David was a reflective leader and man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Nehemiah was a dynamic change agent and a man who demonstrated dependence upon God while engaging human effort (Nehemiah 4:9). Both men were intent on doing God’s will and fulfilling His purposes. From these two men we learn that biographical studies can enrich our living and leading significantly. How do you study the life of a person in order to discover such rich truth?
In seminary I took a course from Dr. Howard Hendricks on Biographical Bible Study. Before electronic search was possible he identified 2930 different persons mentioned in the Bible. By studying a person we can learn:
How truth was translated into life
What works and does not work
That every person has flaws and admirable qualities
How the Holy Spirit operated through people
Let me suggest a process that I was taught that could certainly launch you into a rewarding biographical study. Until you gain some experience with biographical studies you might want to choose a character that has enough written about him or her, but not so much to overwhelm you.
1. Collect the passages that address the person directly or indirectly.
2. Conduct a personality interview by asking as many relevant questions as you can think of about background, family, birth order, strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, failure, etc.
3. Categorize the person’s life in one or more structures such as chronologically, crises, geography, etc.
4. Consolidate principles or lessons that stand out as characterizing the person’s main contributions.
You can find a helpful approach and lists for biographical studies here: http://helpmewithbiblestudy.org/5Bible/HermChartBiographical.aspx
For anyone having read the Bible at least once and attended some form of teaching you have developed opinions about major Bible characters. It would be helpful to write a paragraph or so on what comes to mind when you think of a person before you start your study. These opinions may or may not be accurate and to be aware of your assumptions (both good and bad) will enable you to study more objectively.
Because biographies can so powerfully connect with our life in terms of areas of identification, we do well to read or listen to at least one a year. What are your favorite biblical characters and why? Which historical characters have most touched your life? Regardless of your life stage, how can you seek to cultivate one positive aspect you see in another so you can better enjoy life and build a legacy to be proud about? This generation needs Davids and Nehemiahs. Maybe God would have you carry on their tradition!