Evening news weather forecasts have changed a lot over the years. In my youth, the weatherman told me whether it might rain and the high and low temperature. More recently, however, weather forecasters educate viewers on how they arrive at a given forecast. Many viewers find this highly interesting and pay close attention. My wife, nephew, and brother-in-law, as arm-chair meteorologists, have all learned enough that they first analyze the raw data and satellite radar before reading the actual forecast.
For me, I just want the forecast. When I ask Angie if it is supposed to rain, she’ll take a few minutes to analyze the data. She’ll say, “Well…there’s nothing on the radar, but oh…the forecast says we’ll have rain this afternoon.” And then she tries to figure out why the professional meteorologists forecast rain. In the process, I get a little impatient and tell her, “Just tell me the bottom line: what’s the forecast.”
As important as weather forecasting is, it is not nearly as important studying the Bible. Bible students should learn how to read the Bible for themselves, much like people learn how to forecast weather. While we might well depend entirely on expert meteorologists for the forecast, we should not rely entirely on the expert Bible teacher or preacher. We should all be personally committed to acquiring the skills for reading the Bible for all its worth.
While it is true that a person can get the gist of the Bible without any specialized knowledge at all, Bible students miss a lot if they never bother to acquire specialized Bible study skills. The more reading skills a person acquires, the more the person gets out of the Bible. Many a bad interpretation of a given text arises simply because the reader doesn’t know the cultural context, or the author’s rhetorical devices, or how to see interpretive clues in the words of the biblical text. Impoverished are those who rely solely on the pastor or teacher to interpret the Bible for them.
For this reason, your pastor deems it wise and appropriate to teach principles and skills of biblical interpretation. Some might prefer the pastor to skip those kinds of lessons, especially those lessons that require more critical thinking and patience. We are not, however, dealing with something inconsequential such as weather forecasting; we are dealing with God’s Word, and this calls for special effort in learning how to get the most out of our Bible reading.