Yes, we do understand Scripture by discovering the message to the original audience and then determining how this applies to us in our own context. We do this fairly easily with Genesis 1. We see that God is saying that he himself created the heavens and the earth. We get this message pretty easily. What causes so much difficulty about Genesis 1 is that God does not just tell us that he made the heavens and the earth. If he had stopped there, we wouldn’t need to discuss it so much. But he goes on to tell us a bit of history; he tells us how he made the heavens and the earth. This is the part that becomes difficult. How can we believe that God created the universe if he says that he made light itself first, if he says that he separated water from water (where is this water?), if he made the plants before there was any sun, and particularly how could he have done these things in so little time? This makes no sense to us now that we know so much more about how the universe came into being. This is where the ancients differed from us in understanding.
God didn’t have to include the history of his actions in creating the earth; he could have left it alone. I think he included these details for our benefit. If we see that this history fits with what we now know, wouldn’t we have to accept that this piece of writing was produced by more than human effort?