The other instruments are able to gather information which then can be processed to provide images based on radio waves, microwaves and even x-rays gathered from space. These ways of “listening” to the cosmos provide a great deal more information than can be gained by simply looking.
You may not have thought about it this way, but studying the word of God gives us a parallel situation. When we simply read the chapter before us we can see a great deal, of course – just as if we were looking at a star with visible light – and this is absolutely central to our knowledge and understanding of the Word. But we can also increase our understanding by approaching the biblical texts using other techniques. Just as astronomers can “hear” other things about the phenomena they study, so we can “hear” other things from the Word by going beyond simply reading the text before us.
For example, just as astronomers study wavelengths shorter than visible light, we can spend some time looking at the details of the text and its component parts. Try this: after reading a text that you wish to better understand, check the actual meaning of each word in the Hebrew or Greek. You don’t have to know those languages to do it – just examine the text in detail using Scripture 4 All’s Hebrew or Greek online interlinear Bible. You won’t become a biblical scholar overnight by doing this – and you should be careful not to base doctrine or other important things on “literal” meanings alone; but you may be surprised how often a closer look at the original Hebrew or Greek can help better understand details of the text.
That’s the short wavelength approach. For the long wavelength approach – focusing on the larger than individual text – you need to think about and study such things as parallels to the verse in other parts of scripture. The center reference column (or reference notes) in many Bibles is a great place to start, and a good concordance gives far more parallels that will help to see the bigger picture. I personally use BibleGateway.com to search the word or words I am looking at in order to see all the parallels that might shed light on the part of scripture I am studying. It’s quicker and more effective than using a concordance in my experience, and it allows you to do profitable searches whatever translation (or multiple translations) you might want to use (see our article "Effective Bible Study through Biblegateway").
The point is a simple one, but it is extremely important. If we want to increase our understanding of a given passage of scripture, we have to look on both sides of the “visible to the naked eye” part of Bible study and to also focus on the “short wavelength” details and the “long-wavelength” parallels. These extra dimensions of study can enrich our understanding of God’s word considerably. It’s all about “listening” to the biblical message at all levels and not just “looking” at it.