A common tradition among Christians is a Bible-reading plan, especially annual “Read through the Bible” plans which start on January 1 and end on December 31; they can be arranged in many different formats including chronological and those from Genesis to Revelation. These are great methods for familiarizing yourself with Scripture in small and readable chunks. Reading Scripture is always a good habit. Studying and meditating on Scripture takes this beneficial habit to the next level.
Reading the Word and studying the Word are not the same thing. Studying involves reading, but adds research, context, perspective, discernment, and gaining insight to the author’s intent. This is important to help translate ancient words and practices into greater meaning, and oftentimes relating application to our personal lives. Understanding the audience the author was addressing, knowing the issues of the day that prompted the writing, and adding cultural and historical context to the books produces deeper knowledge and understanding.
Using different translations (all English Bibles have been translated from original languages) sheds light on various interpretations of content. Some versions use word-for-word translation practices and others use thought-for-thought. Studying the original text, in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic, is helpful in this case. You don’t have to go back to school to study these languages; you can use resources such as Biblehub.com, which provides Strong’s Dictionary and Concordance, and investigate the words further. There are many resources available, but just like translations of Scripture, it’s helpful to know the history of those resources. Pray God will give you discernment as you pursue how to study his Word.
Meditating on Scripture is different than reading or studying and is yet another way to gain fuller meaning and understanding of the Word. The word meditate is accurately transcribed as muse, ponder, even to chew on or gnaw like a dog does with a bone. As a practice, then, it is taking a
small portion or passage of the Bible, saying it over and over and then sitting still with it, focusing only on it, and letting the Holy Spirit speak the truth of the Word into you. Meditation is like nourishment, feeding on the Word and letting it roll around in your mouth, tasting its flavors, and digesting it for its full benefits where it sustains you. These habits and disciplines bring truths alive and give context on how to live a life that Jesus will be proud of.
“So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.” - Philippians 1:9-11 MSG