Sweeter Than Honey: Part One

Sweeter Than Honey: Part One

A Guided Bible Study

by NR Johnson | April 30, 2018

I grew up in church. Week after week I heard how important the Bible was to the Christian life, the problem was no one taught me how to study it. 

During my teen years, I read it through a few times, hoping that would suffice. I asked people around me how they studied, but it was little more than reading. I read a couple books on the topic, but my study of Scripture quickly became a duty; an obligation to prove my spirituality.

I didn’t delight in God’s Word. I didn’t have an increasing love for Christ as I spent time in the Bible. I mainly wanted to check it off my to-do list. I did it because I was supposed to.

Can you relate?

At age 22, I found myself traveling with an itinerant evangelist for the summer. During the first week, he sat me down and told me something that caused a dramatic shift in my engagement with God’s Word — something that has never allowed me to be the same since. He simply said, “Reading and studying the Bible shouldn’t be for academics, but for intimacy.”

Up to that point, I had come to the Bible for many reasons: for devotions, leisure reading, to prove someone wrong, for homework, and to academically know what it means. But in the end, I had missed the true purpose of Bible reading and study.

The Purpose of Bible Study

The main purpose for getting into the Word of God is to know Jesus.

It was a subtle shift, but moving beyond academics into intimacy caused a hunger and passion for God’s Word in my life. That summer, the Bible opened up and I discovered treasure after treasure — because I was seeking to grow my relationship with the Person, Jesus Christ.

For more than the dozen years since that summer, I have found, like King David, that God’s Word is “desired [more] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10 KJV). It has become pure-sweet delight, and I wouldn’t trade anything for the relationship I have with Jesus because of my time spent in His Word.

The reason I now dive into the pages of Scripture (both the Old and New Testaments) is to know a Person. I don’t merely want to know information about Him, I want to actually know Him.

In John 17:3, Jesus declares: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” According to Jesus, eternal life is knowing God. 

Interestingly, the word used for “know” in this passage is the Greek word “ginosko.” Ginosko conveys the idea of knowing something through relationship, experience, or intimacy. This isn’t about knowing facts and information about God (though those are important), this is actually having intimacy and knowing God through relationship.

When I study God’s Word, my desire isn’t academics but intimacy. Academics aren’t bad. Knowing the stories, learning facts, and understanding what it says are all beneficial — but that’s not why I study. I study so I get wrapped up in greater relationship with Jesus. Just as you would spend time with a best friend to deepen the friendship, I too want to spend time in His Word to grow in intimacy and gain His heart, mind, and life.

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The Benefits of Bible Study

For the past decade, I have taught thousands of others how to study the Bible — not for the sake of academics but to cultivate greater intimacy with Jesus Christ and to be transformed by the Word as they build their lives around Him.

I’ve often told people that their involvement in the Bible tells me a lot about the health of their spiritual life. If you haphazardly read, study, and memorize God’s Word, it often correlates to lackluster living and unfruitful spiritual lives. However, when you intentionally spend time in the Word, it deepens your intimacy with Jesus Christ, enabling you to have His heart, mind, attitude, and character, and it also gives you these ten added benefits to your Christian life:

  • Growth and maturity (See 1 Peter 2:2-3 and Hebrews 5:11-14.)
  • Spiritual effectiveness (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17.)
  • Guidance and wisdom (See Psalm 119:105 and Joshua 1:8.)
  • Trains us in righteousness and purity (See Psalm 119:9,11.)
  • Delight and joy (See Psalm 119:15-16, Psalm 16:8-11, Psalm 19:10, and John 15:11.)
  • Assurance of salvation (See 1 John 5:13.)
  • Sanctification and cleansing (See John 15:3 and John 17:17.)
  •  Peace (See John 16:33.)
  •  Helps us in prayer (See John 15:7.)
  •  Victory and success (See 1 John 2:14 and Joshua 1:8.)

You need to be in the Word.

If all your spiritual nourishment comes from attending classes, listening to sermons, and reading devotionals (while they all can be good), it is not more than mere milk or regurgitated food from someone else. There is no substitute for you being in the Word; everything else is secondhand.

Put it Into practice

There are three critical elements to good Bible study, one of which I already gave you: the purpose — to know Jesus. Remember whether you read or study the Bible, I encourage you to move beyond academics into intimacy. The reason we should get into God’s Word is to know the Author Himself.

In upcoming issues of the magazine, we will walk through the other two elements of good Bible study and give you practical tools to enrich and deepen your study. In this issue, I want you to take an initial step into the exciting adventure of knowing Jesus through His Word.

If you find yourself like me when I first started, you may have a desire for Bible study but be unsure of where to begin. In this eight-week Bible study guide, I want to give you a simple framework that you can begin to use to study. Every day over the next eight weeks I want you to read Psalm 1. Don’t allow this to become a boring routine — daily ask the Author to give you a burning heart’s desire for Him through this Psalm. 

Each week I will provide a focus for you to think upon and questions to help you dive a bit deeper into the passage. It’s up to you if you want to take a question a day or tackle them all at once. I’ve also written a short summary that you can use to explore the passage even more.

I invite you to join me on this exciting journey of diving into God’s Word to know Him more. Though this guide may appear simple, it has the potential to radically change your life as you seek to grow in intimacy with Christ through His Word. 

My prayer is that you’ll soon find God’s Word as honey upon your lips or as a burning passion in your heart as the men on the road to Emmaus did. (See Luke 24:32.) Know I am praying for you and cheering you on into the endless depths of Jesus and His Word.

Ready to Get Started? 

WEEK ONE: OVERVIEW 

  • Read Psalm 1 each day.
  • Focus on the overall message & emphasis of the Psalm.
  • Key prayer: Ask God (the author) to prepare your heart and give you insight into His Word.

Questions to ask & thoughts for study:

  • Make a list of the defining characteristics of the godly and the ungodly given in the Psalm.
  • If this is a "Psalm of wisdom," summarize the main point that the psalmist is conveying. What is the key wisdom or truth nugget for Psalm 1?
  • How does this Psalm apply to your life as a whole?  Write down some thoughts on how and why the Psalm is important for your specific situation, circumstances, trials, temptations, decisions that need to be made, etc.

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WEEK TWO: PSALM 1:1

  • Read Psalm 1 each day
  • Focus Specifically on Psalm 1:1

Questions to ask & thoughts for study:

  • What does it mean for someone to be "blessed"?
  • What are examples of the "counsel of the ungodly"?
  • What does it mean to "stand in the path of sinners" and "sit in the seat of the scornful"?
  • What significant do the verbs have in relationship to the ungodly (i.e. walks, stands, sits)?

The psalmist describes the blessed man (one who is privileged, happy, or fortunate — the Greek equivalent is used by Jesus in the Beatitudes) as one who does not walk, stand, or sit in the ways of the ungodly, sinners, or scoffers. The “blessed man” is equivalent to a Christian — one who does not live according to the world. Paul, in Ephesians, uses these same actions (walk, stand, and sit) as a description of how a godly man or woman lives — in Christ Jesus. Referring to those who live in opposition to God, the psalmist begins with the generic description “ungodly” and increases in a progression of intensity — the last (scoffer) being one who scorns and mocks the righteous. Again, notice the actions mentioned as one who moves (walks), comes to a rest (stand), and then remains unmoved in a behavior (sits). The conclusion is that the righteous or godly (i.e. a Christian) is blessed because they do not live according to the world. (See Galatians 1:4 and Ephesians 2:1-7.)

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WEEK THREE: PSALM 1:2

  • Read Psalm 1 each day
  • Focus Specifically on Psalm 1:2

Questions to ask & thoughts for study:

  • What does it mean to delight in something? Give an example.
  • Read Psalm 119 and make a list of parallel ideas to Psalm 1.  Looking at the context, does the "law of the Lord" mean the actual "Law" (the commands God gave to Moses) or does it refer to the Bible as a whole?
  • What does it mean to biblically meditate "day and night" on something? Where else does this phrase and idea show up in the Psalms?
  • Contrast the two actions (verbs) in this verse speaking of the godly person (delight, meditate) to those in verse one about the ungodly (walk, stand, sit).

The state of blessedness (v.1) is found in what a person does, not in what they abstain from. A Christian refuses to walk after the pattern of the world because they choose to live according to a better way — the “law of the Lord.” Godly living is not a burden, chore, or obligation, rather it is a delight within the life of a believer. Biblical meditation is not “emptying the mind” as the New Age movement suggests — it is filling your mind with truth (the “Law”); and as a cow chews the cud, so too a Christian ponders, dwells, and meditates upon God’s Word, continually bringing it back to mind. The Hebrew word for “Law” can refer specifically to the Mosaic Law or more generally to the instruction of God (all of Scripture) — it appears in context that the psalmist is declaring that the delight is in “all of Scripture” and not one segment of it. In short, a Christian does not walk according to the world but instead finds delight and joy by living according to God’s Word and actively keeping it upon their mind at all times.

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WEEK FOUR: PSALM 1:3

  • Read Psalm 1 each day
  • Focus Specifically on Psalm 1:3

Questions to ask & thoughts for study:

  • Read Psalm 92:12-14 and Jeremiah 17:7-8, and compare these passages with Psalm 1:3.
  • Read John 15:1-9 and Galatians 5:19-25, and compare these passages with Psalm 1:3.
  • Describe the attributes and benefits of a healthy tree planted by a river. How does this relate to the life of a Christian?

The godly (“the blessed”) is likened to a tree — a metaphor in the Wisdom Literature for wisdom itself and a familiar metaphor for the blessed life of the godly. This stable, nourished, and fruitful tree is planted by rivers of water. In the desert-like geography of Israel, a tree planted by water is never concerned with drought or difficulty for it has the life-giving resource continually available. As with any healthy tree, it naturally produces fruit in season (do note the Hebrew word for “season” can also mean “always” or “without ever failing”). In doing what a tree was created to do (bear fruit), this tree is prosperous (much fruit) and finds its leaves not withering — an indication that the tree is alive, strong, and healthy (as withered leaves are a sign of dying or death). Similarly, a Christian, planted and abiding in the Word of the Lord, is alive, strong, healthy, and enabled to do what any Christian naturally will do in Christ: bear much fruit. (See John 15:4-5 and Galatians 5:22-23.)

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WEEK FIVE: PSALM 1:4

  • Read Psalm 1 each day
  • Focus Specifically on Psalm 1:4

Questions to ask & thoughts for study:

  • This isn't the only place in Scripture where chaff is mentioned.  Read the following passages and see if there is any correlation to our passage: Psalm 35:5, Isaiah 17:13; 29:5, Hosea 13:3, Zephaniah 2:2, and Matthew 3:12.
  • The psalmist is giving a strong contrast between the godly and ungodly. One is a tree by the river, the other chaff.  Compare and contrast these two metaphors.
  • From what the psalmist reveals about the righteous person, make a list of the opposite characteristics of the ungodly.

In contrast to the godly, pictured as a tree planted next to endless nourishment, the ungodly are compared to chaff — the husks and stalks of wheat that are blown away by the wind as the grain is winnowed. The insignificance of the chaff reveals the uselessness of the ungodly and the ease by which God will deal with them. Even the brief description (v.4) stands in contrast to the longer portrayal of the righteous (v.3). The opening statement of verse four is in the negative, giving a strong antithesis to verse three — “Not so with the wicked!” Thus, the ungodly are not in relationship with God, they do not take delight in His Word or His ways, they are not firmly planted, nor do they flourish or bear fruit; instead, the ungodly are insignificantly swept away by the passing breeze.

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WEEK SIX: PSALM 1:5
  • Read Psalm 1 each day
  • Focus Specifically on Psalm 1:5

Questions to ask & thoughts for study:

  • The first word in the English is "therefore" — this conjunction forces you to go back and review what came before it to show a relationship with what comes after it. Do a quick review of verse four and examine the consequence the psalmist gives in verse 5 for the ungodly.
  • Notice the verb "stand" again used for the ungodly. How does the word "stand" in verse one (something the ungodly does) compare and differ from that in verse five (something they don't do)?
  • Read Matthew 13:24-30 and 25:31-46, and compare these passages to our verse.

The conjunction “therefore” can be understood as “and so” or “for this reason” or “on account of this” — verse five thus showing the consequence of the ungodly mentioned in verse four. Using a common word for judgment, the psalmist declares that the ungodly are unable to stand in the judgment. “Stand” here can be interpreted to mean not able to actually “stand up” during the judgment or that their lives will not withstand scrutiny and therefore will be condemned. Regardless, the emphasis is the fact that the ungodly (named “sinners” in the second half of the verse) are guilty and are not a part of God’s people — the ungodly will be separated from the righteous (godly) like the wheat and tares (Matthew 13) or sheep and goats (Matthew 25) at the judgment. It appears that the tone of the psalmist is not harsh and condemning but more like an blunt-speaking evangelist, beckoning and desiring his readers to repent and walk in the way of the godly.

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WEEK SEVEN: PSALM 1:6

  • Read Psalm 1 each day
  • Focus Specifically on Psalm 1:6

Questions to ask & thoughts for study:

  • The Hebrew word for "know" is the Hebrew equivalent for the Greek word "ginosko" (mentioned in the beginning of this article). This is not merely about knowing facts and information about someone, but intimately knowing and having relationship with them. How does this understanding give depth to the passage?
  • This Hebrew word for "know" (yada) can also give the emphasis of guidance and protection. How does God's guidance and protection play into the life of the righteous?  How does God know the way of the righteous? For help, see: Psalm 18:1-3; 31:7-8; 37:18; 139:23-24; 144:3, and John 16:13.
  • The term "the way" is used twice in this verse. Though it can refer to a road or journey, it can also be translated as a course of conduct (lifestyle).  Contrast the differences between the righteous and ungodly in their lifestyle and their life's outcome.

The ways of the righteous and ungodly are contrasted — one leads to destruction and death (see Psalm 68:2; 73:27; 92:9, and Proverbs 14:12) but the way of the righteous is safe, secure, and leads to life (see Matthew 7:23, John 5:24; 6:47-54; 10:9-28; 14:6; 17:3, Romans 6:23, and 1 John 3:14). As an expression of His love, God intimately guides, protects, and has relationship with the righteous. This intimate knowing and empowerment of God is earlier compared to a tree planted by water (v.3) and can be understood as the empowering life-giving sap of a vine into a branch (see John 15). In contrast, the only outcome for the ungodly is judgment, destruction, and death — chaff blown into the wind. Note that “the way” refers to the whole manner of life including what directs it and what is produced from it.

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WEEK EIGHT: APPLYING PSALM 1 TO YOUR LIFE

  • Read Psalm 1 each day
  • Focus Specifically on Psalm 1 as a whole

Questions to ask & thoughts for study:

  • Review the previous weeks of study.  Write a summary statement of the entire Psalm in one sentence.
  • Go back to your study from week one.  What additional characteristics and insights would you include to describe the godly and ungodly?  How are the godly characteristics demonstrated in the life of a Christian?  Is your life marked by such behavior?
  • Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal any areas in your life that are marked by ungodly behavior.  Turn from them, repent, and allow Him to empower you for Christlike living.
  • What significance is there to begin the Psalm with the word "blessed" and end with "perish"?  How is everything in the Psalm summarized by those two words?

Application is an important part of Bible study. Too often we learn a new tidbit, close our Bibles, and consider ourselves done. But unless we take the truth of God’s Word and allow the Spirit to reveal how it applies in our lives, we’ve kept truth in the realm of academics. In order to be changed and transformed, we must allow the Word to convict, encourage, transform, and press us into Jesus. We must allow it to be a double-edged sword that will pierce our lives. (See Hebrews 4:12.)  As I study Scripture, especially as I come to the end of a passage, I am always confronted by truth and must make a decision: Do I turn to Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to transform me, or will I run from what He desires to do in and through me? I encourage you to spend a few minutes in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to take the truth of Psalm 1 and apply it in your life and for Him to empower you to walk in response and obedience to it.

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NRJohnson is a writer, teacher, and communicator who helps Christians build their lives around Jesus Christ. His passion is for believers to gain greater intimacy with Jesus, understand God’s Word, experience the victorious Christian life, and transform the world through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is an avid fan of Set Apart Girl Magazine and proudly showcases them on his living room coffee table. Connect with his ministry and learn more about how to study the Bible at: deeperChristian.com/Bible.