If you had only known what these words mean…Matthew 12:7
When you open God’s Word, the first thing you will notice is that the pages are full of words. It is not just full of stories and history, but actual words. We point this out not as a surprise, but to emphasize that the Word is composed of words for a reason.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.John 1:1-2
The words of the Bible give us additional pathways to explore. In most translations, scholars have poured over the “best” English rendering for each unit of language expressed in the original texts of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Further back in history, each writer–of every book of the Bible–was moved by the Holy Spirit to select with care each stroke that was written on the scrolls that house the ancient script. God’s Presence has been with His Word every step of the way, from then through now.
Unfolding God’s Word is truly a practice in humility. To think we can look at Scripture and believe we understand its full scope with no further consideration of the words used is a profound display of arrogance. Moreover, when we are unwilling to search out those meanings to comprehend them better, we are exhibiting an unwillingness to know Him better.
While most words have an easily recognizable definition that lies on its surface, that customary use is often limited in scope to what the word may typically mean. When you open the dictionary and unfold a word’s depth, you will find that most have additional meanings that may help you to see the entire Scripture verse in a new light.
The unfolding of Your words brings light; it gives understanding to the simple.Psalm 119:130
Digging deeper into God’s words takes us from being simple, cursory and superficial about His Word to building a greater understanding of it. In some dictionaries, you will also find notations for how a word developed, what words it originated from, as well as prior usages in different stages of history. With that expansion of meanings and history, you can gain a more thorough comprehension for how God’s truth applies to your life.
Think of unfolding the definitions of His Words as a way to shed more light on the Scripture, its meaning and potential application in your life and the lives of others. As you unfold the words, your awareness grows for how God’s wisdom can change our lives, especially when we truly perceive the meanings of the words that make up His Scripture.
There are all sorts of dictionaries that can be used, borrowed and employed to dig into the meanings behind God’s Word. It is the essential best friend of the Bible, and a trusted companion on your walk with God. Finding a good one is highly recommended.
Do not be afraid to explore multiple dictionaries as they often contain variations and verbiage different from one another. Definitions may be very similar, and yet, vary just enough to speak to directly to a specific concern or heart attitude. In a group discussion, the sharing of definitions can often aid and grow understanding as well as awe for how God’s words can shine perfectly into each life through the unique variations of definitions.
Finding the definition of a word does not necessarily end the search still to be had in unfolding God’s Word. After you read through a word’s definition, and before you think “This doesn’t apply to me”, do a search of the word’s synonyms. It is easy enough to do with a well-equipped Dictionary, Thesaurus, Google or a dictionary app on your phone.
Taking this additional step will continue to expand the scope of the light being shed through Scripture, as you may discover a sister-word that does speak to you. From there, you should find greater ease in applying that scriptural truth to your life. The understanding gap will be removed from the clarity of the word’s synonyms.
Searching for the antonyms of a word can result in powerful movements in application of God’s truth to your life. Synonyms are words that are similar to each other. You might easily acknowledge or dismiss their existence in your life, but with antonyms, you may come to see things more clearly. Searching for them will bring clarity by presenting the opposite of what you should or should not be doing, saying, embracing, allowing, etc… You will see both sides of the coin.
Antonyms are generally expressed in a list format. A series of words highlighting what else you need to be aware of. Taking a simple example, God encourages us to speak in truth. The opposites of “truth”, which we really do need to be aware of, would be: falsehood, dishonesty, disloyalty, inaccuracy, lie, invention, misrepresentation, untruth, apathy, etc. “Lie” is the easily recognizable opposite of “truth”, but maintaining the truth will much become easier when you realize what else it is not: disloyalty, invention, misrepresentation, apathy, and so on.
How many words do you look up in a Scripture verse?
There are a LOT of words in the average Bible! It might feel overwhelming to think of looking up definitions of all of His words. The search lies not in looking up every word, but finding the key words to explore. The best suggestion is to practice. And then, practice some more.
As you read over a particular chapter, book or verse, watch for words that stick out to you or catch your attention. Write those down. It may be one, two or a small list. Scan over it again, looking for the main topic being discussed. If that was not in your list, add it. Pause and look at any references and notes. If something specific stands out, then consider adding those words in.
Then begin. If the definition of the word you are looking up resonates with you, consider exploring the synonyms. In the beginning of unfolding words, routinely search out the antonyms. As you continue to gain experience, you will begin to discern when to stop at the dictionary and when to go further with synonyms and antonyms. And as you do these things, reflect on the Scripture the word was contained in. Bring it back to your thoughts as you work on the relevant words. Make notations for what seems significant and dig deeper into those things.
Remember in some verses, you may have a very short list of words, and in others, the list may be longer. The goal is to unfold one or two, if for nothing else, to gain the practice of training your heart and mind to dig deeper into the verbiage of the Scripture you are reading. As you do so, you will find more of God’s light being shed into your life.
Nowadays, there are all sorts of resources to help you understand words better. We have created a resource page to assist your search of God’s Words. It provides links, suggestions and information as you begin your quest to unfold His words.
Session Two’s Assignment
- Explore Helpful Lexicon page
- Review Matthew 12:1-8
- Create a list of words to look up, and then write down definitions.
- Choose two words to expand through determining synonyms and antonyms.
- Session Three will be released next week.