It is very important to recognize that reading the Bible isn't just about reading a verse or set of verses for the day and applying them to our current situation. We as 21st century Christians need to realize that while the Bible was written 'for us', it wasn't written 'to us'. And in order to understand how the Bible is supposed to be applied to our everyday situations we must apply at minimum a basic practice of hermeneutics. There are three key elements of hermeneutics that must be affirmed before we continue. These are number one, context, number two, context, and number three, context. It is imperative that we understand the importance of the context of any portion of Scripture if we are going to be wise readers of God's Word.
With this in mind I have assembled the following principles into the form of a question that we should ask ourselves before reading any portion of Scripture. This will assist us in getting a basic grasp of the concept of hermeneutics that will enable us to pursue a richer knowledge of God's Word.
I plugged these principles into the simple introduction of writing - Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How - in order that these principles would be easy to remember:
WHO is this book or letter being written to? - It is important to understand whether Christians, Jews, or pagans are being addressed in order to determine how we are to apply the principles to our situation.
WHAT is the author trying to communicate to his audience? - We must identify what the main drive of author is, whether he's establishing a national Law, writing a historical narrative, proclaiming a nation to Repent, or writing instructions of the rule of Churches.
WHEN in time was this book or letter written? Old Covenant or New? - The place in time must be identified in order to understand whether the New Covenant has a certain affect on the instructions that are presented by the Author(Dietary Laws in the Old Testament for example).
WHERE is the targeted audience located, and what is their situation? - If the situation and location of the audience is misunderstood, the principles will be misapplied. The promises made to Israel in Jeremiah for example were made while Israel was in captivity under Babylon, and they cannot be directly applied to our situations unless we are being held in captivity.
WHY is this book or letter being written? - It is our responsibility to understand the reasons that the book or letter is being written. Titus for example was written primarily for the guarding against falls teachers, 1 Timothy on church leadership, Revelations about things to come.
HOW can the principles of this book or letter be applied to my situation and life? - The second most important element of hermeneutics(the first being context) is that of application. If we apply principles from the Bible in a manner apart from which they were intended, we are misquoting God's Word, and thereby blaspheming against Him.
While this is a VERY, VERY brief introduction to hermeneutics, it is very important to understand the complete context of any passage of Scripture before applying it to our situation. An excellent resource titled "Herman Who?" features a much better introduction to hermeneutics. It is available at http://www.wretchedradio.com/store/product_details.cfm?id=297