We make mistakes, experience pain, learn to love, and so much more. But, we are not humans who live in a vacuum. People lived before us, and we can learn a lot from their experiences. We find a legacy of believers in the Bible. Studying these characters can allow us to learn from their lessons and avoid their mistakes.
Whether seeking to increase your own personal learning or equip your group members to engage with deeper biblical study, try these four steps to learn from biblical characters.
Once you’ve selected a person in the Bible to study, first look around to see what you can learn about their world. This “looking around” is asking what they might have seen in their context. What was happening in the moment of history where they lived? Where were they living? What type of people might they have had contact with? Then, look around to where this character appears in the Bible. What comes in the chapters before and after? What is the bigger story being told throughout the entire book where they appear?
Look to articles, commentaries, and other resources to aid your search.
- Look in
Next, look in to see what you can learn about the person. What type of character traits might be evident in what’s written about them? How are they shown interacting with people around them? What do their words say about them? Asking these questions can give us insight into characteristics and responses that we might want to emulate or show us warnings that we might want to avoid.
Many resources have biographical information about the characters that can lend assistance in this area.
- Look up
Then, look up and ask what we learn about God through the character’s story. Are they speaking directly about the truth and character of the Lord? Are they speaking directly against Him? What can we learn about God’s plan through how their story played out? How can the events, actions, and words in the story help us to honor the Lord further and more deeply desire to understand Him?
Bible studies can offer discussion questions that lead you in the right direction to unpack what is learned about God through each situation.
- Look out
Finally, look outward into your own life and see how your day-to-day existence should be impacted through what you’ve learned about the biblical person and what you’ve learned about the Creator. Maybe you’ve found some characteristic that you want to emulate. Maybe you’ve seen the wisdom with which a situation was handled or the grace that was extended, and you are able to find a parallel in your own life (even as we recognize the importance of not over-extending the passage’s intended context). Maybe you’ve been reminded of attributes of the Lord for which you can pause and thank Him.
Additional articles and resources can help you bridge the lessons from the story into applications for your own life.
We have much to learn from each other and much to learn from the legacy of believers or other characters within Scripture.
Lifeway has a team of dedicated writers and editors that wanted to make these lessons from biblical characters more accessible to you and your small group. They’ve developed seven Bible studies that focus on different characters in the Bible. These lessons help you learn in all of the four categories listed above. Timeline information teaches you about looking around; biographical insight reveals more about looking in; the discussion questions and descriptions teach you about looking up; and the application sections aid you in looking out.
For more information (and for many free resources such as timelines, devos, trivia, and more) visit lifeway.com/characters.
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