Step Two for Easier Bible Reading: Try a Word Study
By Becky Herrington
When I first started following Jesus, I realized that I had a vocabulary problem. For instance, I’d use the word “joy” to describe happiness because “joy” and “happy” were used in the same way by almost everyone I knew.
Everyone, that is, except God.
For him, joy and happy weren’t the same. In fact, he hardly ever mentioned happiness!
I knew that if I was going to learn his Word, I needed to learn his words. I needed to study his vocabulary instead of what I’d picked up from culture.
This is where word studies helped me immensely. A word study is basically a biblical vocabulary lesson. It’s easy to do, and teaches so much.
Here’s an example: Galatians 5:22-23 talks about the fruit of the Spirit, including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We know what these words mean according to a dictionary, but what do they mean according to God?
Here’s how to find out…
How to do a word study:
Step one: First, choose a word to study. For our talk now, let’s choose joy.
Step two: In the back of most Bibles you’ll find a dictionary, often called a concordance. (If you don’t have a concordance in the back of your Bible, then get yourself a Jesus-Centered Bible). Here you can look up words like “joy” and it’ll tell you places in the Bible where this word is used. For example, in my Jesus-Centered Bible there are almost 70 references to joy.
(Note: your Bible’s concordance isn’t exhaustive. You can buy a HUGE concordance that’s much more thorough, but what’s in most Bibles is enough to get an idea.)
Step three: Look up each verse that references your word. For context, remember to read the verses that come before and after the verse you look up, too.
Step four: In your journal, write down what each verse is showing you about joy. Once you’ve gone through all the verses about joy, circle or highlight the themes you find and what you learned about joy. What was different than what you expected? What was the same?
Word studies like this can be used during any time of year, and are especially helpful when you’re going through a season of change or challenge. For instance, studying the word “joy” during a time of unhappiness can help bring your thoughts and emotions back to God’s truth instead of dwelling on your circumstances.
I also love this process for starting a new season, like at the start of a new year, the beginning of a new job, or in the spring or fall when you’re setting goals. Ask the Holy Spirit to put a word on your heart that he wants you to focus on for your new start, and then enjoy exploring it in more depth during your transition.
Regardless of the reason why you’re drawn to a word study, learning God’s heart behind the words he uses will draw your heart to him.