Here we try to divide a book into major sections (e.g. Isaiah 1-5; 6-12; 13-27; 28-35; 36-39; 40-55; 56-66) or a section into chapters while still keeping the big picture and the purpose of the whole book in mind. We do this by asking two questions:
1. How has the author broken down this material into sections?
2. How do these sections fit together?
John 14:1; 14:27
"Let not your heart be troubled" appears in both of these verses. The material in between gives the disciples reasons for why their hearts do not need to be troubled. This is an example of a structural technique demonstrated by “bookends.” We have the same phrase appearing at both the beginning and the end of the section.
Matthew 5:2; 5:10
The phrase "kingdom of heaven" occurs at the beginning and end of this section. This section is describing the character of those who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
Here we have an example of a common Hebrew structural technique known as chiasm. We have essentially the same phrase "the whole earth" and "all the earth" serving as bookends while the author puts the punchline in the middle of the story ("and the Lord came down").
Here we have the same Hebrew structural device only now on a large scale. Chapters 2 and 7 focus on four great kingdoms to come (the vision of the statue; the vision of the four beasts) culminating in God's eternal kingdom. We begin and end with the sovereignty of God over the lives and the kingdoms of men. Sandwiched in between is the fiery furnace, the total humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar, the removal of Belshazzar, and the saving of Daniel from the lions.The punchline is found in the fall of the “great Babylon” that had exiled Israel for seventy years.
Fourth Key: Vocabulary - focusing on key words, repeating words (phrases), linking words
We now move from the big picture to the words and details that all come together to form it.
1. In almost every passage you will find technical terms (like justification and redemption), and/or familiar words that in the Bible have a different meaning (e.g. hope), and/or words that have multiple meanings depending upon the context (Israel), and biblical names which often have special significance (Nabal-fool; Ichabod-where is the glory). In our culture it is common to say "he was justified in doing that." In Romans 3:28 this technical theological term has quite a different meaning:
“We hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and declares us to be righteous in his sight.) We are declared righteous because of our believing faith and not because of the accumulation of meritorious works.
First Peter 1:3
“He has caused us to be born again to a living hope…” The resurrection of Christ gives us a certain unshakeable hope that we will be raised from the dead. This is quite different from our common “hope so” use of the word.
2. If the author says a word or phrase repeatedly, it is imperative that we discover why. Repetition signals that a word (or phrase) is important and is a key to unlocking the meaning the passage.
Three times in this chapter we find the phrase "till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will." God is sending Nebuchadnezzar a message that he decides who is king, when he is king, and where he is king. God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and he ultimately humbles the proud (which is one of the main themes of the book). God sets kings up and brings them down. Nebuchadnezzar was only a king because God allowed him to be a king. He could and would remove him at any moment.
3. Linking words are vital words that help us to connect with what comes before or after.
They help us to see the flow of an argument and often reveal cause and effect relationships between different statements. Words like “therefore, consequently, for this reason, and thus” show the flow of thought from what comes before to the result or consequence that follows it. We have already seen that the word "therefore" in Romans 12:1 links the doctrine of the "mercies of God" to the duty that is the natural result of understanding it. Words like "for, because, since, and so" point back giving a reason or explanation for what has just been said.
"Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." When others are annoying or ungrateful, we should continue to do good or serve them because one day we will receive our reward from God who is well pleased with our persistent service.