When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
The following is a product of my conversation with a protégé on Bible study methods.
The young man said to me, “In major parts of the Old Testament, the temple and holy items are all measured. It may not relate, but when I saw that clause about measurements in your write up, The Pagemaster Project, it directed my mind to these passages on measurements – Exodus 25; Ezekiel 40-47; Revelation 11 – and prompted the question, What does the measuring imply for the church?”
When I heard his question, I said to myself. I cannot answer that, for that would require me to spoon-feed him. It is my personal principle in teaching, never to share knowledge with a person who has not obtained an opinion of his own. Because a man without an opinion, is a man that will fall for every wind of doctrine that blows his way. To teach such a man is to defeat the very purpose of teaching in itself which is to help a student develop his own convictions.
So I said to him, “You know I don’t answer questions until you have shown that you have done your own due diligence by studying. So what do you think it means?”
His answer was quite apt, he said, “It means that God is building His temple or church on certain standards and measures.” He also said, “Since the makeup of God’s house is not stones and wood, but men; living stones fitted unto His use, then the measure must be the quality of men God wishes to use. The measure could also mean the grace He gives to each man to fulfill His purpose. There is no question of qualification, that’s His job at first.”
With that answer I had little to add. And that made me wonder; why ask the question in the first place?
To that query he said, he just felt there was still something missing in his own understanding of the matter. At this point I was tempted to share further insights on the topic but I was restrained by the thought that I would be feeding his curiosity rather than his quest for learning. There’s a big difference between the two. So rather than shed light on his question I decided to let him in on a fundamental lesson in his study of God’s word.
I told him if he didn’t know what was lacking in his understanding of the Temple measurements, then I cannot point him in the right direction.
In an attempt to focus his question so that he could get some answers, he asked, “What is God comparing the measurements to? What do the measures represent?” To which I replied, “You are asking the wrong question”.
He asks, “Please, what should I ask?”
I gave him this illustration for perspective.
“Imagine if I were to ask you, What does the bible teach? Or what does the bible mean? Where would you start from?”
To this he laughs and admits, “I’d be lost at the question.”
“Such questions” I said, “are questions of curiosity”.
That means he wants to know everything – a life time of learning in a single day. That’s completely impossible.
I told him, “The best student is not the one who wants to know everything, although that too is good. Rather, the best student is one who seeks understanding of what he does not understand. Or that which will set him back on course in his journey of illumination. It is at that point that the answers come to you. The wrong questions will only lead you further away from the path of knowledge. So look back and think. What seems to be missing in your understanding of these measurements, if indeed there is something missing?”
He replies, ‘‘Okay. I am really not sure. It just seems incomplete sir.’’
‘‘Yes it is,’’ I confirmed, ‘everything is incomplete until we see Christ Jesus face to face in glory. However, progressive knowledge is a step at a time. Not a ladder at a time’’.
He smiles, and nods in acknowledgment.
I continued: “You can ask any question but you cannot ask for all the answers at once”.
All the portions of scripture he shared (from Exodus 25 to Revelation 11) regarding the measurements of the Temple deal with different aspects of Truth. How was I to begin? Expound on A with all its ramifications, then move on to B and then to C? That would have taken an eternity to do.
You see, to ask the right questions, one must first have either specific facts to ask about or an opinion to verify. The next important step is to ask Why? (A questions of purpose) and How? (A questions of process) before ever asking ‘What?’ The question that seeks the meaning.
But more often than not, curious minds ask to know the meaning of a thing, find the answer but lose its value because they never asked Why? or How?
In a conflict of opposing ideas, the ‘borrowed opinion’ will fall by the way side. It won’t matter whose idea was right.
For example. In my personal studies, I often come across passages and concepts that are totally oblivious to me. Either because of a cultural disconnection or a historical vacuum. When I face such a void in my study I am stuck because I don’t even know the right questions to ask. And if I lack the right questions to ask, that automatically limits how much of the void of knowledge the Spirit is able to fill.
This is what I do when I cannot derive the right questions from simply reading a passage. I go on a rampage of study to get what others have said on the matter. It doesn’t have to be accurate. I’m fact, a lot of the time, the opinions I come across are wrong. All I need is for them to give me an opinion to question. By so doing, I can derive questions that will point me in the right direction.
When I was through, the young man was grateful. He said “Wow! Thank you sir. I’ll do that.”
I hope to hear his findings soon.
And I hope this has been helpful for you too.
‘‘Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding.’’