February 17, 2014 in Bible Study
by: Jonathan Jenkins
(Some while ago I began this series of articles on another website. I never had the opportunity to complete those postings. I am going to be re-posting and finishing the series here – Jonathan)
The Bible has a wonderful story within it. It is at the same time divinely intricate and humanly simple. However, developing an understanding of its overall message is one of the biggest hurdles many students have to clear in order to feel skillful in using their Bible. Even for many seasoned pupils of the word of God, it is easy to lose sight of the over-arching message of the Bible as they study. Anyone who tells you that the path to seeing that story is easy and without challenge is over-simplifying the task in front of us. True, there is much simplicity within the Bible and those basic principles are of immeasurable power in our lives. However, there is such sublime movement in the work of God in the pages of our Bibles that no amount of study can ever bring us to a full appreciation of it.
Over the next several postings that I make I want to provide a relatively simple list of passages upon which much of that movements rests in the Bible. Space and time will not allow us to examine these passages in depth. The aim of this series is not to end your investigation, but to aid it onward. If you have struggled to find the main points of different parts of the Bible the listing of chapters that follow will give you some places to begin your search. While no list of this sort can ever fully reach its aim (In fact, the chapters I have chosen or excluded may not match your own), the truths expressed in these chapters form the foundation of much the Bible’s story and the doctrines that we all need to hold dear.
This post examines the first ten chapters in our list:
1) Genesis 1 – God Exists and Created the World
The Bible’s open establishes the existence of the God who created the world. Throughout the rest of the Bible this chapter is alluded time and again. It is never discussed as allegory or any other figurative language. If one is to be a believer of the Bible and the God within it, he must be a theist and a creationist. Moses credited God not “Mother Nature” for this world.
2) Genesis 2 – The Law of Sin and Death
There are two main features in this great chapter. The law of God for man’s conduct in the Garden is delivered and the home in which husband and wife were to live is structured. While the study of the home is a great and lasting lesson for us, the larger point of the chapter is man’s relationship to God’s law. God’s statement is clear: When you break my law, you are worthy of death. That subjugation of man under divine law is the basis for the tension throughout the Bible. God did not create man to destroy him but to save him. However as the Bible soon reveals after this chapter, man would inevitably sin. In order then for God to save man, another plan had to be created.
3) Genesis 3 – Sin has Consequences
Man’s first sin follows in the next chapter of the Bible. Adam and Eve’s partaking of the fruit meant that his relationship with God was impacted. Man was driven from the Garden of Eden and away from the Tree of Life. The first scene of the Bible has the Tree of Life being taken from man. Its last scene has the Tree of Life being returned man in God’s kingdom (Revelation 22). That is the Bible’s story in a nutshell. The Bible is the story of how God overcame man’s problem with sin to restore him in an eternal relation in His fellowship.
4) Genesis 6 – Grace, Faith, Works, and Judgment
This great chapter shows us the first picture of redemption in the Bible. By Noah’s time, sin had taken over the world. God proclaims His intention to put all of mankind to death for that corruption. However, in the midst of that darkness, we see Noah. He was the man who found “grace” or “favor” in God’s eyes. At God’s direction Noah built the ark by faith (Hebrews 11:7). His faith moved him to obey all that God commanded him to do to avoid death in the flood (Genesis 6:22). In this one scene, we find the first interaction of grace, faith, and works. God’s grace provided man a way of salvation. Man believed God’s word and responded in faithful obedience. In that way God saved man. In every portion of scripture the proper interaction of grace, faith, and works allows God to save man. This truth is seen clearly in this early chapter of the Bible.
5) Genesis 12 – God’s Three-part Promise to Abraham
After the flood, God’s chose Abraham to continue moving mankind toward salvation in Christ. In Genesis 12, God gives to Abraham a three-part promise: 1) Abraham would give rise to a Great Nation; 2) That great nation would possess a Great Land; 3) Abraham’s Seed would bring a blessing to all nations. It is not an overstatement to suggest that the rest of the Old Testament is focused on the fulfillment of that promise. From Genesis 12 to the coming of Jesus in the New Testament, the Abrahamic promise is behind every event of scripture.
6) Genesis 22 – God’s Providence
Abraham’s offering of Isaac is poignant in its foreshadowing of God’s sacrifice of Jesus. Abraham offered his “only son” to fulfill the command of God. In that event Abraham says “God will provide Himself the lamb.” How right he was! God did provide the Lamb to overcome the problem of sin. Often people speak of how God’s providence provides for the needs of His people. While that is true, it perhaps even more important to remember that God’s work in this world provides all that He needs to accomplish His will.
7) Genesis 49 – The Future of Israel
Jacob’s final words to his sons are important in two ways. First, they show the first portion of the promise to Abraham is in place. Abraham was to father a great nation. With Jacob’s sons grown, the 12 tribes of that great nation are in place. Second, Jacob’s words to Judah that the scepter would not depart from that tribe laid the foundation that the King of kings would one day be born from that tribe.
8) Exodus 3 – Who is God?
At the burning bush, Moses asked God how to answer the people’s question about who had sent him to them. God replied, “I Am Who I Am.” That question is repeated by Pharaoh in Exodus 5. “Who is God” is one of the great questions of the Old Testament. In your studies of Exodus 3 forward in the Old Testament, take note of how often God says that action is taken so that man may “know that I am the Lord.” The central message of the Old Testament starts at the burning bush.
9) Exodus 12 – The Passover
The last of the plagues on Egypt reveals more about the salvation of man. God’s passing through the land of Egypt formed the basis of the Feast of Passover. The slaying of a lamb and the covering the house of God in the blood of that innocent sacrifice was at the heart of Israel’s deliverance from slavery and identity as a nation. The New Testament brings that imagery forward in the Lord’s Supper. Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).
10) Exodus 14 – Salvation from Egypt
Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was complete once they crossed through the divided waters of the Red Sea: “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians.” Their passing through the waters to reach a place of salvation is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10. He refers to it as a baptism unto Moses. Their manner of salvation foreshadowed the manner of salvation God anticipated in Christ: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. . .” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Much of the imagery used throughout the rest of the Bible is found in just these first 10 chapters of our study. They are worthy of our attention. Take some time to re-read before our next installment in this series.