object of abstract intellectual study. I believe its basic thrust is practical. I think one of the ways in which God has blessed me and helped me is that my study, and my teaching have always had practical motivation. First of all, I want it to do in me what needs to be done. Secondly, if I teach it, I want it to do in those whom I teach what needs to be done in them. As we study together I trust both methods or both aspects of that will be in operation. I trust it will be doing things in me that need to be done (I am not a finished product; I’m very well aware of that). There are no finished products here tonight. We’re all still on the workbench. And, let’s approach it with that attitude, "God, use this Word of Yours to change me where I need to be changed".

Then, in going through the text of Hebrews, which is our particular object of study, I will be frequently referring to related or parallel passages. Most of you probably have Bibles with cross references in the margin. Those are helpful, although, again, I don’t think there’s any perfect system of cross referencing. When we turn to passages from the Old Testament, I propose to analyze them as revelation. We will not be dealing primarily with historical passages in the Old Testament. That is, historical accounts. But we’ll be dealing with what I call "revelatory passages". I will seek to analyze them from two viewpoints: Some will be prophetic predictions. They’ll be Old Testament passages that predict things yet to come at the time they were written. The other will be types or shadows, truths in the Old Testament contained in the form of pictures, symbols. These words and other words like them are used in Hebrew as we will see later.

Just to give an example by way of anticipation, after we’ve studied chapter 2 here in Hebrews I intend to go to the Old Testament for a description of the high priest’s garment. Because until you know something about the high priest in the Old Testament, there’s much in the book of Hebrews you really can’t relate to. And in the study of the high priest’s garment we will see much of what we would call typology. For instance, all the colors in the garment have a meaning. All the materials have a meaning. The place on his body where the various items were located have significance. In fact, they open up the most beautiful truth which, in the end, points us to Jesus Christ. So that’s what I mean by types or shadows. Then, as I’ve already indicated, as we go along, I’ll be picking out key words.

In fact, I have already picked them out as you’ll see in a little while. Key words which, to my understanding, are significant related themes of this epistle. I’ve done quite a lot of work for you. I’ve taken thirteen words and I’ve found every passage where each word occurs. I’ve listed it and I’ve counted the number of times it occurs. When you look at that, it tells you a great deal about the book. I’ve put in work, but it’s been very rewarding. My own grasp of the structure of the book has been increased immeasurably by that study. Then, we will try to see how those strands of truth, each represented by a key word, are woven together into the whole texture of revelation. The next point about the way we’re going to be studying is that I will attempt to point out to you structural features of the epistle. I think these will become clear when we look at the introduction in a little while. Just by setting things out systematically, you’re made aware of the fact that there’s a very definite kind of structure in this epistle.

Now, one of the interesting things, particularly in the epistle to the Hebrews, is that when you analyze you come up with an extraordinary number of things that occur in sevens. You don’t have to work at it, you don’t have to try to make it happen; it just emerges. And somebody has said, I don’t know who it was, this is the signature of the Holy Spirit on the Bible. See, I don’t think any human mind, even with a computer, could ever have achieved that result. It’s supernatural. It’s one of the great supernatural features of the Word of God. One last comment on the method of study. We will seek to be economical of time, but we will not let time dictate to us. Okay? We are staging a new American Revolution! We are not tied by the hands of a clock, or the figures on a digital clock either! I’m going to take as long as I feel God wants me to take. If I spend two hours on one verse, let there be no complaints. I’ve warned you in advance. All right?

On the other hand, there may be passages that I’ll go through very quickly. I don’t want to waste time, I want to make the best use of every moment. But, I do not want to be tied by some human framework of time. We come to the last and perhaps in a way the most important point in this introductory explanation which is, What is required of the student? That means you. All right. You are the student. I’m going to answer that question out of a passage in the Bible. Turn to Proverbs 2:1–5. I am only going to read these direct from the New American Standard. As a matter of fact, this is one of the passages that Ruth and I got into with me reading the Hebrew, and we hardly got out of it again. It is truly fascinating. It isn’t really the purpose of this particular talk to get involved in all that.

I want to suggest to you that the method of study or the requirements for how you study or approach are beautifully stated in the first five verses of Proverbs 2. Notice it is God speaking to Solomon and He says, "My son". And that, in Hebrew, includes "My daughter". So God is speaking to you as His child about His Word. And the next word is "if," which sets the condition. And there are four verses, each of which has two related conditions. Four times two is eight. You come up with eight requirements for receiving what God has for you in His Word. But they’re in pairs. Four pairs of requirements, one in each of the first four verses. My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you, That’s the first pair of requirements.

Number two: [if you will] make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; That’s the second.

Number three: for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; The third pair.

Fourth: if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; All right. Those are the requirements. Four pairs of requirements.

Then there is the reward in verse 5: Then you will discern the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge of God. Let’s just look briefly at the key thought in each verse. I ask you to take this and apply it to yourself in a practical way. Verse 1, the two key words are receive and treasure. Take it in and keep it. Keep it as the most valuable thing that you have. See, begin by receiving. Have a receptive heart and mind. James 1 says, "Receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your soul". It will save you if you receive it. But if you don’t receive it, it’ll do nothing for you. I trust nobody will be like this, but you can sit there like a bottle with a cork in it. I could be pouring out and pouring out but you get nothing in because of the cork.

So if there is a cork, take it out right now. Okay? Remove it. Cork? What could it be? Prejudice, preconception, cynicism. One thing that’s been impressed on me lately is how dangerous is it to "sit in the seat of the scornful". And you know, I’ve met a lot of people in churches who are very close to being in the seat of the scornful. They’ve been soured by some experience, somebody let them down and, actually, they’ve tuned God out. That’s a modern way of saying the same thing: they’re not receiving. One thing that James says is it takes meekness to receive. "Receive with meekness the engrafted word". Don’t only look for what suits you. In fact, it will be better if you looked for what didn’t suit you.

You know, sometimes we read something we don’t like and we hurry past it. That’s not the way to go. It’s rather the opposite. If there’s something that gives you a jolt, you think, God couldn’t really have meant that. That’s the thing you need to attend to. So, "If you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you". Notice that God’s commandments are not given to create problems for us. You do appreciate that, don’t you? God doesn’t make a lot of commandments just for the sake of making life awkward. All God’s commandments are designed for our good. But we live in an age where people resent commandments: "I don’t want anybody to tell me what to do". That’s almost endemic attitude in contemporary America.

Well, your attitude will have to change; you’re going to have to treasure God’s commandments. "God, thank You for telling me not to do that. I know You said it because You cared for me". Don’t try to rub the slate off. Focus on it. The second verse, "Make your ear attentive to wisdom". Again, that’s something that I think is very difficult for contemporary Westerners. Very few people today are used to really attending to anything. I’ve seen so many teenagers, and some of them were teenagers and they’re here tonight, and some are still teenagers who would do their homework at the kitchen counter with one eye on the television. I have to say, frankly, that would drive me crazy. I could not do it. But I cannot believe that any person who does that gets the best out of either the television or the homework. I would say you’re getting the worst of both worlds.

And if you get a C-minus, you probably deserved it! But that’s typical. We go into a place, there’s background music. This is personal, but I either want to listen to music or I want to listen to what people are saying. I don’t want to try to listen to both at the same time. If you play background music when I’m in your home, I’ll really try to be polite but you will not find it in my house. If I’m talking to you I don’t want you to be trying to take in something from the hi-fi at the same time. Make your ear attentive. Then "Incline your heart". You know what incline means? That’s an example where I would say the New American Standard should have used a different word. Most people today really don’t know what it means. It means "to bend down".

So, what does it mean to bend down your heart? It means to humble yourself. Say, "God, I don’t know it all. There’s a whole lot I need to know. Teach me". Going on to the third verse, "If you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding". Those are very strong words. That means pray fervently for understanding and discernment. That must be included. Earnest prayer. Not here in the meeting but at home before you come. As you meditate on what we’ve been studying together. Lift up your voice to God and say, "God, give me understanding. Illuminate that for me. I find it hard". Fourth verse, "If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures".

I think the picture is similar to a parable that Jesus spoke about treasure hidden in a field. If you’re going to find that treasure you probably have got to dig quite a substantial area of that field. You may not know exactly where it is. Digging is hard work. I would really illustrate that by using a concordance to follow up a given word in the original language. It’s digging. You see, you’ve got to have a real appreciation of what’s available to you. God is offering you His treasures. You know, Jesus said, "Don’t cast your pearls before swine," don’t give that which is holy to the dogs. God doesn’t do that. One thing I’ve noticed about the Holy Spirit is, I can prepare the same message out of the same text, use the same notes and preach it in two different places. One place I just can’t stop, there’s no limitation, it just comes flowing out of me.

I think, I must be a terrific preacher! Then I go to another place, exactly the same preparation and it’s like pushing something up a hill. You know what I’ve learned? The difference isn’t in me, it’s in the people. When people are really open, receptive, responsive, there’s just no limit to what the Holy Spirit will give. But where they’re bored, sophisticated and cynical and they think they’ve heard it all before and anyhow, "We’re going to miss the late night show if we stay much longer", the Holy Spirit doesn’t give them anything. Why should He? Bear in mind in the last resort it’s not from me you’re going to get something, it’s from the Holy Spirit.

Let me offer you one final thought, too. I’ve had the privilege of a very elaborate and prolonged education culminating in philosophy, logic and so on. Most of you are never going to have that kind of education and if you did, you wouldn’t enjoy it. But I want to tell you on the basis of my own experience, the best way I know to train your mind is to study the Bible. It is the most logical book on earth. There’s no other book that can compare with it. And if you set your mind to find out what the Bible is saying in an orderly, systematic way; you will develop your mind. You’ll become sharp. You may not have very high grades at school or college, but you’ll get just exactly what God promises here. You’ll get wisdom, understanding, discernment and there are different meanings to those words.

Now I’d like you to turn to your outline to Page 0/1. We’re going to go through this material pretty systematically now just giving you some simple basics that are necessary for you to be able to understand the epistle. I’ve tried to keep these to an absolute minimum. The date of its writing is very important because it ties in with one of the most important historical events of the Christian era. How many of you know what was the date of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans? 70 AD. Now, this is very relevant here because we find in this epistle that the writer speaks about the Levitical ministry and sacrifices as still taking place, which means what? It must have been written before 70 AD. There are various theories as to the exact date, but they’re not important for us.

So let’s just be content with what’s written here, between 64 and 68 AD as I point out, before the destruction of the temple and the consequent cessation of the Levitical ministry, sacrifices, etc. I’ve put there "compare Hebrews 9:1–10". We’ll just turn to Hebrews 9 in the New American Standard for a moment so that you can see why I say that. Hebrews 9:1–10, we’re not going to read them all. The first verses explain what I would call the typology of the furniture of the tabernacle: the Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, the various items of furniture. Then in verse 6 and following we have the words in the present tense about the ministry of the Levitical priest: Now when these things have been thus prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle, performing the divine worship [you notice it’s in the present tense], but into the second only the high priest enters, once a year, [and then in verse 9:]. which is a symbol for the time present.

Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, So, all through there the continuous present tense is used of the Levitical ministry and sacrifices, indicating that they were still going on and therefore that this was written before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD when all that ceased and has never yet been resumed. I would just mention to you, those of you that didn’t know it, that date 70 AD is one of the most crucial dates in understanding the outworking of God’s purposes for His people. It marked the total destruction of Jerusalem, complete destruction of the temple, the end of all Levitical worship and all sacrifices.

As you probably know, God had told Israel that there was only one place where their sacrifices would be accepted, that is what we call today the temple area where there now stand two Moslem mosques and no Jew is permitted to enter. As long as that situation remains, I think it’s fair to say it’s inconceivable that the Jewish people would resume the blood sacrifices of that order. So, that’s possibly the most decisive date up till our present century when I would say the two key dates are 1948, when the state of Israel was reborn, and l967, when the Jewish people recovered political control of this very area where the temple used to stand. However, although they have governmental control, they still have no access to that particular area. Going on in the outline. The author I have simply stated "uncertain". The following have been suggested.

Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, Philip. Traditionally, it was always attributed to Paul and that’s actually the reason why it was included in the New Testament canon. However, there really is no final convincing evidence that it was written by Paul. Possibly it was, I would say equally possibly it was not. It was Martin Luther who suggested Apollos, and I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s what I would call an interesting conjecture. But I don’t intend to spend time on that because, as I’ve already indicated, my desire is to come to the epistle in the areas where it has something to say to us practically as Christians. Then it’s important to bear in mind that it’s addressed to Jewish Christians. Unfortunately, that phrase is objected to today.
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