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Right now I’m reading the Bible in 180 days, with hopes of gaining a grand overview of God’s redemptive story so it can inform my closer study for the rest of the year.
With this fast-paced plan it can be hard to soak truth in, but I’ve been utilizing a highlighting system to keep track of key verses in the Old Testament. In this way I’m creating a quick reference index across my Bible, and it allows me to go back and spot sections of particular insight and importance.
I also just love how highlighting makes words pop on the page, and helps stick them in my memory.
I use a highlighter set from Daily Grace Co., and each color codes for a main theme. As I’m reading I use the colors to keep track of who God is, what man does, and other significant pieces like prophecies, commands, and prayer.
These colors give me different lenses for observing the passage, as I use other resources and am led by the Spirit. I’ll highlight as I read, or after the fact once I have a clear understanding of the passage.
There’s no particular reason why I put one color with one theme, so you can adjust this according to your preference.
Also keep in mind that sometimes the colors overlap. Often I pick the one I think codes best, but also place a mark of the other fitting colors next to the passage to show them all.
This is my current system for the Old Testament:
Pink: Attributes of God, When God Speaks
This is by far my most used highlighter! By tracing where God is mentioned, I am able to draw conclusions about His character and His promises. Often His attributes are not obviously stated (i.e. God is faithful) but they come alive between the lines as God declares His loyalty to His chosen people and guides them along their respective journeys.
Example highlighted verse: “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Genesis 12:1-2
Whether highlighting or not, seeing and worshiping God’s attributes is my main mission when I study the Old Testament.
[To learn more about what they are, consider going through my 30 day devotional Adoring His Attributes.]
Green: Prophecies About Christ, Gospel Symbolism
In the next verse after the passage above God says: “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
As the Apostle Paul later explains in Romans and elsewhere, this particular promise signifies that Jesus will descend from Abraham’s family, but provide salvation to the whole world. This is a prophecy.
I also highlighted these verses green: “He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you…
He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” Genesis 22:2, 12
Through this test of faith for Abraham, God foreshadowed what He would someday do – willingly offer up His own beloved Son to save the world.
Orange: Depravity of Man, Sin
I use orange to highlight moments where man’s sinfulness is on display. This reminds me of our need for our Savior Jesus, and also allows me to recognize sins I may need confess.
“But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:26
This verse shows the consequences of ignoring God’s command (Genesis 19:17), and perhaps the cost of treasuring worldly things rather than keeping your eyes on the Lord’s path.
Yellow: Noteworthy Faith
Oppositely, I use yellow to pull out examples of faith, when men and women perform noble acts, make obedient decisions, showcase Christlike character, or give praises to God that I wish to emulate.
You may identify clear illustrations of faith, like when Abraham follows God’s call, but don’t forget to search for more subtle gems, like seeing Rebekah’s hard-working, hospitable spirit:
“She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels.” Genesis 24:18-20
Purple: Templates for Prayer
One of the best way to inspire your prayer life is to see what other faithful saints have said before you. I’m using highlighting to track passages with lines I too would love to adapt and pray to God!
“The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord and said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.’” Genesis 24:26-27
Blue: God’s Commands + Wisdom
Last but for sure not least, I note what God directs His people and how. This includes literal rules of His law, but also could be phrases that could lead to application in your life. This will be very helpful for the New Testament, but also comes up regularly as God addresses the Israelites across their history. In places like Leviticus, you may just want to highlight ones that challenge your thinking or bring Christ to mind.
For a book like Proverbs, which is all wisdom, you may wish to make a unique system. For example, you could assign colors to proverbs about family, money, foolish versus wise behavior, etc.
Example: God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments.” Genesis 35:1-2
Want to get started?
You can buy highlighters anywhere, but I HIGHLY recommend these wax-based highlighters from Daily Grace Co. because they are specifically designed to not bleed through thin Bible pages. They also have sweet inscriptions on the side that remind you of God’s love.
Also complement your highlighting with my Old Testament Bible Study Worksheet, available in my subscriber FREEBIE Library.
It helps you answer the main questions about a passage in order to grasp its full meaning and application.