When we open up the scriptures to read it should always be a holy thing. It's God's word spoken to us through many different men over a vast amount of time. Sometimes that can feel like a daunting task. But I want to help by giving you 4 questions that will help breakdown the scriptures so that you can find its meaning and relevance for you today.
What is going on? (What is he telling the audience)
If it is a narrative (a story of some kind) or even scripture from the prophets, the first step is to ask "what is happening in the story? What is taking place?" Many times we don't find application to the scripture because we don't actually know what's going on in the story. So when you read the story don't rush over it. Take some time and see what has just taken place. This will help a ton in the old testament specifically. When you read the prophets it can be incredibly hard to understand what's going on. But if we understand what event occurred and how that prophet is speaking about that event, then all the metaphors the prophet uses, we don't have to understand them (but it will help to better understand the entirety of the text if we did). Because what you see is that the prophet is usually defining the event, situation, or circumstance that he makes clear with an example. Kind of like what I'm about to do now. What the prophet does is what a poet does when he or she writes "you are beautiful, like a rose that is fresh from bloom" the poet wants you to understand the degree of beauty by adding "like a rose that is fresh from bloom." The prophets do the same. It may not always be this way, but asking the question "what's going on" is the first step to helping you understand the scriptures in a big way.
Now if its a letter, teaching, proverb, or sermon then we must ask the question "What is he telling the audience?" This is an important and crucial step because many times we like to jump to 'what is the writer telling me.' But we must remember there was a specific audience for whom the writer of the letter, teaching, proverb, or sermon was written. And that audience context cannot be separated from how we read it today. We don't want to place upon the text our meaning; therefore, we must ask what is he telling the audience to whom he has written this letter. Then ask the question "What's he saying (telling)?" Is he saying don't do this, do that? Is he explaining what this means, or why this is the case? Those things are important to get a hold of because they were the reason the writer wrote in the first place. Once we get a hold of the first question then we can move to the next based on what we understand about the first question.
2. What is said about God?
The next question we ask after understanding "What's going on" in the scripture, we ask "What can we know about the character of God through what we understand about what's going on?" We often want to jump to application but I think it's important to see what God is revealing about himself in what we have read. We know that the bible doesn't tell us everything there is to know about him, but what it does tell us God was pleased to reveal. He wants us to know his heart, his passions, and even his pet peeves. Like a husband wants to know all about his wife, and she all about him, that is our relationship with Jesus. In the story we read did we see how gracious God is? In the instruction the audience receive do we see how righteous God is? In the prophecy we went through did we see how powerful God is? In the explanation we read did we see how wise God is? I can guarantee you that when you start asking those questions and you start seeing more of who God really is, you'll want to keep reading more and more! Now the next question is like this one.
3. What is said about humans (us)?
After we see how God's character shines, now we have to see how ours does. This we look at in various ways. When asking the question "What do the scriptures say about us?" we are asking what does it say about us as Christians. "How as Christians should we love? How as Christians should we live? How as Christians should we treat others? How as Christians should we operate in the world?" Then we ask the question "How do non Christians act? How do non Christians think? How do non Christians love?" And as we ask that question we remember that is how we as Christians acted before we came to be known by him. Then we ask "How do we act regardless of being Christian or non Christian? How is our situation concerning love, family, relationships, impact what we have read in the scriptures?" When we do this we see our nature but also we can reflect more on God's nature in light of that. And then the final question after this puts things all together.
4. How do we apply these things to our lives?
The last question we ask is "what do we do since we've gained all this knowledge after reading? How can we apply this to our lives. What aspect of God's character has the scriptures revealed and that we should hold dear? What did the scriptures reveal about us in how we should interact with each other? Then how do we carry this out in our everyday lives?"
Studying the scriptures is a privilege that we all get to enjoy. We get to hear the voice of God as he speaks through those men so long ago. I hope this helps in your journey to get to know Jesus more, and begin trusting in him because you know more of who he is.