When you choose a Bible, it is definitely worth getting one that has a margin with cross-references. These are references to other parts of the Bible, normally in abbreviated form (like Mat. 2:5) and sometimes appear down the centre of the page, and sometimes at the bottom. These marvellous tools point out where other verses are similar, or can shed light on what we are reading. They really are the very first study help tool you should get familiar with.
Let’s think about the wise men who were around at the birth of Christ in Matthew chapter 2. They were from a long way away and have seen a star that has guided them to Jerusalem. What if we had some questions as we were reading, like “How do they know to go to Bethlehem to find Jesus?”
The answer is that they find a passage in Micah, one of the prophets, that says where Christ will be born. In Matthew 2v6 you may find a cross reference in your margin that says something like “Mic 5v2” , possibly labelled with a very small italic letter. This is telling us that what is quoted here comes straight from Micah chapter 5 verse 2. If we turn there, we can check it is the case. Sure enough, it says: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah… from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel… and he shall be their peace.”
One other example of how useful this can be. We might wonder why Jesus says on the cross: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” If we turn to the place where he says it, in Matthew 27v46, we will see a marginal cross-reference back to Psalm 22v1, where we read the exact same words, written by David a thousand years earlier. Jesus is clearly quoting from this Psalm – but it would have been hard to spot that without the cross-reference.
It’s always worth following these up, as they help us to show how the whole Bible fits together. They also demonstrate just how often the New Testament quotes the Old Testament (especially through the words of Jesus), and therefore how integral the Old is to understanding the New.