I’m preparing for a study titled, “Children’s Bible Stories.” I want to dig into the story of Noah and the flood, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Creation, Cain and Able, Jonah, and so on and so forth. I want to teach the full breadth of the truth of those passages as I feel they have been neglected to a great deal in Sunday School classes. And it will be fun.
There are some challenges, however, in studying these passages. This challenge can be avoided by looking at our reading and study methods.
The number one reason people don’t read the Bible is that they ‘say’ they don’t understand it. When you really get down to it though, people do understand the words they are reading. They just don’t understand what to do about it. This is a challenge for adults as well as teens. I think that’s probably why people tend to stick to the New Testament. Much of Jesus’ teachings can be directly applied. Similarly, we have heard preaching on so much of Paul’s teachings that we understand implications of the text without having to think critically about it.
As we turn to pulpit or teaching ministry the challenge gets greater. No longer can we ride on the coat tails of the great preachers and commentators, but we need to study the scriptures and think critically about them for ourselves. I believe it is through this process that the Holy Spirit will enlighten us—not to a new meaning of the text—but to the application of the text needed for our audience, youth.
Most people study the Bible like this, looking for parallels between the culture of the text and the culture we want to apply it in. We try to place ourselves into the scripture’s context by drawing on similarities and differences in the cultures. There are two major problems with this approach.
First, we simply are not the original hearers of the Words and we were not the original audience. They lived in a time and place that was distinctly different in nearly every way. It is logically irresponsible to directly apply the scriptures in this way. As you explore this further, you will see that many scriptures do apply this way such as the command “Do not murder” (Exodus 20.13), but we will be enlightened to a deeper meaning of many other scriptures.
Second, there are disconnects as demonstrated by the red line. What do you do with, “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk” (Deuteronomy 14.21)? We can try to spiritualize it, allegorize it or we can ignore it all together. But, any of those would be somewhat irresponsible. We can go to commentaries. If you did, you will find out that this was a pagan fertility ritual, but I’m not sure that knowledge makes it applicable even though it’s interesting. Let’s look at a better way to handle this.
When you study God’s word, try to look at it through God’s eyes. Specifically, we are trying to find a universal theological truth (or anthropological or sociological). I call this a UTT. This is a single truth about God, man or relationships that is present in the text.
You take the UTT and you apply it in your own culture. The whole process looks like this:
Why didn’t God want the Israelites to cook a goat in its mother’s milk?
Our research will show us that He didn’t want the Israelites identifying with the false God’s of the pagan rites.
Thinking critically: it demonstrated faith in their own practices instead of God’s provision (works not faith).
So what’s the UTT?
God’s people should rely fully on Him for all things and not on the work of their hands.
How does this apply in the cultural context?
For teens, I like to challenge them to think about college. Many of them will be ready to go to college. Others want to go into the work force. Almost never have they thought about what God would have them to do. Certainly they are not considering explicitly sinful careers, but they tend to be focused on either the paycheck or what they would find pleasure in. Very few are focused on God’s will.
As I get back to my ventures in the OT Sunday School stories, I’ll need to be certain to look for the UTT. As I look at how to apply the story of creation, I’m reminded that God desires communion and fellowship with man. How do I know that? He walked and talked with them in the garden. Before sin occurred, that was what God and man did together. How will I apply that with teens? By asking, ‘Are you walking and talking—having communion and fellowship—with God?’
I know that we all have different practices regarding our preparation and I don’t intend to change any firm convictions with this model, but I do pray that as you study God’s word, that He will enlighten you to His view (UTT) so that you will experience the full truth in your life and apply that truth in the lives of the teens you serve. May God bless you in all you do as you pursue the truth in God’s word.