The Bible from 6,000 Feet, parts 1-3 (with additions)

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The Bible from 6,000 ft.

Written by: Jason Oakes


Keywords at a Glance

 

  1. Genesis – Beginnings
  2. Job – Sovereignty
  3. Exodus – Deliverance
  4. Leviticus – Holiness
  5. Numbers – Complaining
  6. Deuteronomy – Remember
  7. Joshua – Victory
  8. Judges – Relativism
  9. Ruth – Redemption
  10. 1 & 2 Samuel – United
  11. Psalms – Worship
  12. 1 & 2 Kings – Divided
  13. Proverbs – Wisdom
  14. Ecclesiastes – Vanity
  15. Song of Solomon – Intimacy
  16. Jonah – Resurrection
  17. Amos – Justice
  18. Hosea – Faithfulness
  19. Isaiah – Messiah
  20. Micah – Patience
  21. Zephaniah – Judgment
  22. Nahum – Vengeance
  23. Habakkuk – Faith
  24. Daniel – Gentiles
  25. Obadiah – Reaping
  26. Ezekiel – Restoration
  27. Jeremiah – Weeping
  28. Lamentations – Mourning
  29. Ezra & Nehemiah – Rebuilding
  30. Esther – Protection
  31. 1 & 2 Chronicles – Continuity
  32. Haggai – Temple
  33. Zechariah – Shepherds
  34. Joel – Repentance
  35. Malachi – Honor
  36. Matthew – Lion
  37. Mark – Ox
  38. Luke – Man
  39. John – Eagle
  40. Acts – Unstoppable
  41. Galatians – Freedom
  42. James – Works
  43. 1 Thessalonians – Thriving
  44. 2 Thessalonians – Thecond (Elmer Fudd version of Second)
  45. 1 Corinthians – Immature
  46. 2 Corinthians – Weakness
  47. Romans – Salvation
  48. Ephesians – Church
  49. Philippians – Joy
  50. Colossians – Christ
  51. Philemon – Change
  52. 1 Timothy & Titus – Order
  53. 1 Peter – Strangers
  54. 2 Timothy – Reproducing
  55. 2 Peter – Basics
  56. Jude – Contend
  57. Hebrews – Focus
  58. 1 John – Assurance
  59. 2 & 3 John – Hospitality
  60. Revelation – Unveiling

 

 

What exactly is the Bible?

Have you ever tried to read the Bible from cover to cover. We start in Genesis, and then go on to Exodus and Leviticus, and then at that point most of us stumble. As we are reading about sacrifices, feasts, and different laws, we start asking the question, “What does any of this have to do with my life?”

Another common problem is that most of us, when reading the Bible during our devotional time, come away feeling empty because we came to the text expecting that we would find the answer for our specific questions and life choices that we have facing us during the day.

Before we jump into the book of Genesis, I thought it would be helpful if we took some time to answer the question, “What exactly is the Bible?” What does the Bible claim about itself? What is it all about? How are we supposed to read it? Does it contain the answer to all of life’s questions?

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)

 

When somebody who does not have the Holy Spirit picks up a Bible, they see a collection of interesting stories, some good poetry, and find a story of a good teacher who had some crazy ideas about leadership. Yet there is nothing in the Bible necessarily that appeals to somebody who is not a Christian. If you illuminate the Bible with the light that created it, you are presented with a 3-dimensional image of Jesus. You will discover that behind every event, every character, every feast and sacrifice there is a 3-dimensional image being painted by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.

 

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)

 

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.

Genre Alert

Wisdom Literature

 

          The next literary genre we encounter is wisdom literature. The Old Testament books considered in this category are Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. A number of the Psalms are also classified in this category. Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) can be placed in this category, but it is primarily romantic poetry. “Wisdom is the ability to make godly choices in life.” We do this by knowing and applying God’s principles when we have to make decisions.

 

So how do we get the most out of wisdom literature? As you read poetic literature, look for principles rather than promises. A principle is an insight into how God operates. A promise is something that always comes true. Even though the Bible is inspired and contains the truth, sometimes the truth means that it accurately records history and quotes of individuals. The words that these individuals spoke may or may not be true concerning God or doctrine. This is especially useful in reading Job and Ecclesiastes, which use speculative wisdom as a way of wrestling with the great issues of life.

 

Poetry has the careful wordings, cadences, and stylistic qualities that make it easier to commit to memory than prose, and thus poetry also became the medium of Old Testament wisdom.

 

The Book of Job

 

It may surprise many Christians to learn that Job is probably the oldest book of the Bible in terms of when it was written. The events of the book of Job are historical, and occurred during the time of the patriarchs.

 

Most people think that Job was written to answer the question, “Why does suffering exist?”  That is indeed the question that Job asks throughout the book, but if that is the major purpose for the book, then that question goes unanswered.

 

The book of Job reads like a Columbo episode because it tells you “who done it” at the first two chapters, and then the rest of the book is devoted to the characters in the story playing the role of the detectives trying to sort out theological clues as to how to solve the case.

What we are told in chapters 1 & 2 is how Job’s suffering came about, a picture that Job was not privy to himself. We are told that Satan appeared before God and questioned Job’s integrity and faith. Satan proposed a challenge to God in which he requested to take away Job’s possessions and loved ones, and eventually harm his physical body in an attempt to get him to curse God. God agreed to the challenge, but put specific limitations on what Satan was permitted to do. The book follows a series of discourses between Job and his “friends” in which they are trying to present their various cases as to why they believe these things are happening to Job. In chapters 38-41, God gives Job a science quiz that would stump any professor, and then restores back to Job everything that had been lost.

 

This tells us the real theme of the book of Job, which is God’s SOVEREIGNTY. Sovereignty is defined as having total power or to be self-governing. We may use this term to refer to kings, queens, and the rulers of countries and nations, but ultimately, there is only one who is truly sovereign, and that is God. The key point to remember about Job’s predicament is that Satan had to ask God’s permission to do anything to Job. As Satan put it, “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?” (Job 1:10)

 

So What Do I Do With This?

 

There are two great truths that we can take from the book of Job. The first thought is that whatever circumstances are present in our lives, whether they be temptations, trials, frustrations, annoyances, or blessings, are all God-filtered. In the New Testament, we are told that these things are not only God-filtered, but that God will not allow anything in our lives that we will not be able to handle. (1 Corinthians 10:13) This brings about the second great truth from the book of Job, and that is the proper way to view trials. If Job had been privy to the conversation between God and Satan in the first two chapters, his ability to understand why the trials were coming would have been changed dramatically. The truth is that God allowed Satan to inflict Job so severely because God knew Job’s faith, and He was confident in Job that he would be able to handle losing his entire family and wealth, along with his physical health, without turning his back on God. God also knew that if trials came Job’s way, and he reacted to them by standing firm in his faith, that these same trials would produce a maturity and strength to Job’s faith that couldn’t be produced by any other means. (James 1:2-4) The truth is that if we are “In Christ,” then we are “more than conquerors” through all of these things, (Romans 8:37) and the sufferings of this present time cannot be compared with what shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18) So, the next time that trials or persecution comes your way, rejoice that you were counted worthy to suffer for His name. (Acts 5:41)

Genre Alert

Law

 

          Genre #3 is law. The role of the law in Israel’s history was to establish the ways they were to live in community with one another and to provide for their relationship with and worship of Yahweh, their God. The commandments themselves are found almost exclusively in only four of the five books called “the Law”: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

 

There are 5 steps to understanding how to apply law as a Christian. The Old Testament law was a covenant made between God and the nation of Israel. The Old Testament is not our testament, meaning that we as Christians are under the new covenant in which Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13) We should assume that none of its stipulations (laws) are binding on us unless they are renewed in the new covenant, and even then,  every imperative (command) is based on an indicative (statement of identity). The Christian life is about allowing the living Lord Jesus to live His life and His law of love through you. (Galatians 2:20)

 

Two kinds of old-covenant stipulations have clearly not been renewed in the new covenant. Israelite civil laws-those that specify penalties for various crimes (major and minor) for which one might be arrested and tried in Israel. Israelite ritual laws are the largest single block of Old Testament laws and are found throughout Leviticus, as well as in many parts of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  These laws tell the people of Israel how to carry on the practice of worship, detailing everything from the design of the implements of worship, to the priests’ responsibilities, to what sorts of animals should be sacrificed and how.

 

Part of the old covenant is renewed in the new covenant. Some aspects of ethical law are restated in the New Testament as applicable to Christians. Such laws derive their continued applicability from the fact that they serve to support the two basic laws of the new covenant, on which depend all the Law and the Prophets.

 

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

 

All of the Old Testament law is still the word of God for us even though it is not still the command of God to us. We cannot know our story without knowing Israel’s story. All of these laws fit into the two commands of the new covenant. The Law shows us how impossible it is to please God on our own. (Romans 3:20) The Law was not thought of in Israel as a “means of salvation.” It was neither given for that reason nor could it possibly function in that way.

The Book of Exodus

 

Anybody who’s ever been to a movie theatre and looked up at a glowing sign that reads “EXIT” knows what the book of Exodus is all about. It is a book that tells the story of God’s DELIVERANCE of the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and the beginning of their journey toward the promise land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. After a departure to tell the story of the book of Job, we now return back to the main narrative of the history of God’s redemption. Genesis left off with Jacob and his remaining eleven sons moving down to Egypt due to Joseph’s position of authority there. For a long period of time, the Israelites (Jacob’s descendants) enjoyed prosperity and favor in Egypt. They began to multiply and became very numerous. And then…

 

Delivered from Slavery

Exodus 1-15

 

We are told in the first chapter of Exodus that a time came when a Pharaoh rose to power who did not know Joseph’s story and saw the Israelites not as an ally, but as a threat. (Exodus 1:8) To prevent any possibility of the Israelites joining any invading foreign armies in an attempt to overthrow Egypt, they were subjected to harsh slavery, building some of Egypt’s greatest cities and monuments. Despite the harsh treatment, the Israelites continued to grow in number until one day Pharaoh issued a decree that every male child that is born is to be thrown into the Nile River.

 

One of the boys born just in time to be thrown into the Nile was Moses. In an attempt to save Moses’ life, his mother built a basket of reeds and floated Moses upon the Nile River. God steered Moses’ basket to Pharaoh’s court, where Pharaoh’s daughter saw him, and desired to raise Moses as her own child. Moses’ sister arranged for Moses’ biological mother to nurse Moses, and to make the deal even sweeter, she got paid to do it.

 

After the period of nursing, Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s court, and had an inner sense that he was going to deliver his people, the Hebrew slaves, but he thought he would do it by rising to power in Egypt, like Joseph before him. God had other plans.

 

Moses killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. When the word spread and Pharaoh tried to kill Moses he fled to the desert in Midian, where he got married and became a shepherd for another 40 years, bringing his age to 80.

God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and told Moses that he was his chosen vessel to free his people from Egypt. God told him that Pharaoh was going to be resistant, but God would send Moses with His power to bring plagues on Egypt until Pharaoh let the Hebrew slaves go. Moses was resistant and made many excuses, but God eventually made him go, and called his brother Aaron to be his mouthpiece. Moses and Aaron are both descendants of Levi, the priestly line. This is when God reveals himself as “I am that I am,” or the unpronounceable 4 Hebrew consonants of YHWH, where we get the English Jehovah or Yahweh.

 

God brings 10 plagues on Egypt as Pharaoh resists. The 10 plagues were not random, but were intentional attacks designed by God against the Egyptian gods showing Himself sovereign over the gods of Egypt. The last plague of the death of the firstborn was an attack on Pharaoh, who believed he was a human god, and finally got Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.

 

In preparation for the 10th plague, the death of the firstborn, God commanded every Hebrew household to slaughter a lamb without blemish, drain the blood, and paint the doorposts with the blood. They were to cook and eat the whole lamb and meal with their staff in their hands and sandals on their feet because after this night they were to leave Egypt.

 

The Israelites gathered the gold and jewelry from the Egyptians as God had promised and headed out. God led them appearing as a cloud (the Shekinah glory) by day, and a pillar of fire by night.

 

Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after the Israelites and cornered them by the Red Sea. The fire of God stood in between Pharaoh’s army and the Israelites. God told Moses to place his staff in the Red Sea, and they would walk across on dry ground. Moses obeyed, and the water formed as walls on their left and right, and they walked across on dry ground.

 

When they had crossed, the pillar of fire relented and Pharaoh’s army charged across the Red Sea. Then the walls of water collapsed and Pharaoh’s entire army drowned in the Red Sea.

 

Israel went into Egypt as a family, but came out as a nation. The sins of the Amorites had now reached the “Judgment button,” (Genesis 15:16) and God was ready to lead the nation of Israel into the land He had promised Abraham so many years before.

Key Insight

An important insight to make is that Pharaoh’s      magicians were able to replicate the first few signs that Moses performed,      but God’s power always showed itself to be the victor. There came a point      where even Satan’s magicians were telling Pharaoh that Yahweh is the true      God. Satan has real power, but he is a created being, and his power cannot      be compared with God’s.

 

 

 

SNAPSHOT

Jesus is “the lamb of God who takes away the sins       of the world.” He was without sin, and interestingly enough, he was       presented to Israel at the same time the Passover lambs were being       inspected, and was crucified on the very day that Passover was       celebrated.

Jesus gave the Passover feast a new meaning when he       broke the bread and said “this is my body,” and took the wine and said, “this       is my blood. Do this is remembrance of me. Whenever we take communion, we       remember that Jesus, as the perfect Passover lamb, died for our sins, and       by posting his blood on our hearts, we are delivered from death, and       freed from the slavery of sin.

 

Delivered to Service

Exodus 16-40

 

God’s deliverance is always from something (bondage) and for something (service and worship). After the Israelites camped in the desert of Sinai, Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to meet with God, and God gave him both the law and the instructions for building the tabernacle. Moses came down and told the people all of the commands that they were to keep, and they agreed with joy and excitement. Moses went back up the mountain, and God carved two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments with his finger. While Moses was receiving the tablets from God, the Israelites were making a golden calf and offering sacrifices to it. God was ready to destroy them when Moses interceded on their behalf and God relented from his wrath. Moses had to go back up the mountain and receive new tablets of the Ten Commandments.

 

The Tabernacle was to be built according to God’s specific instructions. It was to be God’s dwelling place among the Israelites when they camped. It was also the place where God would meet with Moses, and where the Levites would perform the sacrificial and ceremonial duties for the Israelites.

SNAPSHOT

Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of each article       contained within the tabernacle. “I am the door, bread, living water, etc…(Gospel       of John)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Book of Leviticus

 

The book of Leviticus, along with 1 Chronicles, is usually the most under-appreciated book of the Bible. We tend to get lost amongst all of the sacrifices, laws, feasts, and regulations for the priests. It doesn’t seem to be very relevant to our lives, so we tend to skip over this book, or throw down the Bible in disgust having been disappointed that we haven’t found all the answers to life’s questions in reading through the first three books of the Bible. I would encourage you to not pass up this book because if you put in the effort, you will discover Jesus Christ on every page. Everything in this book points to the life, ministry and death of Jesus. You will also encounter the HOLINESS of God more in this book than perhaps any other book. If we have a proper understanding and reverence for God’s holiness, and the consequences of sin, we will fall to our knees in repentance and gratefulness as we reflect on God’s great gift of forgiveness.

 

The Book of Numbers

 

After crossing the Red Sea and witnessing the death of the Egyptian army, the Israelites began their journey across the Sinai Desert. God provided for their needs with manna (bread) from heaven and clean water from different sources.  The Israelites from day one did little much than COMPLAINING. They complained about the food that God was providing for them. They complained about Moses’ leadership. They complained that life was better in Egypt. Each time they complained, God sent a punishment.

 

Fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. (11:1-3) God gave the Israelites meat until it came out their nostrils and they loathed it. (11:4-35) Miriam was given leprosy. (12:1-16) God caused the Israelites to wander in the desert for forty years until the complacent and unfaithful generation died off. (13:1-14:45) The ground split apart and swallowed Korah and his rebellious followers and their possessions. (16) Moses could not enter into the promise land because he misrepresented the Lord. (20:1-13) God sent venomous snakes to bite and kill the Israelites. (21:4-8)

The book of Numbers contains the history during Israel’s forty years of wandering in the wilderness. It is only about 11-13 days journey from Egypt to the promise land, but it took Israel forty years to make this journey because of unbelief. When they got to the border of the promise land, they sent twelve spies into the land. Ten of the spies returned petrified because of the giants living in the land. Joshua and Caleb returned confident and rejoicing in God’s promises to give them the land. Israel believed the ten spies, and God’s judgment was that this unbelieving generation would die in the wilderness. Only Joshua and Caleb would ever see the promise land

SNAPSHOT

In Numbers 21:4-8, God commanded that a serpent be       erected on a bronze pole, and whoever looked at it would be healed from the       plague God had sent in judgment. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, “as Moses lifted       up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” This serpent was       a picture of sin (serpent) being judged (bronze). Just as all who looked       at the serpent were healed, so will everyone who looks to Jesus dying on       the cross for our sins be given eternal life.


 from this group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Book of Deuteronomy

 

Deuteronomy means “second law” and best characterized by the word REMEMBER. After the wilderness generation died, Moses preached to a new generation and reminded them of all the great things that the Lord had done for their fathers, and encouraged them in the promise that they would possess the land. Moses then went up on Mt. Nebo and had a chance to view the promise land, but was not allowed to enter into it because of an occasion in which he misrepresented God. He died on Mt. Nebo and God buried him.

The Book of Joshua

 

If there were one word that captures the mood of the book of Joshua, it would be VICTORY. The book of Joshua is where the nation of Israel, and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, finally begin to take shape. Abraham dwelt in the promise land, though he never possessed any of it. Neither did Isaac, Jacob, or any of Jacob’s twelve sons. After the Israelites were delivered out of slavery in Egypt, they were numerous, and in the wilderness God gave them the law, the leadership of Moses, and the Tabernacle. In the book of Joshua, the Israelites will find their home.

 

After the death of Moses, Joshua becomes the new leader of the Israelites. The generation that complained in the wilderness had all died off except Caleb and Joshua, and they are getting a second chance at entering the promise land. Joshua sends in two spies, which was dangerous because of their previous mistake, but these spies find Rahab, who was a prostitute that had heard about the Exodus and plagues and believed that God had given the land to the Israelites, so she hid the two spies, and ended up getting saved. The Israelites cross the Jordan witnessing the same miracles that occurred at the parting of the Red Sea. When they crossed over, they set up an altar of stones to remember the occasion.

 

The book of Joshua models the concept that God’s promises do not exclude our need to be faithful and diligent to bring those promises to pass. The first battle was at Jericho, which they captured without a battle by following God’s directions, which very oddly, violated every law of battle that God had given them in the Torah. The Israelites were instructed not to take any plunder from the city, but Achan took a Babylonian robe, along with some silver and gold. Because of this, the Israelites were defeated at the city of Ai. God had them inspect the camp and find the sinner, and kill him and his whole family.

 

The Israelites were mostly obedient from that point on and had victory in the rest of the battles. However, there still existed some forms of disobedience as they didn’t always kill every person in certain cities that God had instructed, and these people groups would be a constant thorn in Israel’s side for the rest of their history, including the present time.

 

After they had conquered the land, they divided the land among the twelve tribes. The tribe of Levi didn’t get any land, but were issued certain cities of refuge. Their inheritance was the Lord as they ministered in the Tabernacle.

 

Israel was now a nation with their own land, their own law, and their own identity. God had fulfilled the promise given to Abraham in part as his descendants inherited the land that God had shown him.

The Book of Judges

 

The book of Judges, along with 2 Kings, takes the award for the most tragic period in Israel’s history. Shortly after gaining victory over their enemies and possessing the promised land, Joshua dies, and this time there will be no great leader to take his place. Judges 2:10-23 explains the cycle that takes place during this 400 year period. Due to the Israelites failure to obey God fully in completely driving out the former inhabitants of the land, they began to be influenced by them. They started to worship other gods, so God sent raiders to plunder them. Then the people would cry out to God, so God would raise up judges (these aren’t judges as we think of them, but are actually warriors and leaders of the people) to save them from the raiders. Some of these judges are the better-known characters of the Bible (Deborah, Gideon, & Samson). When the judge died, then the people would return to their old ways, so God would again send raiders against them.

 

The key word for the book of Judges is RELATIVISM, because the phrase that is repeated several times throughout the book is, “In those days, Israel had no king, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) One of the worst examples of how far the nation had sunk is contained in chapters 19-21. The book of Judges is very timely for our age in which the idea of absolute truth has been thrown out the window completely. Judges reminds us that when there is no standard of morality that is transcendent of ourselves, it only leads to sinful chaos and misery, not peace.

 

The Book of Ruth

 

The book of Ruth is the bright spot in the period of the judges. It is a story of REDEMPTION. It is a story of a Moabitess named Ruth and her Jewish mother in law Naomi, who return back to the land of Israel after the untimely deaths of their husbands. One day, while in the process of gathering grain left for the poor, Ruth meets a man named Boaz, who turns out to be a near relative of Naomi’s. There was a law in the Torah that stated that if a man died without having a male heir, then the nearest kinsman could raise up seed for him. This nearest kinsman could also purchase back land for the deceased relative. In the case that the death was caused by murder or manslaughter, this same nearest kinsman’s duty was to avenge the death. This nearest kinsman was referred to as the kinsman-redeemer, as well as the avenger of blood.

 

Ruth, upon Naomi’s instruction, requests that Boaz fulfill his duties of a nearer kinsman, but they discover that there is a kinsman nearer than Boaz. Boaz approaches the nearer kinsman about fulfilling his duty. He agrees to buy back the land, but refuses to marry Ruth, and so he cannot fulfill his duty. Boaz is then free to be Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer and marry Ruth, and they live happily ever after.

SNAPSHOT

Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer. Being God, He became a       man, so that he might redeem, or purchase back what was lost when Adam       sinned in the garden of Eden. Jesus lived a perfect life, and when He       died, all of our sins were “paid       in full.” (John       19:30) Jesus not only purchased back creation, but He is also our avenger       of blood. (Romans 12:19)

 

United Kingdom

 

The Books of 1 & 2 Samuel

 

One of the ongoing themes of the books of Judges and Ruth was “there was no king in Israel.” From 1 Samuel – 2 Chronicles, the history of Israel is all about the different kings that reigned, and the prophets who were around during the reigns of these kings. Within the time period of the kings in Israel, there are three sections that will help us remember the different books found in these sections. These three sections are the United kingdom, Divided kingdom, exile and return from exile. When you think of the books of 1 & 2 Samuel, think UNITED kingdom.

 

The books of 1 & 2 Samuel are named after the last man to occupy the office of judge in Israel, ending the period of the judges, and the first man to occupy the office of prophet in Israel. It would be Samuel who would anoint the first king of the nation of Israel.

 

Israel wanted to have a king like the other nations, so they named Saul, who was from the tribe of Benjamin, a tall and handsome man, as their first king. Saul was disobedient to God’s commands, and the kingship, as well as the Holy Spirit were taken from him.

 

As God looks at the heart of a person, and not at the outer appearance, He had David in mind for king, who was from the tribe of Judah, and from the family line of Boaz & Jesse, who were all in the Messianic family tree. David was an unlikely candidate to be king because he was smaller and definitely not intimidating. He was a shepherd who wrote songs. David was anointed king by Samuel even while Saul was still reigning on the throne.

After David killed the Philistine giant warrior Goliath, the people sang of David’s triumphs as being better than Saul. Saul became jealous and David spent most of his kingship and life running from Saul who was trying to kill him. David is probably most remembered for committing adultery and murder through the episode with Bathsheba. Despite this, David was looked on as the “man after God’s own heart” because he always sought after God and repented of any evil that he committed. The highlight of David’s career was bringing back the Ark of the Covenant to Israel. David wanted to build a temple for God, but God wanted his son Solomon to build it because David was a warrior and had a career of blood.

 

In 2 Samuel 7, we have the fourth major covenant that God makes with humanity. The first covenant was made with Noah after the flood, the second was made with Abraham, the third was made with the Israelites when God gave them the Torah, and now the fourth will be made with David as a promise to the nation of Israel and humanity by extension. God made an everlasting covenant with David that one from his line would always sit on the throne in Israel, a prophecy that would be fulfilled in Jesus, and specifically will be fulfilled when Jesus sets up His millennial kingdom following His second coming.

Genre Alert

The Psalms

 

          Psalms were the written form of the worship songs of Israel, much in the same way that we have hymnals or praise song books today. Many Christians fail to recognize that the Bible contains words spoken to God or about God, not just words from God to people. Psalms are of several different types, including: psalms of praise/thanksgiving/confidence in God, psalms of lament (mourning and sadness), wisdom psalms, royal/messianic psalms (sung when anointing a king), psalms of repentance, psalms calling for God’s judgment on enemies, pilgrimage psalms (sung when arriving into Jerusalem for feast days) and historical psalms (reflecting back on God’s working in history).

 

There are three basic benefits of the Psalms. The psalms can serve as a guide to worship. The psalms demonstrate to us how we can relate honestly to God. The psalms demonstrate the importance of reflection and meditation on things that God has done for us.

 

The Book of Psalms

 

The book of psalms is a collection of poetry set to music. King David wrote most of them, but Psalms were written all throughout the history of Israel. Psalms was used as the WORSHIP book in the nation of Israel. It could be compared to The Book of Common Prayer used by the Church of England, otherwise known as the Episcopal Church. It contains songs not only to be sung during everyday worship, but specific songs that were sung during the coronation of kings, or sung during feast days.

It has been said that the times in your life when you are going through the most trials, heartache, and confusion are going to be the times that you will get the most out of the book of Psalms. It is a book of high emotion. If you read the account of David’s life, you will understand why this is the case. David spent most of his life on the run avoiding being killed by King Saul and thwarting the plots of his sons to steal his throne. Perhaps the best lesson that we can learn from the Psalms is gleaning from David’s constant and unshakeable dependence upon God, and his honesty with Him. Even during the darkest times of David’s life, he was still able to find words of praise and trust in God. There are times when David will express anger, doubt, and praise all in the same psalm.

Divided Kingdom

 

The Books of 1-2 Kings

Part 1

1 & 2 Samuel chronicled the history of the United Kingdom. 1 & 2 Kings will now tell us the history of the DIVIDED Kingdom of Israel. As King David got older and was about to die, there were already signs of division beginning. His sons Absalom and Adonijah both attempted a coup of the throne. Yet upon David’s death, it was his son Solomon who was placed on the throne of Israel.

 

God came to Solomon and told Him to ask for anything that he wished. Solomon asked for wisdom to rule the people and make wise decisions. God was so pleased that Solomon chose wisdom over riches and success that he granted these things to him as well. Rulers and people from far away came to hear Solomon’s wisdom and to see the great temple and palace he had built. A permanent temple now replaced the portable and movable tabernacle in which God’s presence formerly resided. This symbolized the fact that the Israelites were now truly home.

The promising beginning of Solomon’s reign ended in bitter tragedy. Solomon found himself discontent with the wisdom and glory that he had established for himself, so he sought fulfillment in all kinds of endeavors, but his greatest passion was for women. Solomon blatantly disobeyed every commandment that was given by God directly to the kings of Israel. He multiplied chariots. He married foreign women to extend his reign and to form alliances with other nations. By the end of his life, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. When God gives a commandment, it is for a reason. God told the Israelites not to marry foreign women or to multiply wives because they would lead their hearts astray to worship foreign idols. This is exactly what happened to Solomon. Solomon erected places of worship for all of his foreign wives, which included places to worship Ashtoreth of the Sidonians, Molech of the Ammonites, Chemosh of Moab, and others. (1 Kings 11)

 

So What Do I Do With This?

 

Up until this point, the Bible may have been pretty easy to follow because the history found in the previous books that we have covered have been consecutive. From 1 Samuel until the end of the Old Testament, we are faced with a challenge of figuring out where we are in history. Even if you are reading 1– 2 Kings, it gets confusing because the story switches between the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom, and there are several times in which the kings from both kingdoms within the same time period will have the same names. There are times when the same king will go by two different names. In order to make it easier to get your bearings as to what you are reading in terms of when it happened, I have put together a chart in the appendix. This chart will tell you who is reigning in both the Northern and Southern kingdom’s at any given time period, as well as who is prophesying during that time period. This will help you tremendously when you start reading one of the prophetic books. For example, if you are reading Isaiah, and want to know where Isaiah’s prophecies fit in with the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and the other prophets, then you would find Isaiah in the Southern Kingdom during the reigns of Azariah/Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, & Hezekiah. You would also discover that Amos, Hosea, & Micah prophesied during the same time period as Isaiah in the Southern Kingdom, and Jonah who was from the Northern Kingdom (Galilee to be exact) had his adventures in the huge fish and prophesied to Nineveh during this time period.

 

The Book of Proverbs

 

Proverbs is the WISDOM book of the Old Testament. It was written by Solomon, who was proclaimed the wisest man that ever lived. (1 Kings 4:29-34) The book is written in the format of a father teaching his son valuable lessons about life. A proverb is a wise saying that is usually meant to be easily memorable. Unlike a fortune cookie however, these wise sayings come from the creator of the universe through the pen of Solomon and a few other writers. In this book we can find wisdom concerning relationships, knowing God, handling our money, and avoiding the common pitfalls of life.

 

The Book of Ecclesiastes

 

We all hope that when we die, our legacy will live on. We all desire to live a life that makes a difference. We all search for fulfillment. The book of Ecclesiastes chronicles King Solomon’s search for fulfillment and purpose apart from God. He searches for meaning in wisdom, escapism, legacy, etc… but finds that all is VANITY apart from finding fulfillment in serving God.

Genre Alert

Lyric Love Poetry

 

          How do we interpret lyric love poetry? Here are some helpful things to look for: A unifying theme that controls the entire poem, such as “love is as strong as death.” (Song of Solomon 8:6) Personal and subjective expressions of thought and feeling, like “arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.” (Song of Solomon 2:10) Emphasis on emotion: “If you find my lover…tell him I am faint with love.” (Song of Solomon 5:8) Concentrated intensity and compressed action, with the words “I slept but my heart was awake.” (Song of Solomon 5:2) Abrupt shifts in scene and between characters.

 

The Book of Song of Solomon /Songs

 

The Song of Solomon is one of the most mysterious books in the Bible. Why was this love poem considered worthy of being included in Scripture? Many scholars have tried to give answers to this question, which have given rise to the several different ways in which the book has been interpreted throughout history. Since the Bible talks about God being married to Israel as His people (Hosea), there are some that believe that this book is an allegory of God’s relationship with the nation of Israel. To go a bit further, there are those that would extend this interpretation and believe that Song of Solomon is a prophetic allegory that speaks of Jesus Christ and His relationship with the church. (Ephesians 5) Others believe that the book isn’t an allegory at all, but falls under the category of wisdom literature, and was specifically directed as wisdom for young women just as Proverbs is wisdom specifically directed at young men.

 

Whatever genre Song of Solomon falls in, and whatever you feel is the interpretation of the book, everyone agrees that the main theme of the book is INTIMACY. Most scholars agree that the author was Solomon, who plays the part of the “beloved” in the book. Sex is not evil! God created it, and when practiced within the context of a marriage that honors God, it can be incredibly pleasurable. Song of Solomon portrays true intimacy as God intended it to be, and of course we can extend that application to refer not only to our marital relationships, but also our relationship with God. The intimacy that we are able to share with God is actually deeper than we will ever be able to share with our spouse. He knows us better than we can ever know ourselves, loves us unconditionally, and can get closer to us than anybody else can. The extent of the intimacy we share with both our spouses and with God is left completely up to us. How much are we willing to open ourselves up, and how willing are we to love the other unconditionally.

1 & 2 Kings

Part 2

 

It was because of Solomon’s straying after other gods that God tore the kingdom away from him. God only allowed the kingdom to remain united during Solomon’s reign because of David’s faithfulness. God placed Jeroboam as the first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. After Solomon’s death, Rehoboam became king of the Southern Kingdom.

 

Another contributing factor to the split between the kingdoms was due to Rehoboam’s poor decision to raise the taxes in Israel. The people were begging him to lower the taxes as Solomon had already placed a heavy burden on the people to build the temple and his palace. It was after Rehoboam raised the taxes that many rebelled with Jeroboam and formed the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

This not only brought division, but confusion to the history of Israel from this point forward. From the reigns of Rehoboam and Jeroboam, 1 Kings starts switching back and forth between talking about the Northern Kingdom, which is also referred to collectively as Israel or Ephraim, and talking about the Southern Kingdom, which is also referred to collectively as Judah. You may remember that Ephraim and Judah were two sons of Jacob. Each of the sons of Jacob became the patriarchs over a tribe of Israel. Ephraim became the tribe that symbolized the Northern Kingdom, which was made up of 10 ½ tribes (1/2 of the tribe of Benjamin was in the north and ½ was in the south). Judah became symbolic of the Southern Kingdom, which was made up of 1 ½ tribes (Judah and the other ½ of Benjamin).

Key      Insight

You might hear certain scholars refer to the lost      tribes of Israel. What they are referring to is the belief that the 10 ½ tribes that made      up the Northern Kingdom intermarried with foreigners when they were taken      captive by Assyria, and only some returned to the land of Israel      afterwards as Samaritans, or half-breed Jews. There are many legends      conjecturing as to what happened to these lost ten tribes.

The reality of the matter is there are no lost tribes      of Israel. As time progressed, it became clear that the Northern Kingdom      drifted towards idolatry. Those who wished to remain faithful to Yahweh      and worship in the temple eventually migrated south, and those who wished      to be unfaithful migrated north.

The New Testament makes several allusions to the different      tribes of Israel. James wrote his epistle to the 12 tribes. Paul knew that      he came from the tribe of Benjamin. Ultimately, the picture that the      prophetic books paint is that the Northern and Southern kingdoms would be      reunited and that Jesus will rule on the earth for 1000 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeroboam sealed the division between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms when he erected two golden calves as competing places of worship with the temple. He was afraid that those who lived in the Northern Kingdom would get tired of having to travel three times a year to the Southern Kingdom during feast days and would permanently move there, so he erected alternate places of worship. Originally, the intent was that Yahweh would be worshipped, but that soon only led further to the Northern Kingdom’s tendency to worship idols. When you think about it, what symbol could have possibly been more insulting to Yahweh than a golden calf? If you recall, the Israelites had Aaron erect a golden calf for them to worship when they thought that Moses wasn’t going to come back from his meeting with God on Mt. Sinai.

 

The books of 1 & 2 Kings read somewhat like a report card. We are told about the reigns of each king, and at the end we are given each one’s grade from God’s perspective. Those kings that were faithful to Yahweh and enforced obedience to the law of Moses were said to be like King David. Those that disobeyed God’s laws and followed after other gods were compared to Jeroboam. The Northern Kingdom failed miserably. They did not have one single king that was ever talked about in a positive light. The Southern Kingdom didn’t do much better, but they did have a few bright spots.

The title for the worst king goes to Manasseh, who reigned over Jerusalem for 55 years. After his father Hezekiah had torn down all the of the idol worshipping centers in the Southern Kingdom and renewed the people’s obedience to Yahweh, Manasseh took it upon himself to rebuild them, as well as bringing new gods, such as Baal and Asherah into the picture. He even built altars to other gods in the Jerusalem temple. He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. (2 Kings 21:1-18)

 

The title for the best king is a toss up between David and Josiah. David is the standard to which all other kings before and after him are held to, but even David messed up a few times (the Bathsheba & Urriah incident, taking the census, etc…). Josiah reigned two years after Manasseh and had a lot to clean up. He became king when he was eight. While a crew was cleaning out the temple, they found a scroll that contained the law of Moses. They brought it to Josiah, and when he read it, he tore his robes out of repentance. He had the scroll read to the nation and renewed the covenant with Yahweh that he had made with the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. He rid the nation of idols and re-established sacrifices and feast days.

Key      Insight

It is interesting to note that even though there were      several kings in both the North and South that were very successful      militarily, or that built great structures, these accomplishments did not      factor into God’s      report card. God’s      standard of leadership is faithfulness, not success. If we lead people      astray as a huge success, then we have failed in God’s eyes.      Conversely, if not one person listens to our message, accepts Jesus, or      joins our church, and yet we’ve      told the truth, then we are giants in God’s eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

The books of 1 & 2 Kings are also the high point in the ministry of the prophets. This is the time period during which all but four of the prophetic books were written.

 

The prophets, like the history of Israel, can be divided into three categories: 1) those that prophesied before the exile into Babylon, 2) those that prophesied during the exile, and 3) those that prophesied after the return of Israel to the land.

Genre Alert

The Prophets

 

     More books of the Bible fall under the heading of prophecy than under any other heading. Of the hundreds of prophets in the history of Israel, only 16 were chosen to speak oracles (messages from God) that would be collected and written up into books.

 

In the narrative books, we hear about prophets and very little from prophets. In the prophetic books, we hear from God via the prophets and very little about the prophets themselves. Most of the prophetic books were not intended to be read in one sitting. They are a collection of different oracles (sayings) from the prophet at different points in their ministry. Due to this, it is important to get some sense of the context (period of history) in which the prophecy was given. To do this, it might be helpful to get a chronological Bible, Bible dictionaries, Bible handbooks or commentaries.

 

The prophets were covenant enforcement mediators. Even though God was speaking His message through them, this message is based off of the blessings and curses that would come from obeying or disobeying the law that He had announced earlier. (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 4; 28-32) The prophets’ message was not their own, but God’s. The prophets were God’s direct representatives.

 

There are different forms with which the prophets convey their message. These include the lawsuit (Isaiah 3:13-26; Hosea 3:3-17; 4:1-19), the woe (Habakkuk 2:6-8; Micah 2:1-5; Zephaniah 2:5-7), the promise (Amos 9:11-15; Isaiah 45:1-7; Jeremiah 31:1-9; Hosea 2:16-23) and the messenger speech. (Isaiah 38:1-8; Jeremiah 35:17-19; Amos 1:3-2:16; Malachi 1:2-5)

 

I like to think of the prophets as God’s drama ministry. I say this tongue-in-cheek of course, but some of the prophets were asked to some of the strangest things you will find in the Bible. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

 

the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot. (Isaiah 20:2)

“And you, son of man, take a brick and lay it before you, and engrave on it a city, even Jerusalem. And put siegeworks against it, and build a siege wall against it, and cast up a mound against it. Set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it all around. And you, take an iron griddle, and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; and set your face toward it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it.” (Ezekiel 4:1-3)

 

the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom (Hosea 1:2)

 

Thus said the LORD my God: “Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter…Then the LORD said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. (Zechariah 11:4,15)

 

      Let me share something with you I’ve heard referred to as “the scale analogy.” Picture a scale weighing good and bad conduct. Under the bad side picture a button that says “JUDGMENT.” As a nation gets worse and worse in their sin and idolatry, the scale tips towards that “JUDGMENT” button (Sodom & Gomorrah). Likewise, when a nation starts repenting and seeking God and acting justly, then the scale tips toward blessing and away from judgment. When the scale hits the judgment button, then God pours out His wrath on that nation. If a nation is scheduled for wrath repents (Nineveh during Jonah’s ministry), then the scale tips off the judgment button and God’s wrath is delayed for a time. If judgment falls, then the scale is cleared and starts over again. (Jeremiah 18:7-10)

 

This also leads us to another very important principle. A nation that has more knowledge of God and His word is held more accountable to obey that knowledge than a nation that does not. (Luke 12:48)

 

So, how should I interpret prophecy? Here are few pointers. Unless you are given good reason, the plain reading of the text is the meaning intended. In other words, unless we are clearly dealing with metaphor or poetical language, the text should be interpreted literally. Never take any one prophecy by itself and look for its fulfillment. On any given topic that is prophesied, there are numerous different prophecies that relate to that topic. The main topic of prophecy is Jesus, the anticipated Messiah who will deliver humanity from their sins. Realize that there is a limit to what we can know about those things that are prophesied but yet come to pass. Seek to understand what the Bible says about these things, and don’t speculate on what is not clear. Most importantly, don’t make somebody’s viewpoint on the end times a matter of salvation or fellowship! (I learned this one the hard way)

 

To get the most out of reading the prophets, look for the statements that God makes about Himself, or direct references to sin, or principles that God wants us to apply, or prophecies of Messiah that will give you a certainty of the truth that Jesus is the Messiah that the Bible predicted, and that the Bible is the Word of God.

Pre-Exilic Prophets

 

The Book of Jonah

 

Perhaps the book that is most attacked by skeptics of Christianity and the Bible is the book of Jonah. Many Christians do not even believe that the events that occurred in this book really happened, or that Jonah was a real person who lived. However, we are not only told that Jonah was a real prophet (2 Kings 14:25) who had a ministry during the reign of King Jerobaom II of the Northern Kingdom, but Jesus referred to Jonah as a historical person in Matthew 12:38-42. In fact, Jesus mentions: 1) the prophet Jonah, 2) Jonah spending three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, 3) the people of Nineveh, 4) the repentance of the Ninevites, and 5) the preaching of Jonah to the Ninevites. Jesus referred to Himself as one “greater than Jonah,” and He pointed to the story as a “sign” and picture of the fact that He was going to spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. If you believe in Jesus, then you should have no problem believing in the book of Jonah. If you don’t believe in Jesus, you have bigger problems than whether or not the events in the book of Jonah actually happened or not.

Key Insight

For the record, Jesus referred not only to Jonah, but     to Moses (Matthew 8:4), David (Matthew 12:3), Solomon (Matthew 6:29),     Isaiah (John 12:37-41), Daniel (Matthew 24:15), and several others. This     will save you countless hours in library research if you ever come across a     commentary that tries to tell you that there are two Isaiahs, or that Moses     couldn’t have possibly written the Torah, or that Daniel couldn’t have been     the author of the book that bears his name because he talks about world     empires that weren’t even in existence when he lived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jonah is called a prophet, and the book that bears his name is included among the prophetic books, but you would be hard pressed to find any prophecy uttered by the mouth of Jonah in the Bible. So why is this book considered prophecy? Jesus gave us the answer when he said that “just as Jonah was in the belly of a huge fish for three days and three nights, so must the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jonah is about the RESURRECTION of the Messiah.

 

Jonah is also a book that is loved particularly by missionaries. It is the only time in the Old Testament in which a prophet is called to deliver a message to another nation full of gentiles. In fact, Jonah was so reluctant to go prophesy to them because they were Israel’s sworn enemies. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the world power at the time. They would eventually be the nation that God would use to judge the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They were known for being a particularly brutal people.

Jonah runs from God and Nineveh until God explains things “a little more clearly.” After being spit up by a huge fish onto the shores of Nineveh, Jonah was ready to obey, and no doubt the Ninevites, looking upon a man who couldn’t have looked his best, who may or may not have died and resurrected himself, were ready to listen to the message. This is especially true when you realize who the god of Nineveh was: Dagon, the fish god. Jonah’s sermon isn’t elaborate, “Forty days and you get yours!” and then he marches up on a hill outside the city waiting for God’s judgment to pour down on the Ninevites. However, the Ninevites repent from the king down to even the animals, and God spares the city.

 

Jonah is upset that God didn’t judge the city, but God reminds Jonah of Jeremiah 18:7-10 and expresses to Jonah how much he cares for all people because they are His creation. In the end, God won not only a pagan nation, but also a runaway prophet.

 

The Book of Amos

 

The book of Amos is all about social JUSTICE. Far from being a religious guru or among the upper class in Israel, Amos was a shepherd. Amos prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam II in the Northern Kingdom and King Uzziah in the Southern Kingdom. This means that he prophesied during the same time period as Jonah, Hosea & Isaiah. The book begins by proclaiming judgment on all of the nations surrounding Israel in Amos’ classic style of “For three sins of _____, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath…” After hammering away at Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab, God aims his sights at Judah (Southern Kingdom), and Israel (Northern Kingdom). Judah had rejected the law of God and was led astray by false gods. Israel’s sin was that they oppressed the poor and crushed the needy.

Key      Insight

Amos 3:7 tells us that “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without      revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” As God’s      friends (John 15:15), He promises that He will do nothing but that which      he will reveal to us. Some suggest that this means that the church must      always have a living prophet for God to speak through. On the contrary, I      believe that this verse makes a profound statement of the completeness and      prophetic nature of the Word of God. Everything that God will do is      already written down for us in its pages.