One of the most faith-defining moments for me has been the simple acknowledgement that the Bible was not written for me. Before you object, I am not saying that it is not useful for me. What I am saying is that neither the authors nor the compilers of Scripture had me in mind. The prophets of old did not know me. The evangelists who wrote the gospel accounts did not know me. Rabbi Shaul–Paul the Apostle–certainly did not know me.
First recognizing that I am not in the picture helps me to realize that not everything written applies to me. It may be useful in various contexts, but applicability and relevance are two entirely different things.
The Biblical authors and redactors and compilers had a different audience in mind: an ancient audience at least 2000 years ago. Modern readers forget this. And modern expositors often fail to mention it.
The first step to understanding Holy Writ is recognizing that we of modernity are not the intended readers. Before you object, I am not saying that it is not useful for you. What I am saying is that asking the question “what does this mean for me” is the wrong way to approach Scripture.
What you should be asking is “to whom was this written and why?” Only then can you possibly begin to align your understanding with what is actually on the page instead of what your modern mindset wants to see there. It is nothing short of astonishing how far afield from the intended message you can get when you fail to ask this simple question.