Read an Excerpt
Read Through the Bible in a Year
By John R. Kohlenberger III, Jim Vincent
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2008 John R. Kohlenberger III
All rights reserved.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. —Genesis 1:1
Getting to Know ...
Date: 1450–1410 B.C.
Theme: Genesis is a real-life history of individual people, a fact that is emphasized by the ten sections within it that usually begin, "These are the records of the generations of ..." (NASB). This thrust provides a natural unity to the book. Genesis is a book about the beginning of many things: the world, man, sin, civilization, the nations, and Israel. Genesis also contains important theological themes, including the doctrine of the living, personal God; the doctrine of man made in the image of God, then of sinful man; the anticipation of a Redeemer; and the covenant promises made to the nation of Israel.
Overview: Genesis takes us from creation to the settling of Jacob's descendants in Egypt; although three-fourths of the book concentrates on the four generations from the call of Abraham to the death of Joseph (2091–1805 B.C.).
The names of God vary in Genesis. God is called "the Mighty One" when He creates the universe, but it is Yahweh who personally forms Adam and Eve, enjoys fellowship with them in the garden, and even provides for them after their sin (Genesis 2–3). Note, too, that Melchizedek worships God Most High (El Elyon), but that Abram, who has a special covenant relationship with God, knows Him more intimately as Yahweh God Most High (14:18–24).
Several such compound names or titles give us additional insight into God's attributes and actions. Besides El Elyon, the most famous is El Shaddai, "God Almighty," although this name occurs only 48 times in the Bible. (See "Going Deeper" for more on the names of God in the Old Testament.)
Author: Uncertain. Suggestions include Job himself, Elihu, Moses, and Solomon.
Theme: The book wrestles with the age-old question: If God is a God of love and mercy, why do the righteous suffer? In answer, Job clearly teaches the sovereignty of God and the need for man to acknowledge that sovereignty. Job's three friends gave essentially the same answer to the problem of pain: All suffering is due to sin. Elihu, however, declared that suffering is often the means of purifying the righteous. God's purpose, therefore, was to strip away all of Job's self-righteousness, and to bring him to the place of complete trust in Him.
Overview: Though we do not know who wrote the book or when it was written, the book of Job appears to be set in the days of the patriarchs—though not in the land of Israel.
There are two keys to reading this book. One is recognizing that it is "wisdom literature"; the other is noticing the uses of the names of God. As wisdom literature, the Book of Job tells us in proverb form about the order of the world God has created. That account can be summarized in proverbs because God is a God of order. There are exceptions, however, to many proverbs because sin has marred the perfection of God's creation.
When Job's friends discover he is destitute and diseased, they immediately confront him with wisdom based on common sense: God judges the wicked and prospers the righteous, so confess your wickedness and be restored. Job, however, maintains his righteousness in spite of their seemingly well-reasoned but misapplied statements.
This is where noticing the names of God becomes important. We, the readers, have information the biblical characters did not have—the heavenly scenes presented in chapters 1 and 2. We know that Job's condition is a result of a battle between God and Satan. Our special insight is underlined by the use of the name Yahweh, whereas Job and his friends, who do not have the whole picture, use various names of God to refer to Him. When God finally reveals Himself in chapters 38–42, the name Yahweh again dominates the text.
The story of Job teaches the limitation of wisdom. Regardless of how much theology we know—or think we know—we never have the complete picture. We must use compassion rather than condemnation when dealing with others, both believers and non-believers, or we may be in danger of "[not speaking of God] what is right" (42:7). And when we seem to be on the short end of God's promises, we must wait on God and trust in Him rather than question His character.
Going Deeper ...
The names of God in the Old Testament are all significant. In the ancient Near East, names were given to signify one's character. To learn more about the names of God, including the names used for God in Genesis and Job, turn to "Going Deeper" at the back of the book and read the article "The Primary Names of God."CHAPTER 2
Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them,
'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me,
'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses,
"I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
'I am has sent me to you.'"
Getting to Know ...
Date: 1450–1410 B.C.
Theme: The theme of Exodus is the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, in fulfillment of the promise made by God in Genesis 15:13–14. The book records the birth of the nation of Israel, the giving of the law, and the origin of ritual worship.
Overview: Exodus begins where Genesis left off: with the relocation of Jacob and his descendants to Egypt, in fulfillment of Genesis 15:13a. But in fulfillment of Genesis 15:13b, the Israelites are soon enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians. The rest of the book begins to fulfill Genesis 15:14, 16—the exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. The majority of Exodus concentrates on the eighty-one years between the birth of Moses and the setting up of the tabernacle (1526–1445 B.C.).
The name Yahweh first appears in chapter 3. God proclaims that He has "come down"—that He is specially present on Earth to deliver His people from bondage and lead them into the bountiful land of promise. Moses is the one who first gets introduced to God in this way. That's important because of the job set before him: to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
But before Moses will lead God's people, he wants to know His name. God tells him, "I am who I am." This combination of Yahweh and Ehyeh ("I am") implies more than God's existence; it implies His intimate presence, His readiness to save and to act for His people, and the constancy of His character. Thus, we can define Yahweh as "I am truly present, ready to save and to act, just as I have always been."
In chapters 5–18, Israel comes to "know" Yahweh intimately as He judges Egypt and delivers Israel (6:6–8).
The Israelites, therefore, fear Yahweh and put their trust in Him (14:30–31). Because Yahweh provided for them in the wilderness en route to Sinai, they willingly enter the covenant relationship He offers in 19:3–8.
We will say more about the law later. Now, it's enough to say that the law was given for Israel's good and provided everything they needed to know about godly living. The essence of the old covenant relationship with God is identical with that of the new covenant: "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15; Deuteronomy 6:4–9).
Israel breaks the first two commandments when the people build the golden calf and worship it as their god (Exodus 32). Though God responds with judgment, He still reveals His character as Yahweh, the compassionate and gracious God who forgives the repentant but judges the unrepentant(34:6–7). This compassion is one of the most important revelations about the character of Yahweh, and is repeated throughout Scripture until it culminates with the coming of Jesus in John 1:14.
Chapters 36–40 emphasize Israel's response to Yahweh's forgiveness: twenty-one times the people do "just as Yahweh commanded." As a result, Yahweh fills the tabernacle with His special presence and glory (40:34–38), a powerful indication that He accepts their attitude and action.
Date: 1450–1410 B.C.
Theme: The Book of Exodus concludes with the erection of the tabernacle, which was constructed according to the pattern God gave to Moses. But how was Israel to use the tabernacle? The instructions in Leviticus answer that question, and were given to Moses during the fifty days between the setting up of the tabernacle (Exodus 40:17) and the departure of the people from Sinai (Numbers 10:12). Leviticus may be viewed in three complementary ways. First, it is a book about the holiness of God and His requirements for fellowship with Himself. Second, and connected to this idea, it is also a book that reveals the sinfulness of man. Finally, it may be viewed as a book about atonement—the provision of access to God for sinful man.
Overview: The key concept in Leviticus is holiness—being set apart for God's service and being different from the world by obeying God's commands.
Believe it or not, the sacrificial system that is set up in chapters 1–7 reveals the grace of Yahweh. He is holy, separate from His people, yet He reveals a way in which His people can become holy themselves and thus have fellowship with Him. This concept is carried through the rest of the book, as many commands are punctuated with "You shall be holy, for I am holy."
This emphasis on holiness is punctuated by an interesting string of events. The first event concerns the priesthood. It is made a holy group, within an already holy people, to serve the holy God (Leviticus 8–9). But immediately following their consecration, Nadab and Abihu despise God's holiness by offering unholy fire and incense (Leviticus 10). Yahweh then protects His holiness by destroying them with the same fire that had accepted the burnt offering only the day before (10:2; 9:24). The third event depicts Yahweh again protecting His holiness when He demands the death of the man who blasphemed His name (24:10–23).
When reading Leviticus, we should marvel at the intimacy of the use of God's names. Yahweh appears 311 times (proportionately more than in Exodus), and all 52 occurrences of Elohim show the personal covenant relationship of God to His people: "your God" is used 40 times, "his God" is used 8 times, and "their God" is used 4 times.
Going Deeper ...
You're doing a lot of reading as you move more into the Old Testament. Are you still reading for meaning? There are several strategies you can use to open up the text and become a first-rate reader. In "Going Deeper" in the back of the book some of you will learn the strategies to engage your mind, your emotions, and your spirit in the article "Ten Strategies for First-Rate Reading: Part 1" (page 63).CHAPTER 3
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Getting to Know ...
Date: 1450–1410 B.C. The account covers the period between Israel's departure from Egypt and her arrival in Canaan, including the winding, thirty-nine years' journey from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea, through various places in the wilderness, and finally to the plains of Moab across the Jordan River from Jericho.
Theme: The principal lesson is that God's people must walk by faith, trusting His promises, if they are to move forward. To reinforce this theme, the book recounts the unbelief and discontent of the people in general (11:1) and of Miriam and Aaron (12:1), and the people's refusal at Kadesh Barnea to enter the Promised Land (14:2).
Overview: Numbers is characterized by the Israelites' rebellion. The justice and judgment of Yahweh is a key revelation of the book. Israel's failure to obey Yahweh is emphasized in the distinction of Numbers. In the four centuries from Jacob to the Exodus, the number of men alone grew from 70 to 625,550. But in the four decades in the desert, that number dropped to 624,730.
But Yahweh did not limit His actions to judgment during that time; He also acted in salvation. Every judgment dealt only with the core of the rebellion; the majority of the people were not destroyed. The only judgment that affected all Israel was the forty years of wandering and death in the wilderness. But even here the nation survived, and a new generation stood ready to enter the land. Furthermore, Yahweh led His people to victories over Arad, Heshbon, and Bashan (chapter 21), turned Balaam's curse into a blessing (22–24), and gave Israel vengeance against the Midianites (31).
God's presence to judge and to save is emphasized again by the dominance of the name Yahweh. Most of the other names and titles are found in Balaam's oracles.
Date: 1410 B.C. Deuteronomy contains the addresses that Moses gave during the final months of his life, when the Israelites were encamped in the plains of Moab prior to their entrance into the Promised Land.
Theme: Being reminded of God's power can sustain His people as they face their fears of the unknown and unexpected. The people were facing war, temptation, and a new, settled way of life—all under the unproven leadership of Joshua. The congregation living after forty years of wandering had not personally experienced the deliverance at the Red Sea or the giving of the law at Sinai. They needed to be reminded of God's power and God's laws.
Overview: Theologically, Deuteronomy is one of the most important books in the Bible. It explains the dynamic relationship between Yahweh and His covenant people: He loves them and acts on their behalf, so they must love and obey Him. It contains proportionately more occurrences of the name Yahweh (especially "Yahweh your God") than any other Old Testament book. It was also the book most quoted by Jesus.
The heart of the law is expressed in several passages in Deuteronomy, though chapter 6 is certainly the best known. As Jesus repeated fourteen centuries later: "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). "Love" in the Bible, and in other texts of the ancient world, means loyalty between covenant partners, whether the covenant is political, marital, or religious.
Obedience to God's commandments is the way God's people express their love for Him (6:4–9; 7:9; 10:12–11:1; 30:11–20). But it is also for their good. Under the old covenant, it prolonged life (6:2), increased the nation (6:3), and brought tremendous blessing (7:12–16; 28:1–14).
That may sound confusing to those who have been told that the New Testament, especially Paul's writings, teaches that the old covenant had a "works righteousness"—that it brought condemnation and was not of faith (for example, Rom. 9:32; 2 Cor. 3). But Paul is not criticizing the old covenant; rather, he is criticizing those who put obedience before love, as though they could work their way into a relationship with God. That was never the intention of the old covenant, but unfortunately it had become a characteristic of the Judaism of Paul's day.
Deuteronomy helps us to see that Yahweh intended this covenant for His glory as well as His people's benefit. Because Yahweh loved them, they could love Him (7:7–11). Because Yahweh is good, His covenant brought good to them (6:2, 18). Because Yahweh is righteous, obedience helped them share in His righteousness (6:25).
So as you read Deuteronomy, rejoice in God's goodness to His people. Understand how David could say: "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long" (Psalm 119:97). Praise God for the greater blessings of the New Covenant, a covenant that has no curse or condemnation for those who are in Christ.
Date: 1400–1370 B.C. The events of Joshua begin where those of Deuteronomy concluded. They describe the conquest and division of the land of Canaan, and are set against the backdrop of the corrupt and brutal features of Canaanite religion.
Theme: Disobedience of God's commands can lead to spiritual decline. Much of the later spiritual declension in Israel was due to the Israelites not completely destroying the Canaanites as God had commanded. As a result, the foreign religion was tolerated and frequently absorbed by the Israelites.
Overview: The first twelve chapters of Joshua narrate the conquest of Canaan, about 1406–1400 B.C., whereas chapters 13–24 relate the division of the land among the tribes. Contrary to Numbers, which precedes it, and Judges, which follows it, Joshua emphasizes that Yahweh blesses His people when they obey Him.
Excerpted from Read Through the Bible in a Year by John R. Kohlenberger III, Jim Vincent. Copyright © 2008 John R. Kohlenberger III. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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