How’s does one go about studying a Bible passage?

Today in our Mass we have a Biblical selection from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  The prophet is having a vision, so we read it in that angle.  Prophetic visions would be different than, say, a list of minor commandments being given in the book of Leviticus.  We also know that Isaiah will connect these visions to that of Israel’s call to faith, and to their ever having  at Temple in Jerusalem, of being blessed to even be “at God’s footstool” there.  Isaiah is one of the longest Bible books, so it’s also notable to know of what three parts it comes from.   This information can come from a Bible Commentary, such as the one by Liturgical Press or another like the Jerome Biblical Commentary.   I have used these for Bible study for over four decades now.

Let’s get to the basics, though, in studying a passage.

The first step of Bible study is in the hearing of it.  Or, if you need to, the reading of it.  Yet it’s nice if you have it proclaimed to you (and done liturgically well).   You take in the text into your thoughts and to your heart.  What can it be saying?  What might it be teaching?  What is the heart’s response to it?  Is it a text demonstrating faith?

Then, you might tap into the details, as like, what is its context?  And, what is the style of the writing?   And such.

If you are reading the Bible, and studying it, then likely you will not audibly “hear it” (but try to do so in the words in your mind).   At Mass, you may have the text with you in a missalette or booklet, but try to not use it unless the lector or clergyman is not proclaiming it well.

If studying the Bible on your own, then might I suggest you get one of the audio versions (Catholic one) to help you to “hear” the Word.

Of course, at Mass, in the Liturgy of the Word, it is proclaimed aloud to you.

In the book of Romans, it says in chapter ten that “faith comes by hearing of the Word of God.”  Indeed.

Therefore, one’s hearing of the Word is the vital first step.  Hearing with openness.  Hearing with desire.  Hearing with hope to grow in The Lord.

People come up with terms in attentiveness to the Bible proclamations and the homily.   Such terms are used as acute listening, radical hearing, sensitive perception, and intentional listening.   If you arrive to receive the Word in this manner, then you are on the way to great Scripture learning.   You are receiving for enlightenment!

In the word, one of the Hebrew covenant writers prays that God’s Word be “a lamp upon his feet (footsteps).”   He knows he needs enlightenment from God as how to live best in this life.

Today’s Daily Word message of Isaiah is in the early part of his prophetic writing, and he is encouraging a broken, rightly unfaithful Hebrew audience to know a truth: that God is still on the throne!  God still reigns, and we can trust in Him and live by His ways! Isaiah’s had a prophetic vision of it, so as to encourage the Chosen People .

Isaiah tells of the time he is writing, it is when a certain king had died.  This is the context, of a low period for the Hebrews and in a transitional time:  it is when Isaiah has his vision.  God lets the prophet have an amazing peak into glory.   Isaiah is urged by God to share this experience.  Thus, the style of writing is dreams and visions.  Just like a newspaper has its sections and styles, so does the Bible.  This is a visions page—all meant to be inspiring to its hearer of the message.

The text;  “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above.”
So what do we have here?  We see, with Isaiah, of how the Lord is on a lofty throne. So while Uzziah loses his seat, on the earth (for all kings and leaders lose them eventually, and often earlier than they realized to be surrendering them), the Lord never loses His seat or place or power.  This is meant to be a big reality message.  As is shouting:  ‘The Lord reigns, people!!  He sits upon a mighty, mighty throne.!’

This is what grabs my attention in this text.

These are the questions and considerations that I have about this text.

Then I heed the next part as proclaimed.

They cried one to the other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!”

My reaction is that I know this verse that Isaiah is hearing in his vision.  It happens to be our “Sanctus” (“Holy Holy”) of the Mass.  We pray this praise in Mass because we know how it is prayed in Heaven.   (I know personally in Bible study that the Book of Revelation records St. John hearing the same prayer.  Thus, I know it’s high value to use in the Mass, as we pray to the Lord of both Heaven and Earth, and as we pray as people united on earth and with Heaven in praise to the Living and True God.


I hold on to that phrase for a little meditation time…

I recognize how the Holy Holy prayer is the one we use for our own recognition of the Lord coming to us in Eucharist.

The Temple is coming down to us, and the Lord of the Temple is coming in Sacrament.
It is more than a vision; it is a real body and blood encounter with the Lord.

The next phrase that gets my attention in this Isaian text is “a throng cried.”

Perhaps the Lord is greatly pleased, too, when a throng cries from the tens of thousands of people in Masses (going on right now) as they cry “Holy Holy.”  That’s a good things to realize!

The next phrase in the text captures me:
“At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. “

In the Lord’s house of the Church, I think of how pleasing it can be, when we are moved by The Mass, and lift up our prayers in Christ, as going forth like the incense.

I have not been in too many Masses where the doors shook from the reverberations of the congregants, but as a pastor concerned for building maintenance, I’d be hoping the building stood the sacred shaking.

“In the Temple” is the next phrase to catch.   What do I hear of it?  “In the church…”

The next part of the text is how Isaiah realizes He is in the holy presence of the Almighty.  As he does, he says: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

We all wish for a sense of the sacred, like that, when God’s Exalted Presence becomes apparent to us.  Of course, if we would ever get it unveiled to us, then it would lead to showing us of our own unworthiness before Him.  That’s how the great prophet reacted.  But God says to him, and to us:  STAY WITH ME, ANYWAY.  I INVITE YOUR NEARNESS.
In the Bible review of Isaiah’s vision and account, maybe it has us ask:   Do I have a good sense of God’s exalted Being?  Do I have a related sense of how small I am in comparison?   With that , can I be greatly grateful that God has called me close to Him anyway?

I think of the phrase prayer at Mass:  Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the word (of Your invitation)…”

What happens next to Isaiah, as he is become the humbled man in the vision? (“Woe is me”)

The text proclaims: “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  He touched my mouth with it, and said,
“See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”

God makes the prophet now blessed and worthy, by the action of His angel, and the sacred action put upon Isaiah’s lips.   God’s angel says:  See?  Your unworthiness is removed, your sin purged.

In our Bible study of this short Isaian text, can we find an obvious application of it?

I think the Holy Holy connection of the bible text reminds us of the Holy Mass and of our own encounter with God.   I think that the prayers for mercy in the Mass (Kyrie, Our Father, Lamb of God, and Prayer before Communion) are cries for God to help us, in all our humbled state, to touch us.
The presider of Mass prays:  “Behold the Lamb…blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.”  And we pray: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof  (come to me), but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Wow! What a connection of our own experience of the Mass and of this Bible verse for today!

I note one other point.  Isaiah was touched by the angel of God, so to be a spokesperson for God, a prophet to the Most High of the Temple.

We are touched in Sacrament so as to be witnesses to the world of Him, and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah heard the change coming on.  The text says:  “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?
As Isaiah answered, so should we:
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”


One thought on “Studying a Bible Passage

  1. Thank you Fr. Barry. You are a great fisherman of souls! Thsnk you for all these enlightenment you give us through your spritual intellectuality sharing to us words of love from God. God loves you, Fr.

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