Dec 24 2017: Review of the Old Testament Narratives

2017 Bible Reading Plan (click to download)

Review of the Old Testament Narratives*

This year we read through the Old Testament narratives, starting form Genesis—all the way through Nehemiah. Nehemiah chapter nine provides a great summary of the Old Testament historical narratives. (If you want to catch up with your Bible reading for the year, you can still catch up by reading Nehemiah chapter nine before the year ends!)

The beginning of the biblical story takes root in the lengthy narrative that tells the story of God’s chosen people, Israel. The first of the five books of Moses (Genesis) relates the beginning of everything (Creation and Fall) and then focuses especially on God’s call and covenant with Abraham and his seed, promising both to make them a numerous people and to give them the land of Canaan. After rescuing the people from slavery in Egypt (the exodus), God meets with them at Mount Sinai. Here makes a second covenant with Israel that takes the form of “the law,” which includes the building of the tabernacle(Exodus), the place where God will dwell among his people and where they are to worship him with proper offerings and sacrifices (Leviticus) as a part of the way they uphold their end of the covenant.

As the people prepare to make their way to the promise land, Moses gives them overview of the law and the blessing and curses (promises and threats): disobedience to God’s covenant meant exile, but with a promised, even more glorious restoration in the form of a new exodus. After the story of the initial conquest and occupation of the land (Joshua) comes stories of their failures to keep covenant with God, their true King (Judges). 

In this latter story, we are prepared for the next major turn in the main story line—that God will rule Israel through an earthly king. The books of Samuel tells the story of David, with whom God makes another covenant—that one of his sons will never fail to sit on the throne in Israel, as long as they keep covenant with God. But the story of Israel repeats itself, as one king after another leads Israel astray to pursue other gods (1~2 Kings). Within two generations David’s kingdom divided into two parts: the northern kingdom (Israel) falls to the Assyrians in 722 BC; the southern kingdom (Judah) falls to Babylonians in 586 BC. In God’s sovereign grace, however, the leading people carried into exile in Babylon form part of the remnant through whom God will still work out his redemptive plans.

The exile brought untold misery and trauma to God’s people, since the lost their promised land and their temple—the primary evidence of God’s special presence and of their being his people. Many were finally restored to their land under the Persians and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1~6); about a century later, Ezra and Nehemiah led a further return of exiles and a significant reform (Ezra 7~10, Nehemiah). But the last reform by great leaders in the Old Testament end in a gloomy note: people are still living in sin and in need of forgiveness and a savior-king.

Nehemiah lowers a dark final curtain at the onset of that intertestamental waiting period, before the promised “light of life” comes to shine in the darkness (John 1:4–5). In Scripture’s full light, it is clear that only the one who is himself the temple can make these wrongs right (John 2:18–22). The greatest hope comes in Nehemiah’s final claiming of “the greatness of your steadfast love” (13:22). As we celebrate Christmas this year, may we marvel at the greatness of the God’s steadfast love in the form of baby Jesus who came down from heaven to earth to be his people and to ultimately give himself up for our sins in order to bring us back to God. Merry Christmas!

* Adapted from Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible Book by Book.

This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:

Monday: Luke 2 Thursday: Malachi 2
Tuesday: Luke 3 Friday: Malachi 3
Wednesday: Malachi 1 Saturday: Malachi 4

Column & Reading Plan by Pastor Rev. Charles Changsoo Lee
(Mississauga Campus Lead Pastor)