Friday, December 18, 2015


My current study subject is the Old Testament book of Jonah. When I first picked Jonah, I thought it would be fairly straightforward: God calls Jonah to Nineveh. Jonah bolts. Jonah goes for a whale submarine ride. Jonah comes to his senses, does what God tells him, and Nineveh repents. Done.

Well, then there's the whole thing with chapter 4 where God points out Jonah's bad attitude. Ok, now...done!

I couldn't be further from the truth. I am writing a study guide for Jonah and here is the introduction that I'm using for now:


When I set out to study Jonah, I first started by observing each and every verse from the random thoughts that came to mind about each verse. I did not follow any particular discipline in my study and therefore did not have any rhyme or reason to my notes.

The Sunday after I started (I had made it to Jonah 1:12), I was very excited to share my findings with one of our elders. I was seeing Jonah as a type of Christ (one sacrificed for many); the sailors were the first saved by Jonah's ministry; and even a foreshadowing by God of the salvation of Nineveh.

But I did not get to share those findings because the elder stopped me in my tracks and insisted that I start over. He said that to truly understand the book, I needed to first study it from the time-locked perspective. After I got that message, then I needed to study it through from the timeless viewpoint. Finally, I needed to go back through the book with the observations from a timely position.

I was not thrilled. But, I bit my tongue and started over that next day. And a week later, I was sincerely appreciative that I received the guidance to study Jonah in the manner prescribed. To be sure, it was not easy, but in just a week, I could see a vast improvement in not only my focus and study, but also in the revelations that God brought to mind about each and every verse.

Being committed to studying through a book of the Bible in this way is not easy. It is a discipline to consciously omit revealed Scripture, to ignore spiritual truths that may not have been known at the time, and to discount history itself at times. Remember, the purpose of studying in this way is to focus energy on understanding the book at a deeper level than is possible by just reading it and understanding it from our "enlightened" perspective. We would miss so much that God would teach us; the time-locked message and the timeless message is just as important and applicable as the timely message.

In this study, I will attempt to not only be a guide through the study techniques that I used, but also apply those concepts in a study guide for the book of Jonah. 
As I complete sections of the study, I will post them here.


joe said...

Could you explain the time locked, timeless, and timely perspectives for me? I think I can guess at it, but I wanna be sure (I'm starting a similar but less thorough process and am looking at ways to work my notes).

Rusty said...

In a nutshell, time locked is the original message to the original target audience.

Timeless is the timeless truths that we find, for example God's control of the weather in Jonah would be a timeless truth. Things that are true regardless of time.

And timely is what is the application for today.