When reading Scripture, you should be sure to spend time reading large chunks (multiple chapters or an entire book) at one time in order to appreciate context, but you should also spend time reading and dwelling on individual verses to consider carefully what particular words and phrases mean and why they are used.
I tend to follow a pretty simple, and certainly not original, process of making Observations, of asking Questions, and of considering the Meaning of a particular text. Observations include plot and characters, conflict and disagreement, commands, resolutions, events, conversations, etc. As you observe, you can easily ask all kinds of questions about the text. Some may be quite easy to resolve just by re-reading the passage. Some may require greater reflection on the events or the meaning of words used. Some may require other research and resources to answer. And some questions you simply may not be able to answer.
I recommend the following process for answering questions:
- Seek to answer or resolve questions from within the text itself
- Seek to answer or resolve questions from within the Bible generally
- Seek to answer or resolve questions from study of the historical and cultural context
These clear and important doctrines act like the frame of a complex jigsaw puzzle. When you have the corner and edge pieces completed, you recognize what is “inside” the scope of the puzzle and what is “outside,” even if you do not know where every piece goes or how exactly they all fit together.
Discerning the meaning of the text is important and not always straightforward. The Bible has many different genres. In some of these genres, like poetry or narrative, Biblical texts have multiple meanings. And even in more straightforward genres like epistles, there can be multiple layers or levels of meaning, and certainly many kinds of applications.
Sometimes the particular Biblical text has various meanings for different groups of people. First, look for the meaning of the text for those who are in the story - how do they understand what is happening or what is being said? Second, what was the meaning(s) of the story for the listeners or audience for whom it was originally written and to whom it was originally given? Sometimes that might overlap with the people in the story itself. Finally, and again not always separately, what meaning does the story have for us - who are a later audience than original Jewish or very early Christian readers?
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you of why we should study the Bible regularly. There are two related purposes of Bible study. First, the Bible is fundamentally God’s revelation of Himself to us. That means as we study it we learn more about our God - His character, His purposes, and His plans. We appreciate his beauty more and see his glory better. That leads to the second reason we should study the Bible. It helps grow in our trust, appreciation, and love of God and of our neighbor; which, according to Jesus, are the two greatest of God’s commandments.