The phrase “The Devil is in the details” works as a reference to the fine print in a contract or the painstaking effort to make sure small parts of a plan or machine are in working order. In both these cases, a small glitch can cause huge problems. Out of fear, we might wade through hours of minutiae in order to prevent large-scale catastrophe—and still find that we missed something.
But when it comes to Scripture, we find a different reality, for in the minutiae of the Word, right down to the very words themselves, here we find out that God is in the details—and finding Him is our source of joy.
If we are going to Explore the Bible, then we must not just survey wide but we must also dig deep. This means we strive to grasp the Bible as a whole and a biblical book in its entirety, but we also need to make sense of its parts.
It is elementary, but this is an important reminder for our study of God’s Word. Words carry meaning, a specific meaning that is determined by the culture from which they come and the writer who is using them. We have dictionaries to communicate all the possible meanings of a word, but we determine the intended meaning of a word not simply from a dictionary but from the context in which it was used. This requires paying attention to sentences and paragraphs, punctuation and grammar—all those things we thought weren’t important in grade school.
Why does this matter? Because we believe that the Bible has God for its author; salvation for its end; and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter and that all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It is worth the effort to pay attention to the little details because God did, and in the words, sentences, paragraphs, books, and Bible, God communicates His message of salvation and sanctification for those who believe His words.
How do we pay attention to the details in our study of God’s Word?
- Pay attention to the words in their context of a sentence. Don’t just pass over something that doesn’t make sense or fly over something too quickly because you think you already understand it. Take time to understand what the author (and the Author) was saying through the words he chose to use.
- Follow the progression of the sentences and paragraphs. The authors (and Author) of Scripture were communicating a message, not just writing to see their words in print. We follow their message by tracking with the steps they took to communicate it—sentences and paragraphs. How does one sentence connect to the next? How does the main point of a paragraph connect to the next? Ask and seek to answer these kinds of questions as you study through God’s Word.
- Let the parts inform the whole, and vice versa. This has been called the hermeneutical spiral. Knowing the message of a biblical book helps to make sense of its parts, and understanding the parts helps us grasp the message as a whole. We need to keep both the parts and the whole in mind and allow our understanding of both to be shaped by the other as we study.
- Study God’s Word, right down to the very words, in community. Gather with a group to study God’s Word in depth. Explore the Bible provides helpful tools for doing just that.
Believing it is important, take the time to study God’s Word—study His words in their context and then obey them in your context.