Recently I was talking with a young man who had begun to distance himself from the Church. He was struggling with a lot of different emotions and seriously thinking about pursuing some interests that would have pulled him into the world. He felt that the Church’s teachings were getting stale—that he’d heard it all before and wasn’t really learning from the messages at services. His focus was entirely on the physical. God wasn’t real to him. He had no vision of what God was offering him!
In the course of our discussion, this young man revealed that he had never read much of the Church literature. He hadn’t read Mr. Armstrong’s books. He hadn’t studied the Bible. I quickly realized that the reason God’s truth was getting stale to him was that his understanding was paper thin. This young man was simply allowing his own human nature to handicap his Bible study.
Though his was a somewhat extreme case, the problems hampering his personal study are common to all of us to some degree. The aspects of his human nature to which he was succumbing are things we all must battle. The Bible shows that God is aware of this problem.
The Human Element
Let’s be honest about how our human nature can get in the way of our personal Bible study.
First, we don’t like to do hard things. If we’re not disciplined, we tend to take the easy way out. In the area of study, it’s easy to convince ourselves we understand something but fail to work to deepen that understanding. Rather than digging into our personal study of God’s Word, we may kick back and casually read a booklet or article. How often do you look up the scriptures referred to in the Church publications? How often do you really use that article or booklet as the basis for personal Bible study? Our natural tendency is to say, Oh I know what that scripture says, and not look it up. Or, when we do look up the scripture, we may glance at it quickly and say, Oh I remember, I know that scripture—and not actually read it. Our predisposition is to get lazy and sloppy: to assume we know more than we actually do; to assume we thoroughly understand a particular scripture; to assume we remember more than we do.
That points to a second obstacle presented by our human nature: We forget things. It’s frustrating, but true. Even if we proved something a while back, we can’t assume it’s locked in our memories for good. God made us so we have to maintain what we have, or we lose it. We need to regularly review the fundamentals of God’s truth.
But that leads to another problem: We become desensitized to things. For example, after wincing at a foul smell when we first experience it, we can become completely unaware of it after being around it for a time. Likewise, immoral content in the mass media, after having an initial shock value, eventually seems pretty tame once a person is around it long enough. Sadly, we can also become desensitized to good things—wonderful and awesome things—even God’s truth. We may be reading a breathtaking, mind-stretching truth in the Bible or a Church booklet, yet simply scan over it in a routine or ho-hum manner. Like that young man, if we only pick things up on a superficial level, even the greatest truths can start getting stale—because we become desensitized to them.
Another obstacle of our human nature is that we don’t like being corrected. Herbert Armstrong said that the hardest thing for any of us to do is admit we’re wrong. Toward the end of his life, he was shouting out to people, “Most of you just don’t get it!” The fruits show that they almost all thought he was talking about someone else: I wonder who it is that doesn’t get it, because surely I get it! This is a problem with human nature—and like it or not, we all have it. It’s very easy to hear or to read something God is directing right at us, and let it roll right off us. It’s very difficult, on the other hand, to respond, Yes, I’m doing that wrong. I’m going to change and conform my life to that.
We must admit that these are the types of tendencies we need to battle in order to really develop and sustain a rigorous, exciting, daily personal Bible study life. It requires honest self-examination to ensure we’re not falling into these traps of our human nature.
The Bible gives us a measuring stick to do that evaluation. The scriptures can help you determine whether your Bible study is all God means it to be. Several passages show what the effects of daily personal Bible study should be on us. If we’re studying the way God wants us to, we will be gaining some real, tangible, benefits from it—specific benefits God spells out. Not receiving these promised benefits means we’re not studying properly.
God actually demands that we study the Bible daily as a tool for conquering our human nature! So here is the measuring tool for how we’re doing in this battle: Are we studying rightly, gaining these benefits and conquering our human nature in the process? Or, is our study life being hindered by our human nature, depriving us of these benefits?
A Law for Kings
God made special laws concerning the royalty in ancient Israel. “Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose …” (Deuteronomy 17:15). These are instructions for a king chosen by God. Thus, it applies to all of God’s very elect (Revelation 1:6; 5:10).
Notice: God wanted to make sure the king avoided anything that would distract him from serving God. “But he shall not multiply horses to himself …. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold” (Deuteronomy 17:16-17). 1 John 2:16 talks about three worldly temptations: “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Those are essentially what God is telling the king to steer away from. God didn’t want him to get caught up in the things of the world; He didn’t want the king’s heart to turn to the physical things and the prosperity he would enjoy. God wanted him to remain grounded. He wants the same from us.
This law shows that God is aware of the limitations of our human nature. He knows we’re susceptible to getting caught up in the world and starting to overlook Him—particularly in the prosperous countries. Here is God’s solution—probably the best way to avoid the trap of materialism: “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them” (Deuteronomy 17:18-19).
Some say this “book of the law” was just Deuteronomy; others say it was the first five books of the Bible. The king had to actually write this out with his own hand—no small job for a king busy with the responsibilities of running a kingdom! He was to have God’s law right there with him, and he was to study it—every day!
If we’re to master our human nature, God knows we need daily instruction from Him!
We need to be in the habit of mastering our time, disciplining our minds, shutting out the distractions, and concentrating on being educated by the written Word of God—all the days of our lives. This is a habit God expects from His kings.
Now, let’s notice six other benefits spelled out in this passage, and others, that come as a result of this daily Bible study.
1) It teaches us to fear God properly.
“[H]e shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God …” (verse 19). Here’s the first result of that daily habit.
Fearing God is something we learn—over time, through continuous study. Matthew Henry’s commentary says this daily study of God’s law “must possess [this king] with a very reverent … regard to the divine majesty and authority. He must learn … to fear the Lord his God; and, as high as he is, he must remember that God is above him, and, whatever fear his subjects owe to him, that, and much more, he owes to God as his king.”
We all need to ask ourselves: Does my daily Bible study teach me to fear God?
The Bible is God’s mind in print. The better we know it, the better we know God. And to know God is to fear God. If we don’t study God’s Word daily, we can assume we know God, when actually we have only a shallow understanding. Many people think they know God—but it’s merely a god they’ve set up in their own minds, after their own image. No wonder they don’t really fear that god! Job thought he was great and righteous, but when he actually came to know God, he repented for ever having that attitude—and then he really feared God! (Job 42:5-6).
That’s what God wants from His kings. He wants us to get to know Him through daily study, so we fear Him enough to obey Him.
The fear of God is also the beginning of instruction (Proverbs 1:7; 15:33). So there is a virtuous cycle here. The more you study, the more you learn to fear God. And the more you fear God, then the more God can teach you through your study.
This is a benefit we should be gaining from our daily Bible study. If we’re not gaining that, then we need to evaluate our study and see how we can improve it.
2) It burns into our minds the right standard of conduct.
At the end of Deuteronomy 17:19, we can see a second benefit to daily Bible study: “to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them.” To keep means to hedge about (as with thorns), or, in effect, to guard, protect, preserve or watch. God wants us to get the right way into our thinking—and then, by reinforcing that day after day, to “set a hedge about it” in our minds.
God also wanted the king to apply what he learned—“to do them.” Obviously, you can’t live it if you don’t know it. We must study God’s Word to know the way of life it is instructing us to live.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This scripture breaks down the specific content we’re to be mining out of our study. Daily Bible study grounds us in right doctrine—the basic teachings of the Church. It reproves us—it exposes and convicts our hearts as to where we’re making major mistakes in our lives. It corrects us—it helps us to straighten up where we’re off track. It instructs us in righteousness—educates or trains us how to live the right way. You can see that our daily study should be most specifically focused on getting our thoughts and actions in line with God. Scriptural instruction furnishes us—or fully equips us—to do all that God expects from us.
Another passage we can consider is in 1 Corinthians 10, where it says God had all the history of Israel recorded in the Old Testament so we could have a negative example to avoid. The ancient Israelites had a great opportunity, but they blew it. They lusted, and look what happened to them. They got involved in idolatry, they got caught up in fornication, they tempted God—and these mistakes destroyed them.
As we study that example, we should be able to recognize our own human nature and take the correction from it. It was written for our admonition (verse 11). Studying those examples should give us a clearer, more realistic picture of the evil within our own hearts.
This world very aggressively pushes itself on us. It is very difficult to prevent it from rubbing off on us in our lives, our habits, the entertainment we watch, what our family life is like. But notice this great scriptural directive: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalms 119:9). This verse is specifically directed to the young people, but certainly we can all apply it. How many of us in the Church need to cleanse our way? God says we can do just that by taking heed to God’s Word.
God wanted to help Israel’s king avoid getting caught up in riches and worldliness by having him study the law daily. And it’s the same for us! The world can present so many distractions. So many of us feel assaulted by the world; want to be free from the world. Studying God’s Word daily can help with that. Spend that hour a day in study, instead of watching tv. That Bible study is going to help us fight back those evil influences. It helps us gain control of our thoughts. What a great benefit of daily Bible study!
How does Christ sanctify and cleanse His future wife? “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
“Word” is not translated from the Greek logos, but rhema; it means “an utterance.” It’s the same word Christ used when He told Satan that man must live by every“word” of God (Matthew 4:4). Thus, it would apply not only to the words you hear from the ministry, but to the written Word of God.
Studying the Word each day is actually spending time with Christ each day, allowing Him to wash you and cleanse you. As one minister put it in a sermon, “When we pray and study, we’re on the best date we could ever be on! We’re spending time with our Husband!”
Remember, on that last night before His crucifixion, Christ prayed that God would sanctify us, or set us apart, through His truth. “[T]hy word is truth” (John 17:17).
Christ is trying to make us holy and without blemish! He’s trying to make us glorious! And to be able to do that, He has to be able to talk to and cleanse us each day, “with the washing of water by the word.”
Let’s ask ourselves: Am I being cleansed by my daily personal Bible study? Is the right standard of conduct being burned into my mind, to replace the wrong standards I may be picking up from around me?
God’s Word is a powerful weapon against the evil in this world. Jeremiah 5:14 compares God’s Word to a fire that burns up evil. Jeremiah 23:29 compares it to a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces. It is more powerful than the influences of this world—if we’re studying it the right way.
Back in Deuteronomy 17:20, we see another benefit of daily personal Bible study.
3) It keeps us humble toward our brethren and those we lead.
“That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left …” it reads. God’s laws were permanent. Israel’s kings were not allowed to change them or add new laws; they were essentially considered vice-regents of God—they were simply administering His government. That’s quite a contrast to other rulers, who themselves were the highest authority among their people and were accountable to no one; there was nothing to stop them from making a law saying, Bow down to this statue of me, or I’ll throw you in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1-6).
God didn’t want the heart of His king lifted up above the people. So, He commanded daily Bible study. Right study of God’s Word makes you more humble. If you have a vanity problem, this is a great way to overcome it! What a benefit!
However, if when you study God’s Word you are lacking humility, then your study is vain. Yes, we want to become Bible scholars, going deeper into the nooks and crannies of God’s Word, but we must never forget the purpose of that study! Knowledge of and by itself puffs up. We don’t study to exalt ourselves; we actually study to better see ourselves in relation to God!
If you’re studying correctly, it’s going to help ensure that your heart isn’t lifted up above your brethren.
Deuteronomy 17:20 ties back into point two and shows us another benefit of daily personal Bible study.
4) It prolongs our life and the lives of our families.
“… to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” We can look at this a number of ways—but the first and most important is that we’ll be preparing for eternal life as we daily study the truths we’ll be teaching in God’s eternal Kingdom. That is the greatest long-term benefit of daily Bible study. Realize that you really are preparing to be a king, and if you study God’s Word and apply it, you’re going to be prolonging your days in God’s Kingdom, and the days of your children—which ultimately will include the whole world.
It is amazing to realize that, each day, we are studying the same truths that we will be teaching in God’s Kingdom! The more grounded in that truth we become, the better teachers we’ll be in that Kingdom. The same law that the kings of Israel were to study every day is prophesied in Isaiah and Micah to be going forth from Zion; people from all over the globe will be flowing there to learn more about that law! This truly is the knowledge of the future. There is real vision wrapped up in our daily study!
But we can also bring this down to the level of our personal lives today.
Obviously, if we are studying the right way of life each day and living it, it will make us more prosperous and blessed. We will be healthier and more balanced individuals. Our marriage will be happier and stronger, eliminating a great deal of stress. Our children will benefit, because we’re rearing them according to godly principles. As we teach them to honor their parents, for example, they’ll receive the promise contained within the Fifth Commandment of having a long life.
There are many scriptures that go into detail about this benefit. But perhaps the most powerful illustration of how much we need daily Bible study to live is proven through one of God’s analogies—His designing our bodies to need daily physical food.We need daily spiritual food like we need daily physical food.
“And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live” (Deuteronomy 8:3). When we’re prosperous and food is plenteous, it’s easy to forget about this. But God specifically denied the Israelites other sources of food and made it so the only way they could be fed was by manna from heaven: in order to teach them to always look to God for their daily spiritual food; and to teach them that they needed to live by every word that dropped from His mouth.
Without that spiritual nourishment, we won’t last long. But with that daily nourishment, our days will be prolonged.
And just as our bodies continue to digest and benefit from the physical food we consume for many hours afterward, so do we benefit spiritually from our Bible study for long afterward. When you study the right way, you give your mind all kinds of good food to chew on throughout the day.
What makes food special is when we take time to really enjoy it. The same is true spiritually. If we’re not paying attention, we can blaze through a meal quickly and not really enjoy it. Instead, think about what you’re studying. Take it slow. Savor the points of truth. We still get the nourishment from physical food whether we enjoy it or not, but we do not digest and assimilate the food as well if we eat too quickly. Likewise with spiritual food, it’s only by careful consumption that we receive all the nourishment.
5) It helps us endure, giving comfort and hope.
Another benefit of Bible study is spoken of in Romans 15:4: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Daily Bible study really can be a daily comfort.
There are many influences trying to wear us down. That makes the comfort we can find in the Scriptures much more important. It makes the hope God is extending to us that much more critical. Verse 4 in the Revised Standard Version reads, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”
The Bible is truly filled with great hope! But it is of no value if it’s not part of our thinking as a result of studying it. As the world is falling apart, we have the hope of a better world just ahead. As we study God’s Word each day, we’re getting our minds into that future reality. That’s going to help us endure. It’s going to give us patience. It’s going to make us steadfast. It’s going to give us comfort and encouragement. The more our minds are in that truth, the more we’ll have the “comfort of the scriptures” and be filled with that hope.
In the January-February 2004 Royal Vision, we quoted Romans 15:4, then wrote, “A real living hope can sure make the difference in how we handle life’s problems and what perspective we maintain. Whenever we’re discouraged, or lack something we need, we should make it a habit to search the Bible and find what God has promised. God has given us plenty of promises that are full of hope.”
What a tremendous benefit God’s Word can give us—if we study it!
6) It increases our faith, which leads to eternal life.
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31).
The Bible has been recorded that we might believe—truly, deeply believe! Our Bible study must not become a ho-hum routine that doesn’t strengthen our faith. If we’re doing it correctly, it is going to give us saving faith—so that, believing, we might have eternal life!
Romans 10:17 states, “[F]aith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Faith means believing those promises that are peppered throughout God’s Word. Do you need more faith?Then study God’s Word daily! It was written that you might believe. What a benefit!
A Love Affair
We need to become experts at mining the depth of truth in God’s Word. We’re going to be teaching this truth forever, so we should be growing in excitement for that truth the closer we get to assuming those responsibilities. If God’s truth is getting stale—if we’re not gaining these magnificent benefits from our studies—then we’re not studying effectively. God wants us to study all the days of our lives—and He wants us to be growing and maturing in a deep love for that Word all the time!
In Psalms, you see a king of Israel who really obeyed God’s command to study God’s law “all the days of his life.” And look at the positive fruits in David’s life for following that. There can be no question that David loved God’s truth. He said, “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver” (Psalms 119:72). He studied and followed the law that instructed him not to store up riches. He accumulated a lot of wealth, but he dedicated all of it to the God who wrote the law that he was studying and meditating on all the days of his life!
The Laodiceans were sent strong delusion because they didn’t love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11). We’ve got to love it. We have to want to spend that daily time being washed by our Husband, Jesus Christ!
A couple, when they are first in love, can’t get enough of each other. But once they’re married, they must work to keep that love alive! They have to spend time with each other! They have to keep growing and growing and growing in that mature love!
God wants us to have an ongoing love affair with the Word—Jesus Christ in print. He wants us to write His Word on our heart! As He instructs us in Deuteronomy 11:18-21, “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.”