The Bible from 6,000 Feet, part 1

Uncategorized

What does the Bible claim about itself?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

This is the most explicit passage in the Bible regarding inspiration. The claim of the Bible about itself is that it is God-breathed, or that it’s ultimate source is God. God Himself claims to be the author of the Bible. We are also told that the Bible is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, and that within its pages, we will find all that we need to know to be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

What this doesn’t mean is that it will answer all of our scientific questions about the universe, or it will tell us how to fill out our tax return, or it will give us the answer for next week’s midterm. What it does mean is that in its pages we will discover everything that God requires of us, all of the promises and gifts that God has granted us to accomplish all that he expects out of us.

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:19-21

This passage brings clarity to the 2 Timothy passage. In this passage, the Apostle Peter teaches us that there are many ways to apply Scripture, but there can only be one correct interpretation. Peter also clarifies what we mean when we say the Bible is inspired by God. The Bible consists of 66 books by about 40 different authors, written over thousands of years, and yet it is an integrated message system.

While there are several different authors, the ultimate source for everything in the Bible is God. Verse 21 tells us that the prophets were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit. This word is also used in Acts 27:15, speaking of a ship being carried along by the sea during a storm. Just as the captain wasn’t able to steer the ship, specific people with specific backgrounds, personalities, and writing styles wrote the Bible. Yet the Holy Spirit carried them along in their writing, placing God’s thoughts in their minds, so that the end result of their writings was exactly what God intended to communicate through them. Hence the term “God-breathed.”

                       

What is the Bible all about?

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. – John 5:39-40

The Bible is the history of God’s unfolding plan of salvation. The main characters of the Bible are God and humanity. There are many incidental characters that come into the story, such as angels, but we are not told everything that we would like to know about them because they only appear as they affect the main plot and main characters of the history of God’s plan of salvation.

Genesis starts out with the creation, but quickly moves into the fall of humanity. At this point God starts announcing different aspects of the Messiah, who would come to cure humanity’s sin problem. As God announces more specifically from what nation, tribe, family, and person the Messiah would be born into, the Bible narrows down it’s focus. Satan also narrows down his focus in trying to thwart the plan of God.

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. – 1 Corinthians 10:6

The Bible instructs us as to what God expects of us. As we read the stories, law, poetry, letters, and prophecy contained in the Bible, we discover God’s standards for our lives. The characters in the Old and New Testament serve as examples, either good or bad, of how we are to live our lives. The law tells us of God’s standard of perfection, designed to point us to the need for a Savior. The poetry shows us what it means to have a relationship with God in the midst of life’s ups and downs. The letters deal with practical issues that the early church dealt with that teach us God’s principles of living. Prophecy shows us that there are consequences for our actions.

The Bible as a Hologram

For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.” – Isaiah 28:10

Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells us that he gives us truth “line upon line, here a little, there a little.” Have you ever noticed there is no one chapter in the Bible on any major doctrine. There isn’t a chapter on salvation, or baptism, or the Holy Spirit. The message is spread throughout the entire text of the Bible.

It is interesting that when an individual wants to get a message to another individual or group of people, and they anticipate that there is an enemy that desperately wants to intercept or destroy that message, they create a code that both parties recognize, and they spread the message throughout the entire bandwidth available to them.

There are two characteristics that a hologram has in common with the Bible. You can never lose the message, only clarity. If you take a picture of me while I am holding my Bible in front of my tie, you wouldn’t be able to see the tie. However, if you take a hologram of the same thing, you would be able to look around the Bible and see my tie. If you were to cut a hole in a picture, you would lose everything that was contained where the hole was cut. If you cut a hole in a hologram, you lose a little clarity, but you can still look around the hole and see the section that was missing.

If I were to rip a page out of the Bible, would I lose anything? I would lose a little clarity on some teaching perhaps, but I wouldn’t lose any essential doctrine or truth because the message on any topic is spread throughout the entire Bible.

The other characteristic in common is this: when a hologram is illuminated with the light that created it, it presents an image. When you look at a hologram in the dark, it looks like a mistake. It appears to be nothing more than a dark film that looks a little bit like foil. When you illumine the hologram with the light that created it, it presents an image.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:14-16

 

How am I supposed to read the Bible?

If you are dealing with a specific issue or question, then the best way to find out what God’s word says about the issue is to do a concordance search on the word or topic you are dealing with. A concordance lists every word that is used in the Bible, and every time it is used. You can access this tool and many others through http://www.blueletterbible.com. Track down what the Bible says about the issue, read the passages with the surrounding context, and ask God prayerfully to reveal the direction that he might be leading you. There are many issues that the Bible may not deal with directly, such as abortion or which college to go to. Yet in these cases, the principles that we find in the Bible help us to understand God’s priorities, and help us make the right decision. In some cases, it may just be a matter of preference.

If you are reading the Bible on a daily basis from cover to cover, you will not walk away from the Bible every day being fed in the same way. Some days you will simply walk away with a new intellectual insight that you can share with somebody else. Other days, you may discover a principle or direct command to live by. Other days, you may walk away with a promise or a great truth about God that you can ponder throughout the day. Other times, you may just walk away in wonder concerning the accuracy and design of God’s Inspired Word!

 

Genre Alert

Old Testament Narrative

As we read the Bible, we need to be sensitive to the context which we are reading. Part of this art form is discovering what kind of genre we are reading. There are several different types of literary genres in the Bible including Narrative, Law, Wisdom, Psalms, Prophecy, Epistle, Gospel, and Parable, and the book of Acts. Each of these genres contains specific characteristics and good general rules to follow when trying to understand and apply Scripture to your life. The particular genre that we will discuss before we head into Genesis is Old Testament Narrative.

The books of the Bible that are considered mostly Old Testament Narrative are Genesis, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Jonah, and Haggai. Books that contain Old Testament Narrative, but it’s not their primary genre are Exodus, Numbers, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Job.

Here are some tips for reading Old Testament Narrative. Think of the books as theological not just historical. Remember that the main focus of the literature is God and His covenant, not people or events. Remember that historical cause and effect is seen largely in terms of the role of God rather than the actions of people.

There are several story types in Hebrew Narrative. Comedic: a story with a happy ending, often characterized by a plot that progresses from problem to solution. (Genesis 37-50) Heroic: a story built around the life and exploits of a protagonist or leading character, especially focusing on the struggles and triumphs of the hero or heroine as representative of a whole group. (Genesis 12-25) Epic: a hero story on a grand scale exhibiting nationalistic interests and often containing supernatural characters and events. (Exodus 12-18) Tragic: a story portraying a change of fortune, usually a movement from prosperity to catastrophe focusing on the outcome of human choice. (Genesis 3)

 

The Book of Genesis

Genesis simply means “BEGINNINGS.” That is what this first book of the Bible is all about. Like every good story, Genesis sets up the plot.

Beginning of Space, Time, Matter & Life

Genesis 1-2

The story begins with creation. This is literally the beginning of time, space, and matter. It is hard for us to even remotely grasp the concept of “nothing.” I tried thinking about nothing one time, and after five minutes I had a serious headache. I have since not made another attempt. Yet nothing except for God existed before creation. When God had finished His creation, He looked around and said that it is all very good (Genesis 1:31).

There is a lot of debate surrounding the story of creation in the Bible. People ask questions about whether the days were 24 hour days or periods of time. They ask how old the earth is. They ask questions about whether Genesis 1-2 was written to give us scientific details or just tell a colorful story. With all of the questions that people have concerning the specifics of creation, there is one non-negotiable absolute fact that we must all come to terms with, and that is Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” If you have that verse down, then it will keep you from falling too far into the prevailing thought of our day that believes that everything that we see and observe in creation was simply the result of a cosmic coincidence in which “nothing” exploded, and randomly came into the shape that we see it now. From that point, life originated out of a mixture of chemicals and slowly evolved over time to give us the different species of the animal kingdom, and then finally producing humanity. To even give this theory called evolution thought is to throw your brains out the door, which ironically is the very thing that Bible believing Christians are accused of for believing that there is a “Master Designer” behind this universe.

It is interesting that even the scientists notice that when they make mathematical calculations concerning the universe, they find that if any of 1000’s of specifications were altered even slightly, life would not be possible on this planet. They call this the “anthropic principle,” coming from the Greek word for man, because, as they put it, “it appears as though the universe was created specifically for human beings.” I couldn’t have put it better myself, and that is exactly what God’s word tells us.

With all that was good about creation, there was one aspect of creation that God declared was not good. It was not good for man to be alone, so God created Eve to be a companion and helper for Adam (Genesis 2:18). He placed them in the garden of Eden and gave them authority over every living thing. They were free to eat of any tree in the garden that they wanted, but God forbid them to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He told them that in the day they ate of that tree, they would surely die. (Genesis 2:17)

Beginning of Sin

Genesis 3

A story is never a good one without a problem, villain, or struggle of some kind. I personally believe that this is true because God’s story has been permanently etched on every human being’s mind. God was satisfied to have a perfect relationship with human beings and His creation. Yet one of God’s own creations, the angel Lucifer had a thought in his heart that would forever change the course of history. Lucifer, out of pride, tried to usurp God’s throne. (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17) In his rebellion, Lucifer gained 1/3 of the angels on his side before he was cast out of heaven and became the fallen angel that is known as Satan, the devil, and many other names. The rebellion Satan began in heaven he would now bring to the earth. Due to God’s love for His human creation, Satan’s goal is to gather as many human souls to his side in his rebellion and to take as many of us with him to hell as he possibly can.

As we turn back to the book of Genesis, we see that this now fallen angel appears in the garden in the form of a serpent who starts a conversation with Eve. (Genesis 3:1-5) Satan’s game plan from day one has been to gain control through deception. He sets his prey up by making them think that they are being empowered. He challenges God’s word by adding subtle errors and twisting the meaning in order to create doubt in the mind of his victims. Once he has done this, he then turns his prey’s attention to the pleasure that will be enjoyed if they simply listen to what he wants them to do.

Eve falls for Satan’s scheme and she eats from the tree of which God had forbid. She then gave to Adam, and he ate. God then appears on the scene and begins to question, “What is this you have done?” After some blame shifting, God then pronounces the curses that have now come from the fall of Adam & Eve. Men will toil in hard labor while women will experience pain during childbirth. A special and unique curse on the serpent is also known as the first prophecy of the Messiah, the figure that God will send into history to redeem humanity and all creation from the effects of sin. God announces that the seed of the woman (a human being) will crush the head of the serpent, and the serpent will bruise His heel (Genesis 3:15).

God has now officially declared war with Satan over humanity. The rest of the Bible will unfold the story of God’s salvation, and how He will have ultimate victory over the serpent by providing a means to restore all that was lost in the fall. The effects of the fall of humanity were very severe. The biggest consequence of the fall was that humanity was now separated from God by their sin, which each human being since Adam has inherited. We are sinners by nature, and each of us sins deliberately. Because of sin, every human being that has ever lived deserves to be punished with eternal separation from God. This is what hell is. Yet God in His mercy has chosen to pursue His rebellious creation with love so that we might be forgiven of our sins and once again have restored relationship with God, with other humans, and with creation.

The other major consequence of the fall was physical death and decay. Before Adam & Eve fell in the garden, there was no death. That is a very hard concept for us to grasp since death is an inevitable part of every one of our lives. Yet, death was not an original part of God’s creation. Not only did nothing ever die previous to the fall, nothing ever aged or decayed. The law of thermodynamics known as entropy, or the tendency, unless intentionally fought against, for everything to go from a state of order to disorder, was not in existence before the fall. Nothing in all of creation would have ever died had Adam & Eve not rebelled against God. No energy would ever be lost from God’s original creation. No disease would have ever existed. Since everything lived in perfect harmony, there would be no reason to fear being attacked or wronged by another. There would be no natural disasters.

I’ll stop here because the more you think about what we lost in the fall as human beings, the more depressed you become. On the other hand, when we think about what we lost in the fall, we are reminded that God has paid the price for the redemption of His creation, and all we lost in Eden will be restored for those who place their trust in God.

New Beginning with Noah

Genesis 5-9

Sin had free reign on the earth from the time of Adam’s Fall. The first murder was committed by one of Adam’s sons named Cain. By the time we get to Genesis 6:5, we are told that sin & Satan had wreaked so much havoc that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” Even though God knew that this was going to happen, he chose to create humanity with a choice to either love, obey, worship & serve Him, or to reject Him. The sin of humanity so grieved God that he regretted having made them. He was now faced with making a decision to wipe away every unrepentant person from the face of the earth. He would open up the windows of heaven and flood the entire earth.

There was one man who found grace in the eyes of the Lord named Noah. God commanded Noah to build an ark and to gather two of every unclean animal and seven of every clean animal and take them aboard the ark. Before this time, rain had never fallen upon the earth. It must have seemed ridiculous to see this man and his sons pounding away for 120 years building a boat on dry ground. Yet this great ark, and certainly Noah’s preaching served as a witness to God’s great love in calling all people to repent and have life. In fact, if we go back in the genealogies of Genesis 5, we see that the flood was preached for four generations starting with Enoch, a prophet who named his son Methuselah, which means “his death shall bring.” We learn that Methuselah lived longer than any other human being, 969 years, which serves as a testimony to God’s great patience and grace as he waited almost 1000 years and through four different generations of preachers in order to give every tribe, family, and individual a chance to repent and be delivered from the impending judgment that would come upon the earth.

After all of God’s effort, only 8 individuals were aboard the ark when the floods came. They were Noah, his wife, his sons & daughters, and their spouses. God was starting over with Noah and his family, giving them a new beginning to overcome sin and to do things God’s way. Everything that we know about the earth is post-fall and post-flood. The long life spans that we saw before the flood will now disappear rather rapidly because of the spread of sin in the gene pool and because there is no longer the water canopy over the earth that shielded us from many harmful rays of the sun.

God creates a new covenant with Noah. He is now allowed to eat clean animals. God created the rainbow as a sign every time after it rains so that we would remember that God pledged to never again destroy man from the earth with a flood. In 2 Peter we are told to read the fine print. The next time, God will destroy the earth with fire. This will happen after the second coming of Christ.

The Beginning of Nations, Languages & Cultures

Genesis 10-11

Noah and his family repopulated the earth, and it wasn’t long before humanity had gone back to its sinful ways. Humanity, under Nimrod, the leader of the first Babylon, tried to build a tower to reach heaven. The goal of this project was humanity asserting its independence from God. As a result, God confused the languages to keep them from accomplishing this task. Genesis 10 records how after the languages were mixed up, the peoples gathered and spread out over the earth. If you see a nation’s name mentioned in the Bible, and it looks totally unfamiliar to you, go back to Genesis 10 because the Bible almost always uses these names to refer to the nations. The nations in the Bible are spoken of as being of the character of the Father of that nation, whether it be Abraham, Lot, Ishmael, Noah, Shem, Japheth, etc…

The Beginning of Israel

Genesis 12-50

Out of a region of Babylon, God called an idol worshipper named Abraham to be the father of what would become the nation and people of Israel. Abraham was a descendant of Shem, who was Noah’s son, and so Abraham was in the family line that God had previously announced that the Messiah would be born into. In Genesis 12, we are told the story of Abraham’s call. God told Abraham to leave his family and his country and go to a land that He would show him. (Genesis 12:1) In chapters 12, 15 & 22 of Genesis, God give the details of the covenant that He was making with Abraham and his descendants. His descendants would inherit the land from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates. Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars and the grains of sand. Abraham will be a great nation. God will make Abraham’s name great. Through Abraham all the nations of the earth will be blessed. God will bless those who bless Abraham, and curse those who curse Abraham.

It is vital that we understand that this covenant God made with Abraham concerning the land of Israel, which He would give to his descendants is unconditional. In Genesis 15, we see God making this covenant official through a practice that was common in that day. When two parties wanted to make a covenant, or “contract,” with each other, they would split an animal in two pieces, and then the two parties would walk together through the animal pieces reciting the terms of the covenant.

However, in this case, God put Abraham into a deep sleep, and God alone walked through the animal pieces restating the covenant He had made with Abraham earlier. This would mean that God alone was making the promises, and God alone would be held accountable for keeping those promises. There is nothing Abraham or his descendants could do to break the terms of this covenant. In Genesis 22:16, God says the words “I swear by Myself” in reference to this covenant.

The sign of this covenant is circumcision, which as we all know, is still practiced amongst the Jewish people, as it is most peoples due to it being a healthier alternative. However, in Abraham’s day, this was a very rare practice, which set the Jewish people apart from the other nations. God always wants His people to be different from the world around them. The world lives by the principles of power, wealth, and pleasure. God’s people live by the principles of wisdom, obedience and sacrificial love for others.

The Messianic line was passed on through Abraham to his son Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob. Jacob, whose name was changed by God to Israel, will have twelve sons who will become the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. Judah’s line will be chosen out of the twelve as the line that will produce the Messiah. (Genesis 49:10) This will also be the line from which the rulers of Israel will come from. The tribe of Levi, and specifically the descendants of Aaron, who we will encounter in coming sessions, will be the priestly tribe. They will serve God in the tabernacle and temple that will come and offer up sacrifices in behalf of the people

.