Ever want to shake somebody? No, I don’t mean shake their hand – I mean grab them with both hands and shake them until their eyes come out of their head.
I have (figuratively at least).
No, I’ve never done it, but I’ve wanted to.
I had a professor in college who used to say, “If you’re studying to be a surgeon you ought to expect to get blood on yourself in the future.”
Ministry is the same way – if you’re in full time ministry, you oughta expect to get sin on you. If you’re doing your job, you’re going to have your hands in the muck and the mire, and unless you’re a coward you’ll also find yourself face to face with the Devil at times.
Over the years my heart has bled for people I’ve watched suffer because they refused to confront the sin in their lives. Many times I’ve pointed struggling loved ones to Scripture that spoke to their situation or sin and been ignored, and many times I’ve watched people flush their lives down the toilet (I have my fair share of success stories to tell too, but for some reason I find myself thinking about the failures more often).
I will never get used to that, and know it will always be a very painful experience. I pray that it never happen again, but know in my heart it probably will many times.
Such is life.
When I see a person on a path leading to destruction and they refuse to accept love and listen it breaks my heart. It’s simply a tragedy when a person chooses to ignore Scripture.
I understand there are different interpretations of different passages, am sensitive to that, and am not really talking about that. You see, I’ve dealt with people performing some real biblical kung fu in an attempt to make the Bible say it’s ok to do drugs, get drunk every weekend, have sex with whoever they wanted outside of marriage, cheat on their spouse, look at porn, or get an abortion.
Some of these people were serious about their faith at one time, but somewhere along the way started rationalizing sin away failing to realize they were killing themselves. Every time it started with a subtle compromise (which should serve as a powerful lesson as to the consequences of taking mercy on your sin).
Some people get upset if you bring up the Bible a lot or even at all, but what those people have missed is what the Bible actually is: the mind of God.
The Bible reveals what God thinks. It reveals His character, His actions through history, and His greatest desires.
The Bible is not God - I’m not a practicing bibliolatrist - but the Bible is a lens through which we can see God and know His thoughts.
As the mind of God it should be, in turn, the lens through which we see the world, and did you know you can ask it questions?
When asking the Bible a question as far reaching as “what is the biggest problem in the world,” we first need to take a step back and ask why we have the book in the first place. I believe that’s the key to finding the correct answer.
Last week I took my NIV Study Bible and went through each book in a study to find out the real purpose behind our having it in the first place.
Here are my notes I took on the Old Testament (I’ll post in the notes from the New Testament soon) – check it out:
Why was the Old Testament written?
Genesis – serves as the basis for the rest of the Bible; gives an account of God’s creation of the world, the introduction of Satan and the division between man and God caused by the fall, God’s fierce opposition to sin and His wish to cleanse the world of it, and God’s promise to bless the world through His chosen people – Abraham’s seed.
Exodus – chronicles God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and His journey with them to the promised land; God’s character is revealed, His law is shared, the priesthood, tabernacle, and worship ceremonies are established, and the institution of the Passover Feast points to the Savior’s future sacrifice.
Leviticus – gives an account of the laws and regulations given by God at Sinai; the primary theme is the holiness of God and His requirement of perfect sacrifice – points to Jesus.
Numbers- a history of Israel’s journey from Mount Sinai toward the promised land of Canaan, their rebellion against God, His wrath against them as carried out in the desert wandering; ends with Israel on the plains of Moab having yet to cross the Jordan into the promised land.
Deuteronomy - gives an account of events leading up to Israel’s entry into the promised land; emphasizes the love relationship God has for His people, His expectation of total commitment, obedience, and the blessings that accompany it, and His promise to curse those who are non-committed or disobedient.
Joshua – main theme centers around the establishment of God’s people in the promised land; Canaanites serve as symbols of sin, and God’s servant Joshua (whose name means “the Lord saves” and is same name in Greek form that Jesus was given) cleansing the land of sin is symbolic of Christ’s future victory.
Judges – gives an account of period between Joshua’s leadership and the establishment of the Jewish monarchy; chronicles Israel’s frequent descent into sin, accompanying punishment, their crying out to God for deliverance, and His covenant faithfulness.
Ruth- the main theme of the book is redemption, and is played out through Naomi whose life is moved from emptiness to fullness and from destitution to security and hope by the selfless, loving acts of Boaz and Ruth; parallels the work of Jesus in the world.
1 & 2 Samuel – a historical account of the rise of the Israelite monarchy including the stories of the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David; God’s promise to establish David’s throne forever points toward the coming reign of Jesus.
1 & 2 Kings – possibly written during the Jewish exile, these books provide a sequel to the history found in 1 & 2 Samuel and the guiding principle in the book is Israel’s success or failure as a people is dependent on their submission to God’s sovereign rule and law.
1 & 2 Chronicles- written to post-exilic Israel to answer the burning question, “Is God still interested in us?” The dissolution of the Davidic monarchy had caused the nation to question God’s relationship with them, and the writer of Chronicles highlights various aspects of history, God’s promises, and things like temple worship, the priesthood, prophets, etc., to emphasize the continuity of God’s role in the life of Israel.
Ezra – highlights God’s work to bring Israel out of exile back into the land of promise; the temple was rebuilt and the people were rededicated to God even though they remained under Gentile rule.
Nehemiah – meant to go along with the book of Ezra, this book gives an account of Nehemiah’s ministry in rebuilding Jerusalem’s outer wall, the opposition that arose, and the resulting triumph of Israel.
Esther – a historical account of the deliverance of God’s chosen people from annihilation and the institution of the annual Jewish festival of Purim.
Job – written to teach mankind to stop blaming the suffering of godly people on their own wickedness and to realize Satan is at work in the world driven by an all-consuming desire to separate men from God, and to view suffering as an opportunity to show what true godliness is; highlights the value God places on righteousness above all else, and the highest wisdom is found in truly loving God for God despite the circumstance – not simply loving God’s blessings.
Psalms – a collection of songs, poems, prayers, and worship literature emphasizing the fact that God is at the center of all, King over all, the ultimate arbiter of truth and justice, and has established the throne of David (i.e. Jesus Christ) over all.
Proverbs – written to pass on timeless wisdom and to remind readers that true wisdom is rooted in reverence for the Lord.
Ecclesiastes – the main theme is to truly live meaningfully, purposefully, and joyfully one must place God at the center of their life.
Song of Solomon – teaches readers the type of love God expects to be a normal part of marital relationships (a lesson that has largely been lost in modern times).
Isaiah – prophecy unveils the full dimensions of God’s judgment and salvation through Christ.
Jeremiah – highlights the consequences of sin and individual responsibility, God’s wrath against the Jews for their apostasy, their subsequent punishment through enslavement and exile, and the promise of redemption through God’s covenant promise.
Lamentations – laments inspired by the fall of Jerusalem; show that the people understood their punishment was divine even though it was carried out by earthly kings, were willing to acknowledge their sin, ask for forgiveness, repent, and be restored.
Ezekiel – main themes include God’s sovereign control over all creation, Israel’s fall, God’s subsequent punishment, and Israel’s restoration as the people through which God would bless the world.
Daniel – a historical narrative that highlights God’s rule over the entire world (seen in God’s ultimate triumph in each of Daniel’s visions).
Hosea – Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute is used to symbolize God’s relationship with Israel; disloyalty and idolatry are seen as spiritual adultery, and while judgment is announced against Israel the major purpose of the book is to proclaim God’s covenant love and loyalty to Israel as His chosen people.
Joel – teaches that a horrible locust plague Israel is afflicted with is a harbinger of God’s judgment; calls Israel to turn from unfaithfulness and notes that restoration will come only after repentance.
Amos – Israel had once again allowed their faith to become lackadaisical; they continued to carry out worship rituals (believing that after they carried out the rituals they could do whatever they wanted), but they were uncommitted to God’s law and uncaring toward the poor. God was so fed up He was ready to destroy them while preserving a remnant by which to later bless the world through establishing David’s throne (i.e. Jesus). Repentance was called for by Amos and taught to be expressed through social justice and personal piety.
Obadiah- the shortest book in the OT; condemns Edom’s gloating over Israel’s misfortune and predicts that God will destroy Edom while glorifying Israel.
Jonah – depicts the large scope of God’s purpose for Israel and Israel’s jealous view of her favored role in God’s plan.
Micah- alternates between oracles of doom and oracles of hope while stressing what God hates (idolatry, injustice, rebellion, empty ritualism) along with what He loves (pardoning those who repent); Micah points to the future by proclaiming the future glory of Zion through the restoration of the Davidic throne (i.e. Jesus).
Nahum – main theme is God’s judgment on the Assyrian city of Nineveh for extreme wickedness ending with the destruction of the city.
Habakkuk – highlights the prophet’s struggle with the ways of God. He sees wickedness in Judah and God doing nothing about it. When he inquires of God and finds out He will mete out punishment via Babylonian attack, he’s perplexed how God could work through such a wicked people. In the end, the prophet learns to trust in the higher ways of God that transcend finite understanding.
Zephaniah – pronounces judgment against wicked nations (including Judah) and ends with a promise of Judah’s restoration.
Haggai – the second shortest book in the OT; contrasts the blessings of obedience vs. the curses of disobedience.
Zechariah – main theme centers around calling the Jews to repentance, encouraging them to rebuild God’s temple, and reminding them of the glorious future that awaits them through the Messiah.
Malachi – the main theme centers around the Messiah coming to judge His people as well as blessing and restoring them.
What are the Major Themes in the Old Testament?
After studying the purpose of each book individually, I jotted down some of the overall themes that I noticed emerge. Here are those bullet points:
- Establishes the role of God as Creator of the world and the supreme, sovereign power in the universe He created.
- Gives an account of sin’s introduction into creation by Adam & Eve, the fall of humanity, and the subsequent barrier that developed between God and man.
- Tells of God’s covenant promise to the descendents of Abraham, and the divine selection of the Jews as the people through whom God will bless the world.
- Gives a historical account of God’s moral law (revealing His righteous character) being passed down to the chosen Jews with the understanding that obeying God will bring blessings while unfaithfulness will bring curses.
- Much of the OT is a historical account of God’s reaction to Jewish unfaithfulness including disciplinary action taken against them (often through other nations), calls to repentance, and God’s restorative work among them when sin is turned away from.
- Ultimately, the entire Old Testament is a story about redemption – God taking the initiative through the Jews to bridge the gap sin created between Himself and all of mankind. The Jews weren’t chosen simply to be blessed themselves, rather, they were chosen as a vessel through which the rest of the world would be blessed.
- Almost everything in the OT points back to God’s promises to the Israelites, or forward to the coming glorious establishment of the Davidic throne (i.e. the Messiah)
In my opinion, the overarching theme of the Old Testament is summed up in this verse:
“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” -God
Alright Bible scholars – what do you think? Did I nail this or not?
Why did God bother with giving us the Old Testament?