If you want to start unlocking the Bible, you need to stop reading it and start interacting with it instead.
To give credit where credit is due, this topic was presented at our most recent Care Group Rally led by Pastor John Davis at New Hope Church. I thought the topic was fantastic and I’ve started using his technique, so I wanted to share it here along with an example of how to put it into practice.
Reading is passive. If all you do is read the Bible, you’re treating it like just another novel or informational book, which is OK if all you want is to read for entertainment/information. But if you want God to speak to you and change your life, then you need to learn to listen to Him. When we interact with the text by asking it questions, then we move past a cursory exploration and get into applying God’s Word to our lives.
But how do you do that?
I’m so glad you asked! The key is to ask and answer 5 questions for every passage of the Bible you read, no matter how long or how short. (Hint: The amount you read isn’t as important as what you get out of it. A short passage that touches you and creates life change is better than reading a lot and going about life unchanged.)
So here are the questions, and how I answered them with my morning Bible reading of Genesis 48. These are not THE ANSWERS to this passage. The Bible is infinite, and there is always more to learn. If I come back and read this passage next year, I will be coming at the text from a different perspective and will be ready (hopefully) for God to unlock additional insights. That’s why it’s important to read the Bible over and over again. There’s always more to learn.
What does this passage say about God, Jesus, and/or the Holy Spirit?
God has a plan for our lives—in this case, His plan was that Manasseh’s descendents would grow into a larger nation than Ephraim’s (his older brother). God’s plan is not always what we think it should be—Joseph wanted his older son to receive the greater blessing.
What does this passage tell us about people, life, or faith?
People believe that things should happen in a certain way. They set expectations on how God will bestow blessings on them. It traces the line of the Messiah. This passage shows how much easier life is when people put their faith in God and accept the His blessings (like Ephraim and Manasseh) instead of trying to make the blessing come to fruition by their own power (like Jacob did before he became ‘Israel’—see post on Wrestling with God).
Why did God put this passage in the Bible?
The book of Genesis is primarily a history text. It tells us about God selecting certain people and making a chosen nation of them. At this point, Jacob (Israel) is dying and he wants to bless his favorite son, Joseph, by granting Joseph’s sons a larger portion of inheritance. The blessing of the first born is going to Judah, so this is a different way to bless Joseph. By adopting Ephraim and Manasseh to be his sons, Jacob is giving them the same size of inheritance as their father (Joseph) and all his brothers. This also explains how Ephraim and Manasseh became two of the 12 tribes of Israel.
But I think there’s more going on here than simple history. Did you notice that Joseph is upset when the blessing of the first born is giving to the younger son, Ephraim, instead of the older boy, Manasseh? How different this was than the story of Jacob! Jacob was the younger twin and his mother was told when she was pregnant that he would rule over his brother (Genesis 25:21-23). Jacob struggled under his own power to trick and deceive his brother and father and had to live with all the consequences that came from his actions. But we see from the story of Ephraim and Manasseh that if Jacob had trusted in God’s promise to his mother, he would have received the blessing without all the trickery and turmoil.
How does this passage relate to my life?
Like Joseph, I think I know what God has planned for my life. In that way, I seek to put God inside a box and have certain expectations on how God should act. When my expectations aren’t met, I have a tendency to think that God has let me down. But I’ve seen in my life that God doesn’t always operate the way I think He should and that when I trust in Him, his blessings are so much more than I could have imagined.
How can I put this truth into practice?
By living in the moment instead of worrying about the future and manipulating things to turn out the way I think they should. Pray, pray, pray—seek God’s guidance and direction before committing to a decision so that I go the way of Manasseh instead of the way of young Jacob. I want God’s best for me. It’s easier and better!
I also loved Jacob’s description of God in his blessing for Joseph and his sons (Genesis 48:15-16, NLT):
15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
“May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham
and my father, Isaac, walked—
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life, to this very day,
16 the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—
may he bless these boys.
May they preserve my name
and the names of Abraham and Isaac.
And may their descendants multiply greatly
throughout the earth.”