Category Archives: Jesus on Every Page

Ecclesiastes: A Book about Eternity

ECCLESIASTES
is a book about
ETERNITY
in which God is the
END.

Solomon: He Had Everything, But Was Empty
– Solomon gave himself to every earthly alternative and found all these things to be empty in light of eternity. Like the lost son in Jesus’ story, when we give ourselves to these things, we find ourselves no better off.
– Solomon’s experience is proof for us that royalty, riches, and every pleasure cannot replace the life of God in your soul—a treasure worth selling the rest. “Our hearts are restless till they rest in You.” (Augustine)

God: The Chief End of Man
– The other side of Solomon’s coin is this: “the chief end of man is glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
– God is both the end for which we must live and the end to which we must go: when we die we will face God alone, and no excuses for our lives could appease one who sees all.

Death, the Great Equalizer
– The inevitability of death is mentioned in almost every chapter of Ecclesiastes. This is the most sobering of all thoughts as we remember that death is the result our sin; “death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Death and Our Responsibility
– Solomon was preoccupied with death because a realistic view of death begets a realistic view of life; the medieval writings of Thomas à Kempis remind us of this. “We cannot face life until we face death.” (Billy Graham)
– In light of the realities of death, eternity, and judgment, Ecclesiastes encourages fear of God as the first virtue to be attained, without which we are not ready to face death; in Proverbs, Solomon calls it “the beginning of wisdom.”

Evil and Our Response
– Evil is neither explained nor excused by Solomon; it is simply expressed as a fact.
– In the practical Hebrew view of things, there is no use in understanding evil or injustice without a commitment to obey what is good.

Enjoyment and Eternity
– The philosopher Nietzsche rightly stated that “All pleasure longs for eternity.”
– As Christians we have a twofold mandate to enjoy life and live eternity-conscious—but most of all, we are to enjoy eternal things.

Book Recommendations:
If you want to learn about death and the afterlife, read The Christian After Death by Robert Ervin Hough.
If you want to put your mind on eternal things, challenge yourself with the writings of Leonard Ravenhill, such as Revival Praying, Revival God’s Way, and Why Revival Tarries; however, like all strong medicines I recommend you take in these books only as needed. Don’t overdose.
For some pragmatic insights on Ecclesiastes you can read Shade of His Hand by Oswald Chambers, written just before his death.

Death mentioned in Ecclesiastes:
“…the same event happens to them all.” 2:14
“A time to be born, and a time to die…” 3:2
“…as one dies, so dies the other… All go to one place.” 3:19-20
“As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return…” 5:15-16
“…even if he lives a thousand years twice… Do not all go to one place?” 6:6
“…And the day of death [is better] than the day of one’s birth…” 7:1
“No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death. [There is] no release from that war…” 8:8
“All things [come] alike to all:
One event [happens] to the righteous and the wicked…” 9:2-6
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do [it] with your might; for [there] is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” 9:10
“Walk in the ways of your heart…But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.” 11:9
“Remember now your Creator… the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” 12:1-7
“Fear God and keep His commandments… For God will bring every work into judgment.” 12:13-14

Ruth: A Story of Redemption

RUTH
is a story about
REDEMPTION
in which God is
REDEEMER.

Redemption: Out of Idolatry, Poverty and Loss
– Naomi, Ruth and Orpah have a bleak backstory, beginning with famine, poverty and the death of their husbands. Out of this begins the Bible’s premier story of redemption.
– Ruth is from Moab, previously an enemy of Israel (Judges 3) and known for idolatry (Dt. 23:3-6).

Ruth’s New Culture
– Ruth’s commitment to the Lord was against the grain of culture; committing to live as a Jew meant committing herself to their God (1:16).
– The story of Ruth is rich in Jewish cultural cues and traditions, but they are mostly between Naomi and Boaz, since Ruth was the new girl in town.

The Compassion of Boaz
– Boaz has compassion on Ruth from the start, going beyond the Jewish law of gleaning (Lev. 23:22) by also offering Ruth water, food, and protection.
– Naomi blames her loss on God (1:20-21), but later sees the hand of God in bringing Boaz (2:20) and through him redemption (4:14-17). Naomi introduces the Jewish concept of redemption when it says that Boaz is one of their “redeemers” (ESV) or “family redeemers” (NLT).

Redemption Laws
– The necessary background in the Jewish law is found in Dt. 25:5-10 and Lev. 25:25. Redemption involves in this case: 1) The land; 2) marriage. (In other cases the kinsman-redeemer (or goel) also avenged murder.)
– Redemption is the central action of the story, as well as a metaphor for what God has done through Jesus.
– While redeeming land was a right which could be relinquished (by their closer kinsman), marriage would become obligatory because of Ruth’s childless state. Whoever redeemed them would also have to marry Ruth.

The Turning Point: Redemption
– “The basis of human life is not Rationalism, but Redemption.”1 The point of Ruth’s story is not that every tragedy is  somehow logical, but that God can turn around the most desperate situation.
– F. W. Boreham points out, “Most people are prepared for the worst; very few are prepared for the best.”2 For Naomi and Ruth, the best that could happen was redemption, and it did happen.

Soliciting Redemption
– In ch. 3, Ruth follows Naomi’s advice by wisely trying to ensure their redemption and her marriage.
Moving the hems of his garment solicited Boaz to marry her and take his right as kinsman-redeemer, as explained above. (In Hebrew, hems and wings are similar words, so Ruth is using Boaz’s words in 2:12. See 3:9, ESV.)

Sandals: The Right to Walk
– In Ethiopia, some tribes can recognize their friends’ sandal prints in the desert. So it makes sense that by giving his shoe, the nearer kinsman relinquishes to Boaz his right to walk on the property.
– When Job refers to God as his Redeemer, he emphasizes that “at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25, also Zech. 14:4). This shows Jesus’ right to the earth, and his role as Redeemer.

Our Redeemer
– To fulfill all the roles of a Redeemer, Jesus had to have: 1) Kinship—implied by his incarnation (becoming flesh); 2) Right to land—in Jesus’ case, the Earth, Rev. 11:15; 3) Marriage—to the Church, Eph. 5:22-33, Rev. 19:6-9; and, 4) Vengeance for innocent blood shed—against Babylon, Rev. 17-19.
Redemption is the central truth of Ruth’s story, and an important New Testament image for Christ’s work.

Fruitfulness
– In 4:11-12, Rachel, Leah, and Perez are not examples of character but fruitfulness(1 Sam. 1). For Christians, this extends to the New Testament metaphor of spiritual reproduction (Gal. 4:19, 1 Tim. 1:2, etc.)
– Remarkably, Ruth the Moabite becomes an ancestor of both David (4:18-22) and the Messiah (Mt. 1:5); this also grounds the story clearly in the larger history of salvation.

Recommendations

I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah by Ravi Zacharias deals with preparing for the commitment of marriage. Ravi uses his own experience in India and the West to seek a biblical view of marriage that transcends culture.

Many biographies deal with cross-cultural conversions, such as I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh or Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi.

Little Dorrit is a Charles Dickens novel and a modern British miniseries that deals with many of the themes and circumstances of the Book of Ruth.

If you know any good books dealing with redemption, let me know!
_________

1 Oswald Chambers, The Shadow of an Agony, p. 38
2 F. W. Boreham, The Three Half-Moons, p. 213

1 Samuel: Fellowship with God

FIRST SAMUEL
is a book about
FELLOWSHIP
in which God is
FRIEND.

The great contrast in the book of 1 Samuel is between:
– Those who want to use God, and;
– those who want to be used by God.

Hannah: Petition, Devotion, and God’s Answer
– Far from making a deal with God, Hannah actually gave God what he asked—commitment—and in return for her heart’s commitment, God heard her prayer and glorified himself in her life and Samuel’s.
– Hannah’s grief is a great lesson in intercession as she prays indistinctly to the God who made her (as did Charles Finney) and is heard.

Eli and Samuel: God is a Friend (Not a Tool)
– In ch. 2, Eli’s sons used their position as priests, and even others’ devotion to steal sacrifices and seduce devout women.
– In ch. 3, Samuel talks to God for the first time and both comes to know the Lord and becomes a prophet. Despite Eli’s compromise and his sons’ awful sin, God shows that he always has a man he can use, even if there is just one.
– In ch. 4, Eli and his house seek the Ark to help them in battle, but the pronoun they use is telling: “it will save us.” They neither prayed to God nor treated him as person, but tried to use him to help them win. It didn’t work.

David and Jonathan: Fellowship
– In ch. 14, Jonathan and his armor-bearer by their boldness bring panic and defeat on thousands upon thousands of Philistines. When he unknowingly breaks a rule by eating honey, men protect him, saying “he has worked with God today.”
– In chs. 17 & 18, Jonathan, who is also a warrior, sees the fruit of David’s bold love for God and commits himself to him by giving him his best; not just a token, giving his best battle gear showed deep commitment.
– This fellowship of two, although it is broken later in the story, saves David’s life multiple times and is of inestimable value to him. Spiritually, fellowship has the power to save us from our blind spots and point out the enemy inroads that could ruin us.

Jonathan, David, and Saul: Freedom in Holiness
– Jonathan and David seem to have in common a reckless unpredictability, by which they both win many battles and break a few ritualistic rules along the way (see ch. 21) but are approved by God because their motives are right.
– In ch. 15, Saul feigns following the ritualistic sacrifice but in actuality has disobeyed what God directly told him. “To obey is better than sacrifice,” and Saul loses legitimacy in leadership when he rejects fellowship with God for religion and gain.
– Jonathan and David both sometimes seem to proceed (in battle or otherwise) without specific instructions, following what they know to be right. They have freedom because they hold to their fellowship with God and others.

David and Saul: Fruit, Gifts, and the Calling of God
– Saul, like Eli’s sons, had the blessings of God in abundant measure but did not obey him. Saul kept the blessings but abandoned fellowship either with David or God.
– David does not presume superiority because Samuel has anointed him; he continues to honor Saul, even after his death.
– David, unlike Saul, was the forsaken son and the youngest, but he obeyed God and was in the end granted leadership as a result.
– Fruit will always be more important than gifts, and the first thing that God wants to build in us is character. Character, not spirituality, is the mark of a life in love with God; Saul remained spiritual, but David had character.

If you want to learn more about fellowship, I recommend The Making of a Man of God by Alan Redpath.
If you want to learn more about submission & the anointing, I recommend A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards.
For further study, Spiritual Authority by Watchman Nee is also a great study on what David learned with many other biblical examples.

Genesis

GENESIS
is the story of
CREATION
in which God makes a
COVENANT.

God of Creation

Genesis is the story of how God created us, and we rejected him, but he would not give us up. This book creates an unbroken narrative from Adam to Joseph of how God continued to speak, to promise, and to reveal his purposes.

Genesis takes a childlike view of life in which God’s activity is visible everywhere. His activity is not always explained or accounted for explicitly. His presence is unquestioned. God never seeks to prove himself through argument. He presents himself through activity.

Other holy books present God as a partisan, or only caring for one group of people. In the Bible he cares for all people from the beginning, and the whole earth is always his dominion. He cares for all that he has created.

God in Covenant

The Bible’s narrative is shaped like an hourglass, and Abraham is the pinch point.1A few generations after the Flood, God chooses Abraham for his plan of redemption, a plan which would afterwards involve “all the families of the earth.” (12:3) He narrows his plan down to Abraham, that he may afterwards bless all people in Christ.

Genesis shows God in covenant. Covenant is the continuation of the purpose he had for his Creation. He continues to reach out to the covenant family, that of Abraham, and extend promise after promise that he is advancing his plan and will fulfill his first promise to Abraham (12:1-3) as well as his original intentions expressed in Creation.

Creation and covenant go hand in hand in the Book of Genesis. God creates with intentions; he maintains those intentions and purposes through his covenants. The KJV says “for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev. 4:11)

Creation and Fall (1-5)

Genesis is not really a book of beginnings but a book of the Beginning. The title comes from verse 1:1, and has reference only to a time when God existed without his Creation.2 Since God existed before his Creation, he does not depend on it. The first thing we learn about God is that he is our self-existent Creator (Rom. 1).

Yet God chooses to involve himself in this Creation, so Genesis 1 and 2 comprise two different accounts of Creation. The first account calls God “Elohim” in Hebrew because it shows God in authority; the second account calls God “Yahweh” because it focuses in on God in relationship with mankind. Yahweh (or Jehovah) is his covenant name.

Adam and Eve are called to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28). This is the First Commission, leading up to the call of Abraham, as well as the Great Commission (9:1, 9:7, 12:1-3, 35:11). The First Commission represents man’s call not only to obey God, but to be king of the Earth. God had a job for us to do that has, in one sense, continued in spite of the Fall.

Watchman Nee comments that God’s week began with work: man’s week began with rest. In the Gospel, man must rest before he can work. In this the Sabbath summarizes the whole Gospel: it is the work of God and the only true rest for man. The Sabbath was created so that man would know that it is God who sanctifies (Ex. 31:13, Ez. 20:12). God supplies all our lack in Christ.

“The Fall” is the common name for the first disobedience of God in Genesis 3, a theological event with global implications. But when Eve and Adam disobey God, it is not so much a “fall” or a “slip” as it is a “rebellion,” and every other human has followed in their train. Human rebellion is the basis for all the problems that have followed, and all the injustices of our present world have their root in this “fall.” Paul explains this using the Eastern concept of corporate personality; “as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). We have identified with the rebellion of Adam, but we may partake of the righteousness of Christ through his death and resurrection.

The genealogy in chapter 5 (as well as others) creates a continuous narrative, and provides authority to the story in the Eastern world. But as these genealogies progress, they focus closer and closer on the promised “seed of the woman,” whom we now know as Jesus Christ.

Flood and Babel (6-11)

The Flood is all over a story of mercy. God uses all possible means to save and restore his Creation. Creation is corrupted by man’s choice. Noah was not only “blameless” but, according to Peter, “a preacher of righteousness.” He gave his contemporaries a chance to be saved.

Salvation out of water is a repeated theme in the Old and New Testaments3; Peter uses it as a picture of baptism. Judgment and mercy intersect.

After the Flood, God repeats to Noah the same commission he gave to Adam and Eve (9:1), and Noah is the first person in Scripture to enter into covenant with God.

Noah also represents all humanity in a second covenant in which God promises that he will not destroy the earth by flood again. The confusion of Babel and the Table of Nations explain how all ethnic and linguistic groups are traced back to Noah. This explains why flood traditions are a global phenomenon.

Patriarchs (12-50)

The rest of the book of Genesis focuses on the biographies of just four men: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, known as the patriarchs, and Joseph, who preserves the people of Israel and leads them to Egypt.

All of the patriarchs trust the Lord, but God’s way of dealing with them differs. Abraham has repeated visions and promises and covenants, about ten times in total. Isaac and Jacob have fewer revelations, until we find Jacob saying, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Gen. 28:16).

Abraham (12-24)

We have four personal climaxes in the life of Abraham: 1) Leaving his father’s house; 2) leaving Lot; 3) dismissing Ishmael; and 4) the sacrifice of Isaac.4 All of these involve what Abraham left behind; he was also called to take up the covenant of faith, a new name, the covenant of circumcision, and the election of Isaac. God repeats his promises to Abraham over and over, sealing the promise of the seed of the woman. His life makes us ask, what has God asked us to leave behind? And what is he leading us forward to?

The offering of Isaac and the testing of Abraham (in ch. 22) is an especially important example of Abraham’s obedience, as well as a type of the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ. The writer of Hebrews comments, “[Abraham] considered that God was able even to raise him [Isaac] from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb. 11:19). Church fathers have written that the sacrifice of Isaac became for Abraham a revelation of the suffering and resurrection of Christ.5 After the angel stays Abraham’s hand, God confirms his covenant yet again: “in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (28:16).

Abraham’s life includes the beginning of the tithe, the continuation of the lineage of Jesus, as well as the call of God for Abraham to a personal walk of faith. He may be the best example of faith in the entire Bible.

Isaac (24-27)

Isaac is the least known of the patriarchs.

Genesis 24 is the best picture of engagement in the Bible.

Rebekah receives a prophecy of the birth of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25, but she is told that they will not have the same place in God’s plan. These twins are the Bible’s clearest picture of divine initiative, as Paul teaches in Romans 9. The Messiah would not be born by human choice; we do not teach God what his plan for the nations will be. Although we pray and ask by faith that his plan will advance, God holds the initiative, and God creates the plan.

Jacob (25-36)

Jacob struggles with God, and indeed his whole walk with God is a struggle of faith. Throughout his life, Jacob associates God with special places, but has a hard time remembering his constant nearness. Alexander Whyte says, “it is not that God is any more there, or is any more likely to return there; but we are better prepared to meet Him there.”6

Jacob uses betrayal to secure his brother both Esau’s inheritance and Esau’s blessing. In the West this is often condemned as deception; recent theology points out that this is not condemned in the text. The story itself seems to see Jacob’s use of skill as advancing the plan of God.7

However, Jacob’s family life is one of the most dysfunctional in the whole Bible; his parents choose favorites; he has children by four women; his children embarrass him grievously.

Jacob famously wrestles a theophany while waiting to face his twin brother Esau. All of the patriarchs face many fears and fights, but in the end they find they are always face to face with God.

Jacob pronounces a double verdict on his life at the end of the Book of Genesis: First, he says, with an ounce of bitterness, “My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.“ (47:9) He adds later, though, in his prayer for his sons, that “the blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents” (Gen. 49:26).

Joseph (37-50)

Although Jacob is still in the picture as the patriarch until the end of the book, chapters 37 through 50 are mostly concerned with Joseph’s betrayal into slavery, the favor he eventually found in Egypt, and the preservation of life that resulted. Joseph’s biography does not include the same promises that are repeated to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is not part of the lineage of Christ; however, Joseph is a type of the life of Christ in that he is “beloved, hated, and exalted,” to use F. B. Meyer’s words.

Joseph’s story is one of the most complete and beautiful story arcs in Scripture, and in regard to God’s words and promises, Joseph’s life is the ultimate example of fulfillment delayed and faith rewarded. Psalm 105 adds, “until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.” He bravely acknowledges that God’s plans for him were all good (Gen. 50:20).

Finally, Joseph’s prophetic request that they would bring up his bones creates continuity with the Book of Exodus (Gen. 50:25). Moses made sure that this request was fulfilled (Ex. 13:19).

Study Recommendations

On the first eleven chapters of Genesis, the writings of Erich Sauer are the best. See The Dawn of World Redemption and The King of the Earth. Sauer has a wealth of theological and devotional input. The theme of all his books is “the history of redemption.”

If you are interested in scientific aspects of the Book of Genesis, I recommend the works of Arthur Custance. He has many books and some are very difficult, but I recommend especially those that deal with Adam and Eve such as The Seed of the Woman and The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation. Custance was a minister, a scientist, and a theologian.

On the patriarchs, I recommend a short devotional by Watchman Nee called Changed into His Likeness.

____

1 John York. Missions in the Age of the Spirit.

2 In Hebrew it is named after the first phrase, In the Beginning, and in Greek this was shortened to simply The Beginning—which is γεννησις, Genesis.

3 For example, the salvation of Moses in the Nile (Exodus 1), the story of Jonah, and the figure of baptism all bear resemblance to the Flood story.

4 Erich Sauer. Dawn of World Redemption, p. 100.

5 Chrysostom and Erasmus believed this in reference to John 8:56: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.”

6 Alexander Whyte. Concise Bible Characters, p. 68. AMG Publishers.

7 John E. Anderson. Jacob and the Divine Trickster.

Judges: The Calling of Leadership

JUDGES
is a book about
LEADERSHIP
in which God is
LEADER.


The Leadership Vacuum: Who’s on First?

The first verse of Judges points out a lack of leadership initiative after the deaths of Moses and Joshua: “Who shall go up first?” (1:1) Then the last verse includes the same problem: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (21:25) So Judges is essentially the lament of kingless Israel and its problem of leadership, as well as a celebration of the rare and divine provision of a true leader.

  • In spite of this, God is given a behind-the-scenes leadership (e.g. 14:4) in which he responds to prayer and directs the godly influences of the book. Two judges, Gideon and Jephthah, proclaim this truth of God’s kingship:
  • When Gideon is asked to rule, he declines, saying “The LORD will rule over you.” (8:23)

In his diplomatic letter to the king of Ammon, Jephthah appeals to God, saying “the LORD, the Judge, decide this day [between us].” (11:27) Though he no longer guides them by cloud and fire, the LORD is shown to be the true leader of wandering Israel.

The Time of the Judges

The time period of the judges spans from Joshua’s death (2:7-10) to the beginning of Saul’s kingship (1 Samuel 8-10).

There are either 12 judges in the Book, from Othniel to Samson. (Abimelech “ruled” during the same period (9:22), but he is neither called by God, nor is he called a judge.) Technically, the last two judges are Eli and Samuel in the book of 1 Samuel (1 Sam. 4:18, 7:15), bringing the total to 14 judges.

Israel’s deliverers in this time period conspicuously include several women (Jael, 4:21; also 10:53), one of them a judge and a prophetess (Deborah, see 4:4). Ruth’s story is also included in the period of the judges (Ruth 1:1).

The Canaanites Remain (ch. 1)

The saga of Judges begins with the Israelites’ failure to complete their mission of conquest. They lack both initiative and the ability to follow through. The remaining tribes are left in Canaan both as a result of Israel’s disobedience, and as God’s response to their disobedience.

Judges differs from Joshua in its scope and purpose. In the Book of Joshua, we have the crisis of entering Canaan, and its results; in Judges, we have the process, and its difficulties.

The two reasons that God allowed other nations to remain in Canaan was two-fold: “to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the LORD” (2:20-3:1, 3:4); and “to teach war to those who had not known it” (3:2). Defense was a survival skill in the ancient tribal Middle East.

The Structure and Pattern of Judges: Cycles of Deliverance (ch. 2)

After Moses and Joshua, “there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.” (2:10) Sadly, the Jews depended too much on human leadership for their spiritual health (2:19). Every generation needs revival, so it makes sense for Israel’s liberation to be cyclical.

Leonard Ravenhill says, “The Christian life is crisis, process, crisis, process.” The Book of Judges is structured in cycles of deliverance, which is a picture of God’s dealings with Israel in all of history: disobedience, oppression, crying out, compassionate deliverance, and backsliding. This is outlined as the pattern of the book in 2:16-19.

Antiheroes (ch. 3-16)

Every deliverer in Judges is also an “antihero,” redefining what it means to be a hero and overturning our expectations.

The judges follow the Old Testament pattern of God’s calling; but otherwise, their lives are very atypical. Leadership in Judges is a divine provision, not the result of human preparation. God can call who he wants into leadership.

Since God can call anyone that is willing, a central question in the book of Judges is, are the righteous willing?

Are the Righteous Willing?

Jotham’s parable in ch. 9 is central in the story and acts as a summary statementof leadership in the time of the  judges:

  • The olive, the fig, and the vine are each invited to lead the trees of the forest. All three decline in turn, and leadership falls to the bramble.
  • Leadership does not fall to those who are best prepared, but to the willing.

Many are unwilling to lead. The leaders that do come are sometimes wicked, and always strange. They never come from the expected channels. (See the motif study.)

Governed by Honor and Shame (ch. 17-21)

In the West, we see government as providing moral boundaries, but in the East it is often the community that does this. Judges 18:7 in some translations says, “there were no rulers in the land who might put them to shame for anything.” The concept of honor and shame sets the stage for these last five chapters of Judges.

In ch. 17 and 18, we see Micah paying a Levite to assist in the worship of idols. When the Danites offer better pay, the Levites leaves, robbing Micah pitifully. This shows the sad state of government and religion in the time period.

In ch. 19, in the absence of leadership, the land of Benjamin becomes a scene not only for gang rape and murder, but rape culture. The entire city of Gibeah is complicit in allowing this problem to proliferate.

In ch. 20, we have the only solution to the rape culture in the Middle Eastern view—the Israelites gather troops and avenge the rape, by punishing the whole region of Benjamin’s tribe.

Judges 21 concludes with Israel sadly divided, and Benjamin largely disinherited. All Israel had vowed not to intermarry with Benjamin; after they solve this problem, the shame of Benjamin is covered and the book is over.

See the accompanying study on the motif of the “antihero” in Judges.
Study Recommendations
For material on the biblical heroes in Judges, see A Time for Heroes by Brother Andrew, or applicable chapters in Alexander Whyte’s Bible Characters.

On Micah and the Levite, listen to Paris Reidhead’s convicting sermon, “Ten Shekels and a Shirt.”

For more on the culture of honor and shame, see Honor and Shame by Roland Müller, which is a concise and useful summary of the topic as it relates to Middle Eastern life.

Genesis: The Beginning of Our Story

GENESIS
is the story of
CREATION
in which God makes a
COVENANT.

God of Creation

Genesis is the story of how God created us, and we rejected him, but he would not give us up. This book creates an unbroken narrative from Adam to Joseph of how God continued to speak, to promise, and to reveal his purposes.

Genesis takes a childlike view of life in which God’s activity is visible everywhere. His activity is not always explained or accounted for explicitly. His presence is unquestioned. God never seeks to prove himself through argument. He presents himself through activity.

Other holy books present God as a partisan, or only caring for one group of people. In the Bible he cares for all people from the beginning, and the whole earth is always his dominion. He cares for all that he has created.

God in Covenant

The Bible’s narrative is shaped like an hourglass, and Abraham is the pinch point.1A few generations after the Flood, God chooses Abraham for his plan of redemption, a plan which would afterwards involve “all the families of the earth.” (12:3) He narrows his plan down to Abraham, that he may afterwards bless all people in Christ.

Genesis shows God in covenant. Covenant is the continuation of the purpose he had for his Creation. He continues to reach out to the covenant family, that of Abraham, and extend promise after promise that he is advancing his plan and will fulfill his first promise to Abraham (12:1-3) as well as his original intentions expressed in Creation.

Creation and covenant go hand in hand in the Book of Genesis. God creates with intentions; he maintains those intentions and purposes through his covenants. The KJV says “for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev. 4:11)

Creation and Fall (1-5)

Genesis is not really a book of beginnings but a book of the Beginning. The title comes from verse 1:1, and has reference only to a time when God existed without his Creation.2 Since God existed before his Creation, he does not depend on it. The first thing we learn about God is that he is our self-existent Creator (Rom. 1).

Yet God chooses to involve himself in this Creation, so Genesis 1 and 2 comprise two different accounts of Creation. The first account calls God “Elohim” in Hebrew because it shows God in authority; the second account calls God “Yahweh” because it focuses in on God in relationship with mankind. Yahweh (or Jehovah) is his covenant name.

Adam and Eve are called to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28). This is the First Commission, leading up to the call of Abraham, as well as the Great Commission (9:1, 9:7, 12:1-3, 35:11). The First Commission represents man’s call not only to obey God, but to be king of the Earth. God had a job for us to do that has, in one sense, continued in spite of the Fall.

Watchman Nee comments that God’s week began with work: man’s week began with rest. In the Gospel, man must rest before he can work. In this the Sabbath summarizes the whole Gospel: it is the work of God and the only true rest for man. The Sabbath was created so that man would know that it is God who sanctifies (Ex. 31:13, Ez. 20:12). God supplies all our lack in Christ.

“The Fall” is the common name for the first disobedience of God in Genesis 3, a theological event with global implications. But when Eve and Adam disobey God, it is not so much a “fall” or a “slip” as it is a “rebellion,” and every other human has followed in their train. Human rebellion is the basis for all the problems that have followed, and all the injustices of our present world have their root in this “fall.” Paul explains this using the Eastern concept of corporate personality; “as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). We have identified with the rebellion of Adam, but we may partake of the righteousness of Christ through his death and resurrection.

The genealogy in chapter 5 (as well as others) creates a continuous narrative, and provides authority to the story in the Eastern world. But as these genealogies progress, they focus closer and closer on the promised “seed of the woman,” whom we now know as Jesus Christ.

Flood and Babel (6-11)

The Flood is all over a story of mercy. God uses all possible means to save and restore his Creation. Creation is corrupted by man’s choice. Noah was not only “blameless” but, according to Peter, “a preacher of righteousness.” He gave his contemporaries a chance to be saved.

Salvation out of water is a repeated theme in the Old and New Testaments3; Peter uses it as a picture of baptism. Judgment and mercy intersect.

After the Flood, God repeats to Noah the same commission he gave to Adam and Eve (9:1), and Noah is the first person in Scripture to enter into covenant with God.

Noah also represents all humanity in a second covenant in which God promises that he will not destroy the earth by flood again. The confusion of Babel and the Table of Nations explain how all ethnic and linguistic groups are traced back to Noah. This explains why flood traditions are a global phenomenon.

Patriarchs (12-50)

The rest of the book of Genesis focuses on the biographies of just four men: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, known as the patriarchs, and Joseph, who preserves the people of Israel and leads them to Egypt.

All of the patriarchs trust the Lord, but God’s way of dealing with them differs. Abraham has repeated visions and promises and covenants, about ten times in total. Isaac and Jacob have fewer revelations, until we find Jacob saying, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Gen. 28:16).

Abraham (12-24)

We have four personal climaxes in the life of Abraham: 1) Leaving his father’s house; 2) leaving Lot; 3) dismissing Ishmael; and 4) the sacrifice of Isaac.4 All of these involve what Abraham left behind; he was also called to take up the covenant of faith, a new name, the covenant of circumcision, and the election of Isaac. God repeats his promises to Abraham over and over, sealing the promise of the seed of the woman. His life makes us ask, what has God asked us to leave behind? And what is he leading us forward to?

The offering of Isaac and the testing of Abraham (in ch. 22) is an especially important example of Abraham’s obedience, as well as a type of the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ. The writer of Hebrews comments, “[Abraham] considered that God was able even to raise him [Isaac] from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb. 11:19). Church fathers have written that the sacrifice of Isaac became for Abraham a revelation of the suffering and resurrection of Christ.5 After the angel stays Abraham’s hand, God confirms his covenant yet again: “in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (28:16).

Abraham’s life includes the beginning of the tithe, the continuation of the lineage of Jesus, as well as the call of God for Abraham to a personal walk of faith. He may be the best example of faith in the entire Bible.

Isaac (24-27)

Isaac is the least known of the patriarchs.

Genesis 24 is the best picture of engagement in the Bible.

Rebekah receives a prophecy of the birth of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25, but she is told that they will not have the same place in God’s plan. These twins are the Bible’s clearest picture of divine initiative, as Paul teaches in Romans 9. The Messiah would not be born by human choice; we do not teach God what his plan for the nations will be. Although we pray and ask by faith that his plan will advance, God holds the initiative, and God creates the plan.

Jacob (25-36)

Jacob struggles with God, and indeed his whole walk with God is a struggle of faith. Throughout his life, Jacob associates God with special places, but has a hard time remembering his constant nearness. Alexander Whyte says, “it is not that God is any more there, or is any more likely to return there; but we are better prepared to meet Him there.”6

Jacob uses betrayal to secure his brother both Esau’s inheritance and Esau’s blessing. In the West this is often condemned as deception; recent theology points out that this is not condemned in the text. The story itself seems to see Jacob’s use of skill as advancing the plan of God.7

However, Jacob’s family life is one of the most dysfunctional in the whole Bible; his parents choose favorites; he has children by four women; his children embarrass him grievously.

Jacob famously wrestles a theophany while waiting to face his twin brother Esau. All of the patriarchs face many fears and fights, but in the end they find they are always face to face with God.

Jacob pronounces a double verdict on his life at the end of the Book of Genesis: First, he says, with an ounce of bitterness, “My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.“ (47:9) He adds later, though, in his prayer for his sons, that “the blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents” (Gen. 49:26).

Joseph (37-50)

Although Jacob is still in the picture as the patriarch until the end of the book, chapters 37 through 50 are mostly concerned with Joseph’s betrayal into slavery, the favor he eventually found in Egypt, and the preservation of life that resulted. Joseph’s biography does not include the same promises that are repeated to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is not part of the lineage of Christ; however, Joseph is a type of the life of Christ in that he is “beloved, hated, and exalted,” to use F. B. Meyer’s words.

Joseph’s story is one of the most complete and beautiful story arcs in Scripture, and in regard to God’s words and promises, Joseph’s life is the ultimate example offulfillment delayed and faith rewarded. Psalm 105 adds, “until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.” He bravely acknowledges that God’s plans for him were all good (Gen. 50:20).

Finally, Joseph’s prophetic request that they would bring up his bones creates continuity with the Book of Exodus (Gen. 50:25). Moses made sure that this request was fulfilled (Ex. 13:19).

Study Recommendations

On the first eleven chapters of Genesis, the writings of Erich Sauer are the best. SeeThe Dawn of World Redemption and The King of the Earth. Sauer has a wealth of theological and devotional input. The theme of all his books is “the history of redemption.”

If you are interested in scientific aspects of the Book of Genesis, I recommend the works of Arthur Custance. He has many books and some are very difficult, but I recommend especially those that deal with Adam and Eve such as The Seed of the Woman and The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation. Custance was a minister, a scientist, and a theologian.

On the patriarchs, I recommend a short devotional by Watchman Nee called Changed into His Likeness.

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1 John York. Missions in the Age of the Spirit.

2 In Hebrew it is named after the first phrase, In the Beginning, and in Greek this was shortened to simply The Beginning—which is γεννησις, Genesis.

3 For example, the salvation of Moses in the Nile (Exodus 1), the story of Jonah, and the figure of baptism all bear resemblance to the Flood story.

4 Erich Sauer. Dawn of World Redemption, p. 100.

5 Chrysostom and Erasmus believed this in reference to John 8:56: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.”

6 Alexander Whyte. Concise Bible Characters, p. 68. AMG Publishers.

7 John E. Anderson. Jacob and the Divine Trickster.

Exodus

EXODUS
is a book about
SALVATION
in which God is our
SAVIOR.

Themes of the Book

The name of the book, in Greek, means “departure” (i.e., the departure of the Jews from Egypt). The Exodus is the ultimate example of God as Savior in the Old Testament. However, the book also deals with broader themes of how God deals with us as humans and as nations. Joseph Parker points out that there is “no phase of divine providence that is not found in the Book of Exodus, at least in germinal form.”⁠1

Genesis shows God’s faithfulness to his Creation and his covenant family. The Exodus story shows the covenant family emerge as a nation, and shares how God interacts with people in leading them to repentance and mission. “Creation gives way to providence.”⁠2

The Exodus: A Planned Response?

The Exodus is first mentioned to Abraham in Genesis 14, so God anticipated it for centuries. Joseph also prophesied about it when he commanded his family to bring up his bones out of Egypt (Gen. 50:25). Exodus 2:24 hearkens to the covenant as the reason for the Exodus itself.

Although the event is prophesied, God also responds to a suffering people. “Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” (2:23-25, also 3:7-9, 6:5) He also makes promises that apply more widely to all humanity (22:22-24). Revival and judgment are often preceded by injustice and outcry.

The God of the Exodus

A new name for God in this book is “I AM” (6:3) God says that he will make a name for himself.⁠3 The double meaning is that he will make himself famous, as well as show us his true character. His true character is not grounded in any verbal expression or formula, but in his action on behalf of Israel. G. Campbell Morgan wrote that we interpret God’s character through our story.

The Exodus not only saved the people, but it established Israel as a nation. The family of Jacob went down to Egypt as a family, and came up as a nation.

Echoes of the Exodus

The Exodus echoes throughout Scripture, because salvation is demonstrated in the Exodus. The Passover is commanded as a way of commemorating “what the Lord did” (13:8). The Exodus is prophesied three times in the Book of Genesis, and it is remembered in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Psalms, all of the Major Prophets, Hosea, Amos, Haggai, Micah, Zechariah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, 1 Corinthians, Hebrews and Jude.⁠4 Under the Old Covenant, this event is the ultimate example of God’s intervention.

The Exodus also reverberates throughout the land—it does not just affect Israel. God promises that not only Israel but Egypt will know that he is the Lord (7:5; 14:4, 18); Egyptians leave their land in the “mixed multitude” (12:38); Jethro hears about it in Midian and worships the Lord (18:1-12); Rahab hears about it in Jericho and confesses that the Lord is God (Josh. 2:8-11); Balak knows about it in Moab (Num. 22-24). God describes the news of Israel’s emergence as reaching the entire known world (Dt. 2:25, also Ex. 15:14-16, Num. 14:15). Thus God glorifies himself among all nations through his work of salvation and the people he has saved.

Passover in the New Testament

The Exodus has to be remembered. It represents God’s saving power, and thus is the first feast or special day commanded by God to the new nation of Israel. Since the Last Supper of our Lord was itself a Passover meal, and his resurrection and Pentecost coincided with the other Jewish feasts, there is an obvious call-and-answer from Old Testament to New Testament. With Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus spoke of the “exodus” he would accomplish at Jerusalem, which answers to the first Exodus (Luke 9:31); and the new commands to remember his death through bread and wine answer to the old commands to remember the Exodus through the Passover meal (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

Moses and Pharaoh

Moses and Pharaoh demonstrate eternal principles in their divergence. Moses’ calling comes of risk and curiosity. Moses hesitates repeatedly to follow God’s call (Ex. 3-4) but grows into obedience to God’s calling voice—though that voice is not always gentle (4:24-26)!

Pharaoh shows weakness in his concessions, but he becomes hardened. Just as Moses is softened repeatedly, Pharaoh is hardened repeatedly. The plagues serve to test Pharaoh’s resolve; does he really care about what God cares about? Or does he concede only because it benefits him (that is, by ending the plagues)?

Miracles are not a solution for spiritual hardness in the book of Exodus. This is seen both in Pharaoh’s life, and in the life of Israel herself; the book’s conclusion says that the miraculous pillars of fire and cloud were seen daily and publicly by all Israel (40:38, 33:8-10), but witnessing these stupendous miracles was not a sound basis for faithfulness (Num. 14:20-23).

The Role of Moses: Mediation

God shows that he does not prefer mediation; he always prefers to deal with his people in the most personal way. But he accepts it as a “second best” more than once in the Book of Exodus. First, God allows Aaron to speak for Moses, although he was angry at Moses’ unwillingness to speak (4:10-16, 27-30). Later, God commanded the people to be consecrated to that he could speak to them (19:10-11). Sadly, they were too afraid to face God on the mountain, so God concedes to mediating through Moses and other priests and prophets (20:18-22, recalled in Dt. 5:1-5, 18:15-19).

The priesthood is commanded in Exodus 29 as a concession until the day when God would providentially lead his people to the understanding that they could approach him at any time through his Son (1 Tim. 2:5).

Throughout the book, the Israelites are overdependent on their powerful, God-given leaders.⁠5 There is no leader in the Old Testament that has more divine attestation than Moses (Ex. 19:9, etc.). Over and over we read that they obeyed “as the Lord commanded Moses,” but what did the Lord command them?

God wanted to guide the people into personal participation; giving was an important way of encouraging this and allowing the people to be involved in the ministry (Ex. 36-38).

Moses’ Intercession and God’s Decrees

Intercession is a two-way street for Moses; it is much more than just idle begging. Twice in the Pentateuch, God tells Moses that he will destroy Israel, but Moses intercedes to the utmost for his nation (Ex. 32-34, Num. 14). After they sin by worshipping the golden calf, Moses offers himself up in exchange for the lives of his people, something that Brother Andrew⁠6 points out is only done by two people in the entire Bible: Paul (Rom. 9:1-5) and Moses⁠7 (Ex. 32:32). They both embody the character of Jesus who intercedes for us in heaven, and who, Alexander Whyte says, “was blotted out of God’s book for us.”⁠8

When Moses reaches this height of intercession, God begins to explain his decrees, laws that cannot be changed. First, God gives Moses the decree of judgment on sin: “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book” (32:33). God can do anything, but he will not ignore sin in his divine economy.

The second decree God gives is the decree of divine mercy: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (33:19). God may grant mercy on sinners, but only he may set the conditions for this mercy. No one may force his hand.⁠9

These decrees cannot be changed because they are founded on who God is. But within the range of these two decrees, like Moses, we can offer all that we are in intercession.

Law and Covenant: Where God Can Dwell

Law is only a small section of the book; art and atmosphere are a much larger section. These were for the people’s sake and not for God’s. God repeatedly directs Moses to make the articles of worship, not as he is told, but as was “shown” to him (25:9)

Art is legitimized in the tabernacle by the Spirit-anointed work of Bezalel, Oholiab, and others (36:2). Their work required the Holy Spirit, showing that we need God’s Spirit in every field of work, not just in those that are directly spiritual.

God brought the seed of Abraham out of Egypt that he “might dwell among them” (29:46). “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God” (Ex. 29:45). This far-off ideal is referenced dozens of times in both Testaments and is finally consummated in the Book of the Revelation (Rev. 21:3).

Study Recommendations

Terence Fretheim’s commentary on in the Interpretation series is thoughtful, readable, and explores many dimensions of the book from the standpoint of biblical theology. This book has the right amount of detail for any student of the Word who wants to meditate verse by verse on the text itself—without getting lost in the trivial.

Joseph Parker’s preaching in The People’s Bible deals with Exodus from a bird’s eye view. He deals with the book not exegetically but thematically and creatively.

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1 Exodus, vol. 2 of The People’s Bible. Kindle edition.

2 Alexander Patterson, The Greater Life and Work of Christ.

3 Deuteronomy 4:35, 2 Samuel 7:23, Isaiah 63:11-14, Daniel 9:15, John 17:6, 26

4 Joel (1:4), Habakkuk (3:8, 15) and Revelation (15:1) also appear to include allusions to the events of Exodus but not direct references. Here is an incomplete list of direct references to the Lord bringing his people out of Egypt:

Gen. 15:13-16, 47:30, 50:25, Lev. 11:44-45, 26:45, Num. 15:41, 20:16, 22:21, Dt. 1:30-31, 6:20-24, 7:8, 7:17-19, 8:14, 9:26-29, 13:5, 20:1, 24:18, 22, Josh. 2:8-11, 4:23-24, 24:5-7, Jdg. 2:1, 11-12, Neh. 9:9-12, 1 Sam. 4:8, 6:6, 8:8,  10:18, 12:6-8, 2 Sam. 7:23-24, 1 Kings 8:51-53, 2 Kings 17:7, 1 Chron. 17:21, 2 Chron. 5:10, 6:5,  Ps. 78:12-13, 105:26-45, 106:6-23, 114:1-5, 136:10-15, Isaiah 51:10-11, 15, Jer. 32:20-21, Ezek. 20:33-38, Dan. 9:15, Hos. 2:15, 11:1-4, 12:9, 13, 13:4, Amos 2:10, 3:1, 9:7, Hag. 2:5, Micah 6:3-4, 7:15, Zech. 10:10-11, Acts 7:40, 1 Cor. 10:1, Heb. 11:29, Jude 1:5.

5 The battle against Amalek in ch. 17 can be interpreted as involving leadership dependence. There is no indication in the story either that Moses was praying or that it was a miracle granted by God; it simply says that they lost when Moses did not have the rod of God raised up.

6 Along with many others, of course.

7 I hope to write more about this in a project called Revival and Romans 9. It is sad that we spend so much time discussing predestination but no one wants to emulate the bold prayers of Paul and Moses.

8 “Moses the Type of Christ.” Concise Bible Characters.

9 This seems to be an important point in Romans 9, which of course references this decree.