I enjoy devotional books where some small segment of Scripture is given and some thoughts about it often followed by a story and application. I think they are worthwhile. I also enjoy searching Scripture to find answers to questions that are concerning me. It is worthwhile for me to look at God’s word in times of stress and trouble in life and see that God has answers to our emotional and spiritual problems that haunt us day by day. Let’s face it the world is filled with people struggling with stress, grief, depression, frustration, anger, disappointment and discouragement that just gets them so far down they don’t know where to turn. All of these methods of searching the Bible for answers are worth something valuable and have a definite place in our study of God’s word.
But, none of these type studies should take the place of reading God’s word to simply understand the story of His word, to see how God’s plan has been at work from the beginning and to see where we fit into the whole message of God’s Book. I understand that one can read the Bible from cover to cover many times and never really understand how it all fits together. It is helpful to remember some basic truths in reading Scripture that will help me both in understanding and applying its truths to my life. The Bible is far from a single book written in chronological order so that if I begin in Genesis and read through to Revelation everything will be part of the story in the right place for me to see. The Bible is grouped together based on the kind of literature that is involved. In Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy we have the books of the law that tell of God’s creation of the universe, the plan for mankind and the wonderful opportunity for them in the Garden of Eden. But sin entered the world and was devastating in its effect. Murder, mistreatment, every thought of their imagination became evil. Yet God had a plan to redeem humanity and bring them back to a saved relationship with Him. He chose Abraham and his descendants to be a special nation and ones through whom He would send a savior to lead people from darkness to light. These five books develop that story with the giving of the law, building the tabernacle and preparing the Israelites to enter the promised land as God’s people.
From Joshua through Esther is the story of what happened to the Israelites after they crossed into the promised land. It tells of prosperity, of falling away, of redemption through different judges until they wanted a king like the nations around them. Saul, David, and Solomon all reigned over the empire. But sin brought the division of the tribes. Ten tribes became known as Israel and two tribes as Judah. In time sin led to the fall of the ten tribes through the Assyrian captivity. Then a couple of hundred years later the two tribes were conquered by Babylon and remained in captivity for seventy years. Afterward, God delivered them by having the Medo-Persian Empire conquer Babylon and allow Judah to go back and rebuild Jerusalem, the temple and the walls of the city. Esther tells of one Jewish girl becoming queen in Persia for a time and saving her people. The history of the Old Testament ends at that point. It is followed by five books of poetry, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. They largely related to the period of the United Kingdom, except for Job that likely took place during the time of Genesis.
These books are followed by the Books of Prophesy from Isaiah through Malachi and the first five are called Major prophets because they are longer and the other twelve as minor because they were shorter. They all had to do with different times and problems that related to Israel and Judah before, during and after the captivity.
There was a four hundred year break between the Old and New Testament. The New Testament, like the Old isn’t in chronological order. The first four books are called gospels because the tell the story from different angles of Jesus life on this earth. The Book of Acts is the history book of the New Testament telling how the Holy Spirit led the work of Christ through his spiritual body, the church after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Many of the letters, especially those written by Paul were written during the story of the Book of Acts and deal with churches and problems they faced. His letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon were written later after the completion of Acts. The General letters each dealt with very specific challenges facing churches and individuals as they strived to live for God. Finally, the Book of Revelation dealt in very figurative language with challenges facing the seven churches of Asia and answers God wanted them to see about their future when it seemed that persecution and problems were overwhelming them. It is extremely fitting that both the first chapters of the Bible and the last chapters of the Bible deal with people in the Garden of God, with God, Christ and The Spirit in our presence and the tree life and river of life available for all.
God’s word is an amazing story but needs to be read and seen as a whole story rather than just bits and pieces that I turn to when I am dealing with particular challenges or issues. “All Scripture is inspired of God and profitable for teaching, for correction, for reproof and for rebuke so the man of God may be perfect, completely furnished unto every good work.”