Whether knowingly or unknowingly, we are always looking for the approval of others. We want to be told we were right or that we did a terrific job. We desire to be complemented by our supervisors and colleagues and we desire the praise of our family members. But as we continue to crave the approval of men, it is important to remember that God’s approval is more important than that of men. And the scripture gives us the secret to earning God’s approval – through studying his word.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
Paul wrote this instruction to his son Timothy against a backdrop of false teachers who were leading the early church astray. Timothy was tasked with the responsibility of disciplining the new believers by “rightly diving the word of truth.” The first step in achieving that would be to spend time studying God’s word. Paul knew firsthand the importance of study because he was a good student of the word of God. In addition to relying on the holy spirit for revelation (Galatians 1:12), Paul had been under the tutelage of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) who was one of the most highly regarded Bible teachers of his time. It was now incumbent upon Timoty to study in order to distinguish himself from the false teachers that were rampant in his time who did not know how to divide the word of truth.
But Timothy was neither the first nor the only person who heeded the call to study the word. In the book of Ezra, we get to learn how Ezra took it upon himself to study God’s word to ensure that he was up to speed with what was required of the Israelites.
For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. Ezra 7:10
It comes as no surprise that when Ezra stood to preach, his sermon had such an impact that everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around him (Ezra 9:4). Just like Paul told Timothy, Ezra earned God’s approval through study and God confirmed his word by releasing the spirit of conviction upon his audience.
- To gain God’s approval
As we have already established, the first and most important reason to study is to gain God’s approval. In the book of Daniel 1, King Nebuchadnezzar asks for some of the Jewish slaves to be recruited into the king’s service and one of the qualifications was that the young men were to show aptitude for every kind of learning, be well-informed, and be quick to understand (Daniel 1:4). Even though these were qualifications for serving an earthly king, we can take it as a metaphor to represent how study can also earn you God’s approval in service.
- To gain understanding
When Daniel was in captivity with his fellow Jews, he discovered something while studying the book of Jeremiah. He discovered that God had put a time limit on their captivity. And so he began to petition God concerning it since the time had already elapsed.
In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. Daniel 9:2
If he hadn’t studied the book of Jeremiah, Daniel would never have understood God’s will and he wouldn’t have prayed as he did. Studying will lead you to understand which will result in the pursuit of God’s will for your life.
Prophet Hosea put it this way:
My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. Hosea 4:6
When you do not study, you will not understand what you need to do in order to avoid disaster. There is a legal principle that states that ignorance is no defense in a court of law. To put it in layman’s terms, what you do not know might kill you. You should therefore make an effort to be a good student of the word of God.
- In the passage, the value of studying God’s word is emphasized as a means to gain God’s approval and understanding of His will. What strategies or practices do you employ to prioritize and engage in regular Bible study in your own life?
- Studying God’s word not only helps us gain understanding but also equips us to discern truth from falsehood, as seen in the context of Timothy’s challenge with false teachers. In today’s world, where misinformation is prevalent, how can a strong foundation in the study of the Bible help individuals navigate and discern truth in various aspects of life?
- The story of Daniel and the revelation he received through studying the Scriptures is a compelling example of how studying can lead to a deeper understanding of God’s plans. Can you share a personal experience or insight from your own study of the Bible that had a significant impact on your understanding of God’s will for your life or a particular situation?
- The passage from the book of Hosea warns about the destructive consequences of rejecting knowledge and ignoring God’s law. How do you think the lack of knowledge or neglect of God’s word can affect individuals and communities in today’s society, and what role can Bible study play in addressing these challenges?