How to Progress in a Bible Study

How to Progress in a Bible Study

After you find a place to begin a study, how do you progress? Where do you go from there? That has to be a question to ask and pray about. Lucky for us, the Bible is arranged in such a way that the Bible itself leads you from one story to another in an order that makes perfect sense and puts the entire subject in the proper perspective.

Long ago, theologians knew the Bible had related stories. Stories, when studied together, shed more light on the subject than ever imagined. So groups got together, prayed about everything in the Bible, and came up with that we refer to as chain references.

There are different chain references. Modern chain references tend to stick to doctrine to determine how to guide readers through the Bible. Older chain references held true to the poetic forms the Bible was written in.

If you have the chance to read books written between the 6th and 17th century you will see how most studies were based on related stories in the Bible. That is the way people studied and that remained true to the methods Paul taught in his letters. Later on new study methods were introduced. Studies designed to prove doctrine that ignored the poetry on the Bible and the spiritual concept that formed the Bible.

So how do we get back to tested and proven study methods? How do we locate those related stories and allow scripture to lead us through a study. In most cases, looking at a chain reference is a great tool. In this case, the story in Isiah chapter 37 leads us directly to Isiah chapter 10.

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What sorrow awaits the unjust judges and those who issue unfair laws. They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans. What will you do when I punish you, when I send disaster upon you from a distant land? To whom will you turn for help? Where will your treasures be safe? You will stumble along as prisoners or lie among the dead. But even then the LORD’s anger will not be satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike. “What sorrow awaits Assyria, the rod of my anger. I use it as a club to express my anger. I am sending Assyria against a godless nation, against a people with whom I am angry. Assyria will plunder them, trampling them like dirt beneath its feet. But the king of Assyria will not understand that he is my tool; his mind does not work that way. His plan is simply to destroy, to cut down nation after nation. (Isa 10:1-7 NLTse).

What we find is that the story in Isiah chapter 37 is the recorded fulfillment of a prophecy Isiah recorded years earlier that we find in chapter 10. It is rather unusual to find one author record both a prophecy and the fulfillment of that prophecy. But here it is.

What we are looking at is known as parallel stories. You may have never heard of parallel stories. It was a common study method from about the 6th century up until about 70 years ago. We may be the first generation who has lost the ability to use parallel stories to study the Bible. Which is more important now than it ever before.

For one thing, what if the worst case scenario rears its ugly head? Based on tensions today, we know the Bible is in their cross hairs. We know the left wants to outlaw the Bible. How are we going to defend the Bible in court without parallel stories? It is impossible to prove the Bible is divinely written without presenting parallel stories, where the Bible explains itself.

I’ve written a series of books on what I termed parallel chapters in the Bible, based on the fact that most stories are found in a single chapter, and we need to look and compare the structure of the chapter when we study the prophecy and it’s fulfillment. There are certain rules that need to be followed. Yes, God did follow rules when He had every book in the Bible written. Each book follows the same patterns and rules. We begin by comparing the introduction, the first few verses in the chapters.

What sorrow awaits the unjust judges and those who issue unfair laws. They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans. What will you do when I punish you, when I send disaster upon you from a distant land? To whom will you turn for help? Where will your treasures be safe? (Isa 10:1-3 NLTse).

When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes and put on burlap and went into the Temple of the LORD. And he sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the court secretary, and the leading priests, all dressed in burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, “This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby. But perhaps the LORD your God has heard the Assyrian chief of staff, sent by the king to defy the living God, and will punish him for his words. Oh, pray for those of us who are left!” (Isa 37:1-4 NLTse).

It is unclear if Isiah is warning Israel or Assyria at the very beginning of chapter 10. We have to consider the fact that both nations were operating under shades of gray. They both needed warnings. If there is one thing we know about God, it’s that everything He does accomplishes more than we could imagine.

Once we see connections in the introductions, we know the stories are related, and cover the same theme, because the introduction covers the main theme of the chapter or story. The last few sentences in the chapter provide the summary to the subject at hand.

The enemy stops at Nob for the rest of that day. He shakes his fist at beautiful Mount Zion, the mountain of Jerusalem. But look! The Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, will chop down the mighty tree of Assyria with great power! He will cut down the proud. That lofty tree will be brought down. He will cut down the forest trees with an ax. Lebanon will fall to the Mighty One. (Isa 10:32-34 NLTse).

That night the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there. One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords. They then escaped to the land of Ararat, and another son, Esarhaddon, became the next king of Assyria. (Isa 37:36-38 NLTse).

When we look at the summary, there is no doubt that both chapters are covering the same subject. The prophecy contains a number of symbols that, of course, are interpreted in the fulfillment. That way we know we are allowing the Bible to translate symbols, taking the guess work out of our hands. Now you can begin to see how one could introduce parallel stories to a trial in front of the supreme court and even the far left radicals could not deny the evidence of a living God.

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To run through some of what is accomplished with parallel stories, we will compare a few key points in the stories to see how one chapter magnifies the other. No person could have ever written such a book. Although hundreds of stories in scripture have been compared, written about, and studied, few books contain explicit step-by-step instructions. There was no need to explain the steps 100 years ago because it was common practice. Today studying parallel stories seems more like a lost art.

I am sending Assyria against a godless nation, against a people with whom I am angry. Assyria will plunder them, trampling them like dirt beneath its feet. But the king of Assyria will not understand that he is my tool; his mind does not work that way. His plan is simply to destroy, to cut down nation after nation. (Isa 10:6-7 NLTse),

You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? Have the gods of other nations rescued them–such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all! What happened to the king of Hamath and the king of Arpad? What happened to the kings of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?” (Isa 37:11-13 NLTse).

We can see a host of details in a few lines from each story. God used the last resource anyone would expect Him to use. We can see how God directs entire nations without them knowing or understanding exactly what they are doing. We also see that there were nations far worse than Assyria. We are not given a lot of details about those other nations. At this point, we could decide to go in another direction in this study and look up each of those nations and each of those gods to find out how bad they were. But what good would that do? God never wanted us to study what the devil has done and how far he took those people and nations. We have our work cut out for us finding out what we need to do to draw closer to God. Not learn more about the devil.

We do see another details that fit into what we are seeing today. We know there are a host of groups trying to take over the world. Or at least the United States. We also know the world has a number of communist nations. Although they all share the same ideologies and goals, and used the same methods to overthrow their respective governments, there is not one communist nation that trusts another. They arm themselves to the teeth to defend themselves against other communist nations. How many of the nations listed by Isiah trusted one another? We see unions formed between those nations for the sole purpose to attack and defeat another nation or group of nations. A few chapters later, we see those same nations fighting against one another. They don’t trust one another, they never did, and they never will. They all share the same goal: world conquest. They can and will use other nations as stepping stones, but as soon as they achieve their short term goal, they turn on those other groups or nations. Today we call that genocide. We have seen it time and time again in the past two generations.

We could look up Hezekiah to find out more about him. We know the books of Kings and Chronicles includes information on the kings of Israel and Judah.

Hezekiah son of Ahaz began to rule over Judah in the third year of King Hoshea’s reign in Israel. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan. Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. He remained faithful to the LORD in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the LORD had given Moses. So the LORD was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute. (2Ki 18:1-7 NLTse).

Hezekiah was compared to David. We know David was a good king, but not perfect. None of us are. We are all lingering in shades of gray. David had shades of gray he was comfortable with, and Hezekiah had shades he was comfortable with. We see Hezekiah rid Judah of the false gods and shrines the people had chosen to follow. That was a step in the right direction. We also see that Hezekiah trusted enough in the Lord that he refused to pay tribute to Assyria. Which was the reason why Assyria decided to attach Judah. We can see that Assyria was not directed by God. Assyria was directed by money and tried to use God as an excuse. We pick up other details later in the story.

During the fourth year of Hezekiah’s reign, which was the seventh year of King Hoshea’s reign in Israel, King Shalmaneser of Assyria attacked the city of Samaria and began a siege against it. Three years later, during the sixth year of King Hezekiah’s reign and the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign in Israel, Samaria fell. At that time the king of Assyria exiled the Israelites to Assyria and placed them in colonies in Halah, along the banks of the Habor River in Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. For they refused to listen to the LORD their God and obey him. Instead, they violated his covenant–all the laws that Moses the LORD’s servant had commanded them to obey. In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified towns of Judah and conquered them. (2Ki 18:9-13 NLTse).

We see how God used Assyria to conquer Israel. At that time, Israel and Judah were separate nations. Israel quickly adopted a number of pagan gods and invented a few of their own. Eventually, they went too far to the dark side and God used Assyria to defeat and end the reign in Israel. Assyria thought to themselves, if we can defeat Israel, why not Judah? So Assyria marched over to conquer Judah. They forgot one thing. There was a world of difference between Israel and Judah. They were on opposite sides of that gray scale and close enough to God that there was no question that God was going to defend Judah. There are other details in 2 Kings chapter 18, but I think we touched on the main points to see details that led up to Assyria’s attack on Judah. Then there is always one more detail we need to consider.

King Hezekiah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. I will pay whatever tribute money you demand if you will only withdraw.” The king of Assyria then demanded a settlement of more than eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold. To gather this amount, King Hezekiah used all the silver stored in the Temple of the LORD and in the palace treasury. Hezekiah even stripped the gold from the doors of the LORD’s Temple and from the doorposts he had overlaid with gold, and he gave it all to the Assyrian king. (2Ki 18:14-16 NLTse).

God was not the first place Hezekiah went for protection. In the beginning, Hezekiah placed his trust in his money and thought he could trust the Assyrians. Hezekiah thought he could rely on their word. As the story unfolded, we can see that Hezekiah made a huge mistake.

We have a number of points to consider and, of course, we are going to miss a number of points. Hezekiah had faith in God, but that faith was limited. We are all guilty of that. Somehow God needed to teach Hezekiah and Judah a lesson. At the same time God had to deal with Assyria and leave lessons in the story for future generations to learn from. The lesson we see today and we know in our hearts is beware of the promises from people who lust after world conquest. We see that all too clearly today.

We see the nations mentioned in 2 Kings chapter 18 and in Isiah chapters 10 and 37 were breeding grounds for pagan gods designed to lead people away from God. Today we have the Internet. Up to this point, the devil has been rather good at controlling the Internet to recruit people to his side. Major social media outlets have been censoring conservatives while allowing radicals to roam free. Social media has become a safe harbor for pedophiles, witches, satanists, and a host of people pushing their version of false gods, communism, socialism, and every group and organization who wants to destroy God. Then it reached a point, something needed to be done. Elon Musk may not be the most religious man in the world, He may not have the faith Hezekiah had, but God used Elon to level the playing field on Twitter, one of the major social media networks of today.

El Salvador saw how criminal gangs were using social media to plan and execute crimes. Murders was the main focus in El Salvador. They used information gathered from social media to arrest over 6000 gang members over a matter of weeks. For some reason, organizations who claim to look over the welfare of the world swooped in to defend the criminals. Here in the US, congress has been passing laws to protect those social media networks, as well as providing billions of dollars in funding to those networks in the form of covid relief funds.

When Elon Musk bought Twitter, the communists and satanists dropped their masks. The purchase threw them into a rage and without thinking, they filled social media and the airwaves with comments exposing their plans. Some are claiming that Elon now has the ability to sway elections using Twitter as a platform. They went as far as exposing the methods we saw in motion during the 2020 election when they censored and banned every Trump supporter. They deny they did it. The world saw what went on. But they claim they are innocent. According to sources, that threat suddenly exists and should be stopped. Satan and his demons are not that smart. Within a few days, their agents exposed every detail used to influence the 2020 election.

It goes far deeper than that. El Salvador was not the only law enforcement agency watching social media. A number of sheriff’s departments across the US have released videos showing how gangs have been using social media to sell drugs, deal in prostitution, lure minors into prostitution, and deal in human trafficking.

Social media boasts about their community standards and after the purchase of Twitter, have voiced their concern that their community standards are at risk. What have those social media giants set as their community standards? Some of the fastest growing groups on those social media outlets include witches, witchcraft, satanists, far left radicals promoting violence and threats, sacrifices including human sacrifices, and of course an array of communists and socialists. They have classes on how to resist arrest, antagonize police, lure minors, seduce minors, they boast about rapes, and push people into mass murders and shootings, telling them they are justified. That is the type of community standards social media finds acceptable. The social media today makes those nations mentioned in Isaiah look like boy scouts.

After the Lord has used the king of Assyria to accomplish his purposes on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, he will turn against the king of Assyria and punish him–for he is proud and arrogant. He boasts, “By my own powerful arm I have done this. With my own shrewd wisdom I planned it. I have broken down the defenses of nations and carried off their treasures. I have knocked down their kings like a bull. I have robbed their nests of riches and gathered up kingdoms as a farmer gathers eggs. No one can even flap a wing against me or utter a peep of protest.” But can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it? Is the saw greater than the person who saws? Can a rod strike unless a hand moves it? Can a wooden cane walk by itself? Therefore, the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, will send a plague among Assyria’s proud troops, and a flaming fire will consume its glory. (Isa 10:12-16 NLTse).

“Whom have you been defying and ridiculing? Against whom did you raise your voice? At whom did you look with such haughty eyes? It was the Holy One of Israel! By your messengers you have defied the Lord. You have said, ‘With my many chariots I have conquered the highest mountains– yes, the remotest peaks of Lebanon. I have cut down its tallest cedars and its finest cypress trees. I have reached its farthest heights and explored its deepest forests. I have dug wells in many foreign lands and refreshed myself with their water. With the sole of my foot, I stopped up all the rivers of Egypt!’ “But have you not heard? I decided this long ago. Long ago I planned it, and now I am making it happen. I planned for you to crush fortified cities into heaps of rubble. That is why their people have so little power and are so frightened and confused. They are as weak as grass, as easily trampled as tender green shoots. They are like grass sprouting on a housetop, scorched before it can grow lush and tall. “But I know you well– where you stay and when you come and go. I know the way you have raged against me. And because of your raging against me and your arrogance, which I have heard for myself, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth. I will make you return by the same road on which you came.” (Isa 37:23-29 NLTse).

When we compare the prophecy in Isiah chapter 10 to the fulfillment in chapter 37 we the how symbols were used in each story and how those symbols were interpreted within the story. The symbols do differ, but they point to the same physical aspects. In short, we are given examples showing how scripture interprets scripture including the symbols. No one but the author can provide the proper interpretation to any symbol they use in a story or book. Anything beyond the story by the author is nothing but a guess. Or a personal interpretation to fit their private narrative. We saw the same thing happen in Marjorie Taylor Greene’s trial. The prosecutor introduced the term 1776 as a symbol. Everyone knows 1776 can represent dozens of different things. It all depends on context, how it is used by the individual. But the prosecutor tried to convince the judge that 1776 represents one thing and one thing only and he knows exactly how Greene was using the term 1776. The prosecutor claimed 1776 was a secret symbol and he knew what it represented. Oftentimes, we see people interpret the Bible with the same mentality as that prosecutor. In a sense, they are trying to present themselves as gods, or at least wiser than anyone else on earth. In short, they claim they don’t need God’s Spirit to interpret the Bible because they have some special power to do it on their own. Some strange power others know nothing about. If that isn’t an idol, I don’t know what is.