What song have you got stuck in your head right now? You know the one, the relentless ear worm that may not even be the best or your favorite tune right now, but you can’t shake it. When you’re sitting in your car on the way home today, you’ll find yourself humming it or even singing out loud. Do you know what causes that? That song, whatever it is, is memorable to you because of the melodic beat that hooks you in.
I’m going to share with you a useful tool that you can use when reading and studying your Bible that will help you to keep the Word on your heart in the same way that you get Taylor Swift stuck in your head. This tool is called the ‘melodic line.’
We believe that the Word of God is pinely inspired to be a light for us, a source of wisdom and strength. But sometimes if you’re like me, you get done reading a chapter or book of the Bible, and you have a hard time putting all of your thoughts together or remembering the message of the last chapter you read. Luckily, the Bible is written in such a way that the themes of each book are consistent throughout, tying each chapter and verse into a unified whole. Just like the melody of a song, these repeated themes, phrases, and images help you to identify the melodic line of what you are reading.
The melodic line helps to inform you about what a certain text is about. It helps to frame your memory of it and gives you a foundation from which to consider the book as a whole. It will help prioritize the major points that the author is making and what things are supplemental. It will reveal the passion or heartbeat of the text and then helps with the application of the text. It’s a simple, true statement that summarizes or echoes everything that you have read.
As an example, if you read the book of 1 Peter (go ahead, I’ll wait…) some themes that are consistently repeated are: suffering (1 Pet. 1:6; 2:19-21; 3:8-18; 4:12-19), standing firm together (1 Pet. 1:1-2, 22; 2:9-12; 3:8; 4:9-11), and the hope of our eternal salvation in Jesus (1 Pet. 1:3-12; 2:12; 3:18-22; 4:13; 5:4, 10). With these themes, we can start to articulate a summary of what Peter is trying to convey to the reader, "In the midst of present suffering, stand firm together in the eternal hope of your salvation in Christ Jesus.”
This theme or melody can now shape our whole understanding of the book of 1 Peter and also help us to keep it on our hearts. So if you are going through a trial or feeling alone, your head will echo with the notes of the melody of 1 Peter so you can turn to it and let the Spirit speak its truth to you.
Once you have practiced this tool, it can help in your study of every book in the Bible. Even the long lists of names in a book like Joshua have a renewed meaning and importance when you see how they tie into the greater melody of God fulfilling His promises to His people throughout Joshua. "God can and does fulfill His covenant promises to His people.”
In closing, I want to give you a couple of tricks you can use to help identify the melodic line if you are having trouble finding it.
1. Start by looking at the very beginning of the book and then looking at the end, see what sorts of phrases or words are similar between the two and if you can trace that theme throughout the whole rest of the book.
2. Sometimes the author throws you a bone and gives you a sort of ‘thesis statement’ for the book (look at John 20:30-31 and Luke 1:1-4).
3. It can be very helpful to simply read through and then reread the whole book quickly, not necessarily stopping to examine each verse, but looking for the overarching narrative.
4. Finally, if you have come up with a short, concise statement of what you think the melodic line might be, check it and see if it makes sense. Share it with a friend, spouse, or your community group leader and see what they think. There’s not necessarily one perfect answer, God uses the same Word to speak to people where they are at.
I hope that this simple hermeneutical tool will serve to help you in your study of the Bible, to possibly open up some new ideas that you hadn’t considered before. Let this engage your mind and enhance your discussion with others. Pray that God would reveal even more of Himself to you through the regular study of His Word. Have fun.