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NIV is used unless otherwise noted.

Festoon me … with bouquets of your truth, O God

Festoon me with your finest sayings, GOD.
Psalm 119:108 (The Message)

The second week of our journey into God’s word, one of our girlfriends received a dozen long-stem red roses for her anniversary. As we ooh’d and aah’d, it struck me just how impressive a bouquet of roses is, compared with a single stem. It is the enormity of it all—the big picture—incidentally the first principle of studying scripture.

The fable of the blind men and the elephant humorously illustrates the need for the big picture. John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) begins his poetic version of the tale this way:
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
As you can imagine, each gets a different impression of the beast. One, touching his side, thinks it a wall; the second, the tusk must be a spear; the third, the trunk a snake; the fourth, the knee a tree; the fifth, the ear a fan; the sixth, the tail a rope.   

Looking for the big picture then, we asked a bunch of questions: who wrote this? to whom? why? what was going on at the time? Exactly what were You trying to say, God?

We learned to read the epistles as the letters they are. Likewise we put the chapters and verses of longer books in context. And then we went all highbrow. Not really, but literary styles affect interpretation. Take hyperbole for example, prevalent in the poetry of the Psalms. And what about apocalyptic language? Awareness of the genre (style)—history, poetry, biography, parables, proverbs, prophecy—sharpens observation.

Much to our surprise, it became evident that the secret to our understanding was in our journaling. However meandering our thoughts might be, time after time the Spirit would grab the underlying truth and make it perfectly clear.

Writing a title is a sure-fire way to prove that you have figured out the theme. More often than not, it will be a phrase in the scripture that sums it all up. In short order our titles became pretty catchy.  

So there we were, each with a big bouquet of truth in our journals. While our words differed, the basics were the same. Festoon us, O God, with Your finest sayings! It is Your truth we are after.

Nancy P

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