When Preparing Spiritual Meals, Make Sure You Have the Essential Utensils
Remember that time you got ticked off trying to find your favorite spice to make the party chili? Or when you racked your brain to recall where you last shelved that favorite casserole recipe? Everyone knows that without all the just right ingredients and trusted utensils, the meal served up will lack not only in flavor, but also in nutritional value.
The same is true in Bible study. Who doesn’t remember the time you searched diligently for that perfect verse in the Bible and couldn’t find it? That was almost as bad as the day you decided to read a couple of chapters and got hung up on “Nazirite” . . . or scratched your head over “cubit.”
These are like hardened, glazed coverings that suddenly obscure our understanding of God’s truth. The ladle and spoon of good intentions simply will not provide the right mix and the most satisfying results. Better utensils than that are needed, believe me!
Listen, you don’t have to be a master chef to prepare a scrumptious spiritual meal from God’s Word . . . but you do need the right cooking utensils. These resources are basic to providing nourishing Bible studies. They will enable you to find most of the answers you need, and they are as easy to use as your favorite whisk! There are at least four you should have on hand.
A Bible Concordance
It contains an alphabetical index of all the terms found in the Bible, and it comes in handy when you want to put your finger on a particular verse but can only remember a few words in it. It’s also invaluable if you want a complete list of all the verses using the same word.
The best concordances available are Robert Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible and James Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. I must also add W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words for you who are serious students, wanting to learn the shades of meaning and theological implications of different New Testament terms.
A Bible Dictionary
It is more than a list of words and definitions. It’s like a one-volume encyclopedia, containing vital information on people, places, doctrines, customs, and cultural matters. I recommend either The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (well illustrated, scholarly but readable) or the New Bible Dictionary (contains longer articles on technical subjects).
A Bible Atlas
The most popular is Baker’s Bible Atlas. Another reliable one is The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, Revised Edition. If you can’t afford an atlas, at least purchase a good set of biblical maps. Also, you will want to have a copy of The Swindoll Study Bible, which also includes a four-color set of Bible maps, a concordance, Bible reading plans, and many other study helps at your fingertips.
A Bible Commentary
This is a single-volume book that offers comments and insights on every chapter in the Word of God. Hands down, my favorite is The Wycliffe Bible Commentary edited by Pfeiffer and Harrison. It is reliable and well arranged.
Don’t delay now. Get those essential utensils you need soon . . . and don’t let them get squirreled away in the back shelf of the pantry!
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs (Carol Springs, IL: Tyndale House, 2016), 59–61.