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Last time we were together I mentioned to you that all the old episodes of the show were back up and available. I can’t tell you how excited I am about that. But it kind of changes the direction of the show. All the programs related to books of the New Testament, are available to you, beginning with episode 16. That’s where we started looking at the book of Matthew. I’m going to link to that episode in the show notes, but I will also put a link to the Podcast Garden website, and an RSS feed link so you can get the episodes. For those of you with a Stitcher app on your phone, you can search ReDiscovering the Bible and get all the episodes that way. I still haven’t checked to see what our status is on iTunes, but since iTunes is going away, I’m not in a big hurry to look at it. I do know that if you have the podcast player app, that you can find us there. Please tell your friends about the show, and let me know if there are other places we should be. I’m still working on Spotify. Stay tuned.
Today, we’re going to start looking at the books of the Old Testament. Honestly, they are much harder to understand in the 21st century than the books of the New Testament. That’s why I always recommend reading the NT first. And twice if you can, before you read the Old Testament. And, read the book of Hebrews in the New Testament just before you start reading the old testament, as it’s like a decoder ring for helping you understand the Old Testament. I’m serious. If you read Hebrews first, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
The Old Testament, just like the New, is about Jesus. But is was written long before he was born. The oldest books were about 1400 years before, and the most recent was about 400 years before he was born.
From the 12th Chapter of Genesis on, the OT deals with the nation of Israel, the Jews. The storyline goes simply that God chose this guy Abraham to bring the savior of the world through his offspring. As you read, you’ll see why. I just don’t want to get into the weeds just yet. Since Abraham had multiple children, God chose to work through his son, Isaac. Isaac had 2 sons, Jacob and Esau. The bloodline was to go through Jacob. Jacob has 12 sons. They become the nation of Israel. The rest of the Old Testament is about their trials and tribulations as a people. Their great successes and their catastrophic failures. The Bible doesn’t suggest that the Jews are the only people on earth or that God doesn’t care about other nations. It’s simply that the coming Saviour is to come through the Jews.
God gives them some special and strict laws. Those laws were for the Jews only. There are some horrific things that happen in the Old Testament. I will try and explain them as we get to them. We are not under the old testament laws anymore. Jesus changed all that. The new testament tells us that He fulfilled all the requirements, and we are in a new covenant with God. It’s not one written in stone, but written on our hearts. Jesus has set us free from all that. And as we go, you’ll see why Christianity is such a great thing.
One other thing. The books of the Old Testament are not put together in your Bible in chronological order. They are grouped according to theme. Oddly, the first books, are the first ones. There are 5 of them. In fact, the Books are divided into 5 themes. And you only have to remember these numbers, 5, 12, 5,5, 12. There are the 5 books of law, followed by the 12 books of history, then we have the 5 books of poetry, followed by 5 the five, Major prophets, and we finish with the 12 minor prophets. The names major and minor are only because of the lengths of the books. Nothing to do with importance.
God is the ultimate author of these books. Paul wrote to Timothy and said, that all Scripture is God Breathed. But God had nothing to do with the order in which we have them in our Bible. It’s probably not in the best reading order. But we’ll go through them in the order you find them in the table of Contents.
The first book is Genesis. Genesis, means beginning. Kind of makes sense. And there are several beginnings described in the book. Moses is the author. It was written between 1447 and 1407 BC, during the 40 years the Israelis were wandering in the wilderness.
In the book, Moses tells us about several beginnings. He tells us about the beginning of the world. Then he tells us about the beginning of Sin, and God’s plan to redeem the world. And he describes the Beginning of the nation of Israel. As you read, keep in mind that the Bible never pretends that the Jews, are the only people on earth. It is focused on them, because they are chosen to bring the Saviour to the world.
You will learn a lot about how bad Sin is. How great God is. And how impossible it is to be religious. Say what? One of the things the old testament teaches us is that sin separates us from God and that religion, however good it is, is not effective. But I’ll come back to that. You’re still shocked by hearing a conservative preacher say such things about religion.
Let’s take a closer look at the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Those chapters sound so odd to our 21st century ears. In many ways, it reminds of of reading Gilgamesh, or Homer, or old stories from Greco or Roman legends. Some of that has to do with writing styles. And some is just the way the history is remembered and passed on.
Remember, Moses wasn’t there at the beginning. He was relaying the story as it was handed to him from generations before. In fact, most scholars think that Genesis 1 is like a poem, or something similar, which is how each generation taught the Creation of the world. There’s a huge difference is the style in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.
I think Chapter 1 is Moses relaying the creation story as it was relayed to him. It is poetic and majestic. But that doesn’t mean it is not true. Was the earth created out of nothing, or did it evolve over billions of years. None of us was there. We can’t possibly speak from experience. I remember going to Carlsbad Caverns when I was a sophmore in college. I remember very well, the guide saying that if the stalagtites were growing at the same rate since they began, then it would take X billion years to reach their current size. But there’s no way of knowing whether or not things have changed. I also remember learning that there were stalagtites in Churchills tunnels build for WW II. Those had begun growing very fast and were only 50 years old when at the time.
Honestly, Darwinian Evolution has been shown to be absolutely rife with holes. If you dig a little you’ll see what I mean. None of us was there and we have to make assumptions. The whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation says that God made the heavens and the earth. He is the creator. Jesus himself believed that. Therefore, so do I.
I’m not anti science. I can just look at the world around me and see consistency with what the Bible says. Was it created in 7 days? I’m not going to get into that discussion. I’m just not. I think that the Bible is consistent in how it uses the word day. I believe it was 7 literal days. I think that to deny that, creates problems with other parts of the Bible. I know the Bible says God made the world. He made it on purpose and for a purpose. He made humans different that the other animals. And the Bible is about people. The Gospel is about people.
Ok, I’m getting bogged down. My goal is not to defend creationism. Maybe I’ll do that another time. But I do want to defend the fact that the Bible teaches that God made the world. All of it. And that humans are different than the other animals. We alone are made in the image of God. We alone have created speech and written languages. We alone have invented the airplane and the smartphone. God made us the top of creation. But He also told us to be responsible to take care of it. We’ve done a terrible job of that.
When you look at the plastic in the ocean. Oh my gosh is it bad. By the way, it’s not coming from straws in California. In fact, less than 3 % of the water pollution comes from the western world. Less than 3%. It comes first from Asia. China, India, Thailand, etc. Secondly it comes from Africa. The USA and GB could stop using plastic 100% and it would have no impact on the oceans. I’m just saying that the outrage makes us feel better but it’s not going to help.
I get just as frustrated with commercial agriculture. If you look at the poison in our waterways you’d be stunned. We have millions of tons, millions upon millions of gallons, of chemicals being washed into our waterways from factories and factory farms. Is it any wonder that we have the mess we have. We’re killing off birds, butterflies, and bees by trying to have the best looking lawns in our HOA. We’re doing it. Big agra and Big Pharma are making them, but we buy them and spray our fields and our gardens and our yards. We are killing our planet. Even a little thing like a bag on the back or side of a lawnmower is helping to kill the planet. Yet, we’re blaming cow farts. Oh my gosh. Sin had made us stupid.
Ok, I’m getting sidetracked again. I do that. After Creation. Genesis describes the beginning of Sin. First in Adam and Eve’s disobedience followed by Cain killing Abel. Sin and its consequences are what the Bible is all about. Adam and Eve sinned. That cost them eternal life. It greatly increased their work load. It cost them their garden home. Their access to the tree of life.
Sin is universal. If we learn anything about life from the OT, it’s that. One of the interesting thing about the Bible is it does not hide the flaws of it’s heroes. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and later Moses, David, Solomon, and so on…are flawed people. Some of them seek God’s forgiveness. Some walk away from God altogether. But sin is everywhere.
If you learn anything from reading Genesis, learn that. Look for it as you read the book. Sin cost adam and Eve so much. Besides their eternal lives and their home. It cost them their first two sons. Abel because he died, and Cain because he was forced to leave his home and wander the earth.
By the 6th chapter, sin has become so all encompassing, the human race has made sinning a kind of worship. Even Angels join in the rebellion. That’s why the flood came.
Humans had become so corrupt that God was sorry he ever made us in the first place. But, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. It was grace, undeserved favor, that kept Noah and his family alive. I’m so grateful that God is gracious and forgiving.
In fact, all the way back in Genesis chapter 3. When Adam and Eve sinned, God told them that one day, a savior would come. In 3:15 we read the first promise that Jesus would come. And that verse sets the stage for the entire OT. It’s about God preparing the world for this saviour.
There are also some things in Chapter 6 that will help you to understand why God is so upset with the people of Canaan when the Israelis inherit the land upon their release from slavery in Egypt. I want you to take note of verses 2-4. About these Nephilim. These hybrid people that were physical giants and very evil. I know it sounds like something out of Greek mythology. But perhaps greek mythology is based on something that really happened. Nearly every people group has a legend of giants, and a flood, and a survivor of the flood.
Even the North American native people told of Giants. And their fear of 6 fingered men. We’ll talk about that again in a few weeks. I promise.
I’m convinced that the Bible has the story right and that other myths and legends are just that. I’m convinced of it because of Jesus. Jesus put his stamp of approval on the story of creation. On the story of Noah. And Jesus rose from the dead. That gets my attention.
I want to make clear that the Bible says more that that it rained for 40 days and nights. Gosh I live in Scotland. It does that here every year. The Bible says that the heavens opened up. The clouds emptied themselves in torrential rain. But it also says the fountains of the great deep broke up. That means the earth exploded. The clouds above emptied themselves and the earth blew up. The tectonic plates shifted and everything went crazy. The very earth reshaped itself. That’s why the fossil records are so chaotic. That explains so much about geology. The whole world went through a kind of recreation. Everything changed. The story of Noah’s flood is not a children’s fable. It’s a horror story that holywood can’t possibly recreate. It will keep you up at night if you really think it through.
What could possible cause such a catastrophy? What could make God that angry? Sin. Sin separates us from a relationship with God. He cannot allow it in his presence. It was so all encompassing, that he had to destroy the earth and nearly every person on the planet because of it.
But Noah found Grace in the eyes of the Lord. We got a brand new start on a rebuilt earth. And yet sin is so widespread, it has taken the human race captive within a single generation after the flood. By my reckoning, Shem, the son of Noah, was still alive at the tower of Babel. One who saw the destruction of the entire planet was still around yet the people were caught up in rebelling.
We’re going to see that over and over through the Old Testament. Sin, it’s consequences, and it’s control over the people will be a constant theme of the O.T. That’s why it’s such a hallelujah moment when Jesus is born in Bethlehem.