Exploring God’s Word Through Saturation Bible Study
By NR JOHNSON
The water was crystal clear and perfectly cool against the blazing Caribbean sun. I had gone down to Barbados with a group to help build a church, and midweek found an afternoon to cool off in the water.
A few of us hopped on a boat and went out to a coral reef. We splashed into the water, fixed our snorkel gear, and put our faces in the ocean. The colors were vibrant. A myriad of coral varieties and countless fish fought for our attention. I had never seen such an incredible sight — even my favorite ocean documentaries couldn’t compare with seeing it in person. It was something you had to experience.
It struck me that it was all possible because I got my face in the water. I could have heard others talk about the beauty of the ocean, watched documentaries on the subject, but it wasn’t until I donned snorkel gear and jumped in that it came alive before my eyes.
The same is true with studying the Bible. People can talk about its depths and beauty, you can hear countless sermons on the subject, but unless you study and experience it for yourself, you are missing the true delight and transformation of the Word.
Imagine yourself on a boat in the middle of the Caribbean. If you look down into the water, you can no doubt see things amidst the clear water depths. But to grab snorkel gear, jump in, and put your face in the water opens up an entirely new world. Yet that doesn’t even compare to putting on an oxygen tank to scuba dive its depths. I’ve been told that when you scuba dive, you see more than any other way — you can go deeper, stay down longer, and experience more.
Now imagine yourself skimming the surface of God’s Word. Yes, it is important to read the Bible, but if that is all you do, it is like being on a boat looking down in the water. Can you see a fish pass by or the occasional marvel? Sure. But if you desire to explore its depths, you need to get your face in the water. You need to study the Bible.
I often encourage Christians that they need two elements in their Bible study system: Bible reading and Bible study. We should have a Bible reading plan established in our lives, but we also need to go deeper, don snorkel or scuba gear, and spend time in the depths.
It’s called “saturation.”
If I took a sponge and plunged it into a bucket of water, the water will soak, saturate, and permeate the sponge. Every crevice of the sponge is full of liquid. Now what if I could do that with God’s Word? What if I was the sponge and plunged myself into the Word of God? What if every crevice of my life was soaked, saturated, and permeated with His Word … His truth?
Wouldn’t that radically change how I thought, talked, and lived? Of course it would.
Our desire as Christians is not to merely know information about the Word, but to be shaped and transformed by it. And in order for that to take place, I must not merely dip my toes but become saturated.
Many of us think that a “chapter a day keeps the devil away” or fifteen minutes of devotions in the morning is sufficient to be a “good Christian.” But what if my entire life was built upon God’s Word? What if my whole day was filled with the truth of God’s Word? Bible study is not something to check off a list, it is to be central to our lives as believers. I’m not saying you replace work, friendships, or any other aspect of life with academic study. Far from it. But what if you allowed God’s Word to affect every moment of your day … to be the undercurrent of your thinking?
We all have time throughout the day where our minds wander and think on something — driving, exercising, chores, waiting in lines, etc. What if we used these little pockets throughout the day and turned our minds to God’s Word? Personally, I do have specific times throughout the week to study the Bible, but some of my best “study time” has been in the shower or mowing the lawn when I used the time I had to ponder God’s Word, think about what it means, and ask the Author Himself for clarity.
Psalm 1:2-3 declares: “[Blessed is the man whose] … delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season; whose leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper.”
Similarly, Joshua 1:8 says, “This Book of the Law must not depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night so that you may act carefully according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way successful, and you will be wise” (MEV).
Day and night? Yep! The Word of God is not to merely be a piece of your life, it is to be central to it.
I encourage you to change your thinking about Bible study from something you do to fulfill some requirement, and instead begin to delight in the Lord as you live in His Word. Saturate your life in its depths — be a sponge plunged into the bucket of Living Water called the Bible. Don’t just read the Bible (although that too is important), but grab some snorkel gear, jump off the boat, and get your face in it.
Put It Into Practice
In this eight-week Bible study guide, I want to walk you through a concept for how you can study any book or passage in Scripture by saturating in it. (Note: It doesn’t always have to be eight weeks.) If you feel bored or think you’re moving too slow, remember, this is not a race and there is no rush — in fact, I’ve always found benefit in extra time to just “saturate” and soak in a passage. So I invite you to dive deep and join me on this exciting journey of saturating in 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. Know I am praying for you and cheering you on into the endless depths of Jesus and His Word.
Before You Start
We are going to saturate in Proverbs 31 — the virtuous woman — for the next eight weeks. By the time the eight weeks are over, I am confident you’ll know this passage unlike ever before. But remember, it is important that you establish a Bible reading plan that continually gives you the global context and flow of all of Scripture even while you use this plan to guide you through a specific passage. If you don’t already have a Bible reading plan, check out a companion article I wrote at deeperChristian.com/biblereading for helps, ideas, and suggestions.
DAY 1) Read Proverbs 31:10-31 twice. Note: Don’t merely read Proverbs 31 and forget about it, rather, ponder the passage throughout the day. Don’t worry about trying to “figure it out” as much as think about it, pray through it, ask God to open the passage to you, and just “chew on it” for the day.
DAY 2) Read Proverbs 31:10-31.
DAY 3) Read Proverbs 31:10-31.
DAY 4) Read all of Proverbs 31. As you read, think about the passage from the perspective of motherly wisdom given to her son, the king (31:1).
DAY 5) Read Proverbs 31:10-31 in a different translation.
DAY 6) Read Proverbs 31:10-31.
DAY 7) Read Proverbs 31. The book of Proverbs was mainly written by King Solomon. Interestingly, Solomon included this final chapter written by King Lemuel (whose name means “belonging to God” and this is the only mention of his name in the Bible). Throughout much of the Proverbs, Solomon uses “Lady Wisdom” to guide his readers unto truth and wisdom. In this final chapter, it is as if “Lady Wisdom” speaks through Lemuel’s mother (31:1-9) and then explains what a marriage to a virtuous woman (“Lady Wisdom”) would look like (31:10-31).
DAY 1) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Write out a “purpose statement” for this passage. (i.e. If you were to summarize this passage in one sentence, what would it be?)
DAY 2) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Create a simple outline of this passage. (i.e. Can you break the passage into sections or themes? What would you call each section?) For example, verses 13-15 focus on industrial pursuits of a household, whereas 16-18 focus on finances, etc.
DAY 3) Read Proverbs 31:10-31.
DAY 4) Read all of Proverbs 31 in a different translation.
DAY 5) Read Proverbs 31:10-31.
DAY 6) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Make a list of the key themes/topics/concepts you see mentioned several times throughout the passage.
DAY 7) Read Proverbs 31. Review your purpose statement and outline from days one and two of this week — tweak and change if necessary.
DAY 1) Read all of Proverbs 31 in a different translation.
DAY 2) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 10.
As you examine a verse each day, consider doing a word study for any keywords in the passage or concepts you don’t understand. Think about the passage throughout the day and consider not only what it means but why it’s important and given in the passage. Allow God (the Author) to give you wisdom and insight as you saturate. Make sure you conclude with asking how you can practically apply the passage in your life. Below is an example for today’s verse:
Word Study: What does “virtuous” mean? (To learn how to do an effective word study using a free online program such as blueletterbible.org, visit deeperChristian.com/wordstudy for a tutorial.)
Think: Why is a virtuous woman’s worth far above rubies? (Also compare with Proverbs 3:15 and 8:11.)
Apply: What can you do today to practically move forward in becoming a virtuous woman?
DAY 3) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 11.
DAY 4) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 12.
Notice the writer says she does her husband good “all the days of her life” — which means she begins to do good even before she is married or knows who her husband is.
DAY 5) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 13.
Verse 13 begins a list of activities that the virtuous woman does. Remember, as you study the list (verses 13-27) that you need to see it in light of the cultural and historical context of when the passage was written. If you desire to be a virtuous woman, it does NOT mean you need to be good with “wool and flax” — you need to discover the concept or principle the verse is talking about.
For example, verses 13-19 presents a picture of a large, wealthy, and honorable household that requires supervision and responsibility. The concept of wool and flax must be seen in light of the time prior to our modern conveniences. Women often had to use every spare moment they had to make clothing, which required them to work hard at spinning thread from the raw materials of animals (wool) and of vegetation (flax). Faithfulness in this work was a mark of feminine virtue and honor. The fact that she “willingly works with her hands” might be better translated “at the pleasure of her hands” — giving the idea that she has a purpose and takes pleasure in the creation of her work. Therefore, a virtuous woman of today doesn’t necessarily make clothing of wool and flax — the concept is better understood that a virtuous woman seeks out and is faithful in her work, takes pleasure and enjoyment in it, and works hard in all she does (regardless of what that work is).
DAY 6) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 14.
A simile is given of a merchant ship. Many scholars suggest that it means that the virtuous woman brings a continual supply of abundance.
DAY 7) Read Proverbs 31. Examine verse 15.
Notice the virtuous woman puts the well-being of her household before her own comfort.
DAY 1) Read all of Proverbs 31. Examine verse 16.
Notice the activities require tremendous physical and mental energy.
DAY 2) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 17.
The picture given is like that of putting on a belt — which when tied gives the entire body strength and stature. The idiom here “to bind the loins” is used throughout Scripture to get ready for “some kind of heroic or difficult action” — such as physical labor, hard running (see 1 Kings 18:46 and 2 Kings 4:29), and escape from Egypt (see Exodus 12:11). As one scholar suggested: “the metaphor points to her [mental] and spiritual motivation and preparation that equips her powerful body. Thus girded mentally and spiritually, she strengthens her arms, signifying that she both resolves to make her arm strong and that she has the strength and endurance to complete the task to which she commits herself after prudent evaluation.”
DAY 3) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 18.
DAY 4) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 19.
This verse focuses on the domestic activity of spinning. The “distaff” is the straight rod; the “spindle” is the round or circular part. She “stretches out” her hands conveying the concept of doing the work to provide clothing.
DAY 5) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 20.
DAY 6) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 21.
Note: The word “scarlet” not only conveys the idea of “riches” (scarlet thread was very expensive) but in context, it can also be read as “two cloaks.” In either case, the concept is that she provides “the highest quality” or that which is needed for her family to stay warm and be cared for.
DAY 7) Read Proverbs 31. Examine verse 22.
Notice she is a woman of elegance. It is important to note that dressing well and decorating her home is not regarded as frivolous.
DAY 1) Read all of Proverbs 31. Examine verse 23.
We will examine this verse more in week eight, but note that a man who is married to a virtuous woman is respected by his peers. The gates of a city were usually the place of business and judicial responsibilities. The verse gives the connotation that her husband is a leader.
DAY 2) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 24.
DAY 3) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 25.
DAY 4) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 26.
DAY 5) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 27.
DAY 6) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 28.
Notice the shift in the passage from a list of activities the virtuous woman does to the recognition and summary of her life.
DAY 7) Read Proverbs 31. Examine verse 29.
DAY 1) Read all of Proverbs 31. Examine verse 30.
DAY 2) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Examine verse 31.
DAY 3) Read Proverbs 31:10-31 slowly. Ponder the passage in light of your saturation thus far.
DAY 4) Read Proverbs 31 in a different translation.
DAY 5) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Go back and review your purpose statement and outline from week two based on the verse-by-verse study you did — tweak and change if necessary.
DAY 6) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Spend time in prayer asking God to build you into a virtuous woman.
DAY 7) Read Proverbs 31 twice.
DAY 1) Read Proverbs 1-4. This week we are going to read all of Proverbs. Take note of any passages, concepts, or similarities between what you read and our virtuous woman passage in Proverbs 31. I encourage you to keep a list or add to your studies from the past six weeks with additional thoughts and comments from the book of Proverbs.
DAY 2) Read Proverbs 5-9.
DAY 3) Read Proverbs 10-13.
DAY 4) Read Proverbs 14-18.
DAY 5) Read Proverbs 19-22.
DAY 6) Read Proverbs 23-27.
DAY 7) Read Proverbs 28-31.
DAY 1) Read Proverbs 31:10-31. Review your purpose statement and outline from week two — tweak and change if necessary.
DAY 2) Read Proverbs 31:10-31 in a different translation.
DAY 3) Read Proverbs 31:10-31.
Step back and look at the passage as a whole. This “poem” is masterfully crafted — it is both an acrostic (each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet) and it has a chiastic structure. A chiastic structure gives a series of statements, then gives a parallel statement in reverse order (see A then A* below). The emphasis of such a structure is the pinnacle point upon which everything revolves around — in this case, the public respect for the husband (see “H” below). Though many scholars have suggested that verse 23 is an intrusion into the passage (since all the other verses focus on the wife), the real emphasis and central message of the passage in light of the context (a mother given wisdom to her son the king, see v.1) is that a virtuous woman is the kind of wife a man (especially a king, or in our case a spiritual leader) needs in order to be successful in life.
A: High value of a good wife (v. 10)
B: Husband benefited by wife (vs. 11–12)
C: Wife works hard (vs. 13–19)
D: Wife gives to poor (v. 20)
E: No fear of snow (v. 21a)
F: Children clothed in scarlet (v. 21b)
G: Coverings for bed, wife wears linen (v. 22)
H: Public respect for husband (v. 23)
G*: Sells garments and sashes (v. 24)
F*: Wife clothed in dignity (v. 25a)
E*: No fear of future (v. 25b)
D*: Wife speaks wisdom (v. 26)
C*: Wife works hard (v. 27)
B*: Husband and children praise wife (vs. 28–29)
A*: High value of a good wife (vs. 30–31)
DAY 4) Read Proverbs 31:10-31.
Using your studies from the past weeks, compile a list of the traits, attributes, actions, and characteristics of a virtuous woman, as described in Proverbs 31.
DAY 5) Read Proverbs 31:10-31.
Use the list you made yesterday and write a “letter” to yourself of what a godly, virtuous woman is and your desire to be such a woman. Be creative. (Rather a letter, you could write a song, a poem, or a prayer. Perhaps you could artistically describe a virtuous woman visually.)
DAY 6) Read Proverbs 31:10-31.
Spend time with Jesus today and reflect afresh on Proverbs 31. Spend time in worship, praise, and thanksgiving to Him for the progress already made in being shaped as a virtuous woman. Press in and pray that He would continue this sanctifying work the rest of your life and thank Him in advance for doing so. Remember, He is desirous and faithful to continuing transforming you into a virtuous woman of God.
DAY 7) Read Proverbs 31.
Preferably several times in a few different translations. Bonus: Try to quote the passage without looking. You might be surprised at how much you have memorized without “trying” — and if you find yourself struggling, consider taking another week to memorize Proverbs 31:10-31.