Olive Tree Learning Center
Here is an initial article on using your mobile device to do Scripture searches. You will discover that a device as small as your phone can hold an entire library of theological works without the weight and bulk of hardbound books.
The Bible contains answers to life’s most important questions. To find these answers, saints of old searched the Scriptures by lamplight, diligently mining ore hidden in the bedrock of this incomparable book. For them, finding a word or phrase and tracing its use throughout the Scriptures was painstaking work, but the revelation they received was well worth the innumerable hours of labor and has been a blessing to the body of Christ ever since.
Time passed until, over a century ago, a quantum leap in Bible study occurred. Without the aid of computers, dedicated scholars generated exhaustive and specialized concordances, making it possible to find with relative ease any word in the Bible—in English, Hebrew, or Greek. Building upon their work, today’s technology has made Bible searching easier still. Did you know that your smartphone or tablet with BibleReader™ software contains, in effect, a copy of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance as well as copies of the Englishman’s Hebrew and Greek Concordances? “I don’t remember buying them,” you say? That’s because you didn’t need to. Olive Tree’s search engine does everything any kind of printed concordance can do—actually, far more—and it does it much faster. Even so, many of us could use a little help to see the reasons for doing Bible searches and the methods for making them effective—or, as the title says, the why and the how.
There is no other book like the Bible. No other book has been translated into so many languages. No other book has
been poured over, sifted, and scrutinized by so many scholars and commentators.
Has any other book aroused so much controversy or caused so many fractures in
society? On the other hand, has any other book brought peace, comfort, and joy to the hearts of so many people? It
was because of his desire to make the Bible available to the common people of his day that William Tyndale was
burned at the stake. It was because of people’s desire for their children to be able to read the Bible that
public schools were first created in England and America. It was because of the burden for young men to be
equipped to preach God’s word that many of today’s great colleges and universities were established.
No matter how far society has drifted from its former yearnings, the Bible is still by far the most sought after
book in the world.
Why has there been so much hunger in humanity to know what this book contains? Isn’t it because the Bible answers questions that every one of us wants to know about? How did I get here? What am I doing here? What is my destiny? What are my purpose and responsibility in life? Who is God? How can I be right with Him? Can I know Him personally? If so, how?
As a public school teacher for many years, I found that my sixth-grade social studies students had a ravenous appetite for answers to questions like these. In our study of ancient history, they showed great interest in Egyptian and Greek mythology, but when it came time to study Judaism and Christianity, their curiosity went off the charts. As their teacher, I had to walk the fine line that all public school teachers are required to walk. As much as possible, I would set aside my personal convictions and approach the subject of the Bible objectively, like other books and stories, making a list of persons, places, ideas, and events, then explaining them one by one while the students took notes: Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham, Promise, Covenant, Israel, Joseph, Egypt, Moses, etc.
Sometimes when we would come to a new subject, almost every hand in the room would fly up. The students’ questions were often startling. Where did everything come from? How can God be eternal? How can I know there’s a God? Sometimes I had to tell them that my position as a public school teacher did not allow me to say everything there was to say about a subject. I remember a girl replying with good-natured frustration, “But I want to know!” A boy who seldom showed much interest in academics exclaimed, “Tell us more about Daniel today. That dude was psychic!”
Nothing I ever taught sparked so much enthusiasm for learning as the Bible. That ancient magnet draws life’s great questions out of today’s twelve-year-olds just as powerfully as it drew the attention of white-haired scholars and seekers of old. Even people who claim not to believe in the Bible’s teachings have to admit that there is something remarkable about this book.
Searching the word of God is a noble and ennobling occupation.
When Paul and Silas were ejected from Thessalonica for allegedly
“turning the world upside down” with their teachings, they came to the city of Berea. Notice what
Luke, the writer of Acts, says about the Bereans: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that
they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were
so” (Acts 17:13—KJV). According to this verse, what made the people of Berea “more noble”
is that they didn’t take for granted what the apostles taught. Their reception of the word of God was not
cavalier or superficial. They were not interested simply in accepting what someone else had to say without
checking it out for themselves. If Jesus Christ’s death for our sins and resurrection for our justification
were indeed foretold in the Scriptures, they would exercise their faculties and search daily until they found the
evidence and were fully assured of its veracity.
How often we take what others say at face value and are satisfied with their witness without checking it out for ourselves! I’m not suggesting that we should not be receptive to what others share with us from the word or from their experience of Christ; rather, I mean that if we take the time to pray and to search God’s word for ourselves, our own personal understanding and assurance of faith will grow and be deeply rooted. We are blessed if our knowledge of Christ and His word is not in the realm of grand thoughts and warm feelings, but in the realm of settled revelation and real experience. This is the why of Bible searches: that we may personally know the One of whom the Scriptures testify (John 5:39-40).
At this point someone might ask, “But what should I search for?” Let’s answer this with another
question: what do you want to know? For this we may have to do some heart searching before we do our Bible searching,
for the possibilities are infinite. Remember that the Bereans wanted to know if what Paul and Silas were saying about
Christ was true. They might have found the answer in Isaiah 53 as the Ethiopian eunuch did, or maybe they found it in
Daniel 9 or some other portion of Scripture. You’ll recall that one of my students wanted to know how she could
know for sure that there is a God. Given the opportunity, I might direct a person to Romans 1:20 and let Paul do the
talking. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by
the things that are made” (KJV). Or I might let David speak from Psalm 19:1. “The heavens declare the
glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (NIV).
When it comes to answering questions we can always ask ourselves first. “What do I already know?” Starting where we already are, we can seek to know more. Maybe you would like to know more about some key scriptural concept, like righteousness, or redemption, or reconciliation; you search for the word to see where and how it is used. Maybe you are thinking of a verse but can’t remember all of it or where it is; you use whatever part you do remember to set up a search and find the verse. Maybe as you are reading your Bible, a question arises and you want to learn more. All of these are good reasons for searching the Scriptures. I know a certain minister of the word who says that God will put a matter on his heart and then say, “Now, go get it!” That’s the way it is with Bible searches.
Now let’s learn how to do some simple Bible searches. Since the most frequent use of a Bible search tool is to find a verse when one can’t remember its location, let’s start with that. I know there is a verse somewhere that says “death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
I remember that it’s somewhere in the Old Testament. Using my iPhone as a concordance, I can find the verse with a few easy steps:
1) tap the search icon (a magnifying glass);
2) tap in the search field to activate the on-screen keyboard;
3) type a sufficient amount of text to limit the search—for example, “power of the tongue”;
4) limit the range by tapping on search options (if the results are overwhelming);
There it is in the results list: Prov. 18:21. After tapping on the result, I can read the verse in the Bible I currently have open, in this case the NASB. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Functioning like a concordance, my small, lightweight smartphone has done what I used to have to do with a large, heavy book, and in much less time.
Here’s another kind of search. You’re reading Genesis 2 and notice “the tree of life” in verse 9. This seems to be important since it is there “in the midst of the garden” for Adam and Eve to enjoy. You know you have seen it elsewhere in the Bible, but you can’t remember where. You want to know its significance in the whole Bible. In a traditional concordance, you could only look for individual words, but with BibleReader™ you can search for the exact phrase tree of life, thus avoiding the need to scan through hundreds of verses that contain the words tree and life. Already, we can see that the software is not only equivalent to, but more powerful than a concordance.
To search for tree of life, follow these simple steps. Tap and hold your finger to use the native text selection to highlight “tree of
Select More.... From here, tap on Search. You can then search the phrase or the individual words. Ten search results appear.
I recommend taking a look at the locations of these results to see if a pattern emerges. Often, you will find that certain words and phrases are found predominantly in certain books of the Bible and are thus reflective of the content of those books. Looking at the results for tree of life, I see that three verse locations are in Genesis 2 and 3, the beginning of the Bible; four are in Proverbs, the middle of the Bible; and 3 are in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. The last one is in the third verse from the end of the Bible. Why is it found in these places only, especially the beginning and the end? If I didn’t think the tree of life was an important topic before, I’m certainly beginning to wonder about it now.
Tap on the first result and go there. You’re at Genesis 2:9. Now, by tapping back on the magnifying glass icon, you can return to your search results. Until you tap the "X" your search will be saved.
One of the best things about having such a Bible search tool is that we can now read through all the pertinent results of our search and muse on each one, letting the Lord speak to us through His word. Aren’t you impressed with the facts about the tree of life contained in these verses? It was in the garden in the beginning for mankind’s nourishment (Gen.2:9), and Adam was invited to “freely eat” (Gen.2:16). After the fall, man was forbidden access to the tree of life, lest he live forever in a fallen condition (Gen.3:22-24). In Proverbs, several positive things are metaphorically said to be a “tree of life,” including wisdom (3:18), the fruit of righteousness (11:30), a desire fulfilled (13:12), and gentleness of tongue (15:4). These verses from the middle of the Bible show how the tree of life was not forgotten by God or His people during the passing ages. It must have something to do with God’s eternal purpose, from eternity to eternity.
Then in Revelation, the tree of life is suddenly a “desire fulfilled,” for it has been made available to
mankind again. The Spirit’s promise to him that overcomes is that “I will give to him to eat of the tree
of life which is in the paradise of God” (2:7). Four thousand years had passed since God barred the way to this
tree, but the Lord still knew where it was and what the requirements to enjoy its fruit were. Now, at the dawn of the
age of grace, after Jesus Christ accomplished redemption through the cross, the tree of life is mentioned again.
Revelation 22:14 says, “Blessed are they who wash their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life,
and that they should go in by the gates into the city.” When by faith we wash our robes in the blood of the
Lamb, our right to the tree of life is restored. The holy city, New Jerusalem, is revealed in the last two chapters
of the Bible, and right there, “in the midst of its street,” is the tree of life (22:2), just as it had
been “in the midst of the garden” at the beginning (Gen.2:9). We can see from these verses that the tree
of life is both a present and an eternal reality.
By now it is becoming evident that this life tree is none other than Christ Himself, who in other parts of the New Testament is identified as the true vine tree for us to abide in (John 15:1), the bread of life for our sustenance (John 6:35, 57), and the eternal life Himself (John 14:6) which was from the beginning (1 John 1:1). Through death and resurrection, “The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45b—ASV). In all of these verses and over a hundred more, the Greek word used for life refers exclusively to God’s life, which is the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23), the life that is really life (1 Timothy 6:19), and Christ our life (Colossians 3:4). What Adam and Eve forfeited in the beginning was the right to partake of God Himself as eternal life. What Jesus has accomplished through His substitutionary death for Adam’s race is to restore our right to the tree of life, our right to partake of Christ Himself as our food, simply by faith in His blood (John 6:53). No longer need we live by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9), trying to establish our own righteousness (Rom.10:3). Clothed with the Lord Himself as our righteousness, our new source of life is Christ, the tree of life.
With the Lord and His word, it is in the nature of things that a small amount of bread can mysteriously become enough
to feed five thousand (Matthew 14:15-21). In God’s economy, following one small phrase through the Bible can
yield revelation we never expected. May God continually surprise and refresh us with the unsearchable riches of
Christ as we study His word and let Him talk to us.
For questions and comments contact: