“Now, it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes, and looked and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand” (Jos.5:13a).
“The act of observing or taking notice; the act of seeing or fixing the mind on anything; notion gained by observing; the effect or result of seeing or taking cognizance in the mind; or that which is produced by thinking and reflecting on a subject”(Noah Webster’s dictionary. 1828).
Observation requires thinking. It is not just seeing; it’s perceiving what one sees. Observation causes us to slow down, filter each word, process what is actually being said, and what is actually happening. Observation is taking a step back and looking at the big picture.
Here are some tips…
Read through it more than once before studying a chapter. Use multiple translations.
Ask: who, what, where, when, why, how, how not, what does it actually say, what does it not say, etc., etc.
Write a list of questions that come to mind: note who is speaking; who is being spoken too; those who may be listening or watching; what happened before and after.
Become one of the characters in the story. Observe what is happening from their perspective. Use your five senses: see what they see; hear what they hear; smell what they smell; touch what they touch, and taste what they taste. Try this with multiple characters.
Here is an example…
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt.6:28b-29).
Jesus uses the skill of observation. He draws the disciples’ attention to the lilies, causing them to pay closer attention to their growth process. He doesn’t point out what the lilies do, He points out what they don’t do: They “neither toil nor spin”. They are a work of God alone.
Okay, let’s build on Jesus’ observation. Who was Jesus speaking to? He was speaking to the disciples. Where were they? They were on a small mountain. Was it possible that they were in a field of lilies? And did Jesus draw their attention to this field of lilies? Now, Imagine the disciples at the top of a large hill, standing in a field of lilies. They’re gazing intently at the lilies all around them as Jesus is teaching.
Can you smell the lilies? Can you see the field? If you can, then you just did observation. Can you see how observation paints a portrait?
In this passage, Jesus does the observation for us. It is a good example of how we should be closely observing in our studies. We should apply this same attention to God’s Word. Like the disciples ignoring the lilies of the field, if we do not pay close attention to the Word of God we will miss what is right in front of us.
Click on the link below for Principle #3…