The Whole Bible:
God says, in 1 Corinthians 2.12-14: Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
So, when we read the Bible (God’s Word), we must understand that we cannot discern the meaning of God unless His Holy Spirit reveals it to us. Therefore, the first step in reading the Bible is to pray and ask God to show you what He wants you to understand. It’s like having the Holy Spirit at your shoulder, explaining to you what you read. The Bible is a book we can read at any stage of life, for any purpose. Even when we read the same passages again and again, they take on new meaning, along with the perspectives we morph into as we grow in God’s wisdom. And it’s still all true.
Keep in mind that God is giving us, in His Word, as clear an explanation as is possible for human minds to grasp, even with the Spirit’s guidance. His ways are not our ways. Isaiah 55.8, 9 says, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. God is always right. If we have a disagreement with Him, we know Who is right, every time. If there’s something that doesn’t sit right with you, ask God about it. He longs to sit with you and reveal Himself. He already knows you intimately; He’d like this relationship to go both ways. God never forces Himself on us. But it pleases Him to no end when we seek Him out, when we mindfully sit with Him to commune (as Mary did in Luke 10). He loves it when we obey the promptings of His Spirit and take heed.
The Old Testament:
God gave us the whole Bible, and says of it in 2 Timothy 3.16, 17: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
All Scripture includes the Old Testament, so that means the Old Testament is richly useful for us. Why is the Old Testament still relevant today? Because neither human nature nor God’s nature changes. He remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Humans will always have the same nature, and we will always need God.
The book of Genesis, all in one book, tells the story of
- God’s power and might and love
- God’s desire for relationship with man
- God’s pursuit of man in order to have that relationship
- man’s inability to live a sinless life
- man’s inability to seek a relationship with God (because man loves himself first)
- man’s need for salvation
- man’s need for God, and a relationship with Him
- God created us. He knows the hairs on our heads. Before we were knit together in our mother’s womb, He knew us. He had a specific design in mind for each of His children. One part of that design is a desire for intimacy with our Creator. Man may try many and various ways and means to fill that need, that void, but the only thing that fits is God Himself.
- 1 Chronicles 16.11: Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.
- God’s promise to make a way for a holy God to have a relationship with sinful man
- our unique make-up, the way God created us to long for relationship, to long for meaning, and the way He created us to find joy and peace and meaning
- our inability to find joy or peace or meaning in our own efforts
- God’s choices:
- His chosen people, to show the world what a beautiful thing relationship and obedience to God can look like,
- and those whom God does not choose – the evil ones who will end up in the pit of fire.
God so loved the world that He created man and woman in order to have a relationship and share His love. He created His beings with the ability to choose: love is not love, of course, if one is programmed for it and unable to choose love. He created angels with this ability, and some chose to be their own gods. He created man and woman (and all people who came after) with this ability, but, alas, none of the people were able to choose God in and of themselves (Psalm 14.1b – 3: They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. John 15.5: I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. And Romans 3.23: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God) While it’s easy to become huffy and counter with our own goodness, God shows us in the Garden of Eden that our goodness is not the same as His goodness. Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They chose for themselves the ability to make their own plumb lines. They chose to make themselves gods, instead of relying implicitly and completely on God. They willfully turned from obedience to God, and broke the total unity they had with Him. [Just to be clear, we cannot place all the blame for our fallen state upon Adam and Eve, since any of us would have done the same thing (see Psalm 14.1b-3, above). Even with God among us, even with abundant evidence of His goodness and presence and love, even with our created design of desiring Him, we still choose our own way.]
God is a holy god. He will not tolerate sin. He cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden. In His love, He did not allow them to eat of the Tree of Life, for eternity on man’s own terms would be intolerable.
Out of the world, God chose Abraham as the Father of His people. God’s Chosen. This is a picture of what a people look like when God chooses them and showers His blessings on them. He is clear that He is making a covenant with them: He has a plan for their lives, He created them for this plan, and they will find their greatest joy and peace and meaning if they follow this plan. He will bless those who obey Him. God cannot bless disobedience. Even as parents we understand discipline. We do not reward our children for disobedience; we understand what will be good for them, and we nurture them in that direction. We parent imperfectly, but God parents perfectly.
God desired to give all the people of the world a picture of what living with God looks like. Even the pagans understood the power of God and His protection of His people. (Ex, in Joshua 2.9 – 11, Rahab explains the terror all the people have. This is one example of many.) God chose the location of Israel for His people, not only because it was a land flowing with milk and honey, but because it was a crossroads of all civilizations, and His people would be able to spread God abroad from the comfort and safety of their own land.
The Temple in Jerusalem was a physical place where people could come together to worship God Almighty. Because they were human and finite, they needed something they could go to and look at and touch. God gave His people explicit instructions for the construction of the traveling temple (when Moses led the Israelites) and of Solomon’s temple. People needed to have a visual of the awe and majesty of God’s presence. This was just one way God could show us the discrepancy between His holy presence and our sinfulness, and show us our need for Him.
For a long time, Israel lived in abundance and obedience to God. Oftentimes they deviated and went their own way, and God would allow the consequences of their actions to fall on them; He would take away His protection. Then His people would remember Him and return to Him.
But again and again, the Israelites chose their own ways above God. Even though they knew Who God was, knew His power and His love and protection, man always chose evil, always chose to be their own gods (like Lucifer did). God always provided a remnant, though, people whose hearts were knit with God, like David, like the prophets. But the Israelites, God’s chosen people, had fleshly hearts, just like all people that God created.
Because God so loved the world, and because He always did want a relationship with us for eternity, He provided a way, since before the world began, to restore us to Himself permanently.
God represents Himself to us as Three in One. In the Old and New Testaments, God reveals Himself as Father, Son/Word/flesh, and Spirit. His presence as Father / Protector / Provider and Lover of our Souls is prevalent throughout the Old Testament. His presence as The Son / The Word / God Among Us / God in the Flesh is revealed when He sits to eat with Abraham, when He wrestles with Joshua, and other incidences as He manifests Himself in the flesh (foreshadowing His birth and life among the people in the New Testament). And His presence with us as Spirit is oft mentioned when His Spirit rested on David, Saul, the prophets, and others, as well as the Spirit that dwells in believers in the New Testament.
As God the Father, He sent His only Son, Jesus, to be the propitiation for our sins. Sin is what separates us from God, and He so desired one-ness with us that He paid for our sins with the blood of His Son. And, so that we were not left destitute without His personal presence, He sent His Spirit to live within us after Jesus went back to Heaven. This same Spirit comforts us, directs us, convicts us, and pleads before the Father for us.
The New Testament
The angels could not contain themselves. God’s plan for salvation was culminating in Bethlehem, and they rejoiced in praise.
The four Gospels relate the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. If you’re reading a Bible that provides cross-references, you can trace much of what is happening to Old Testament prophecies.
The Epistles are letters written by various disciples of Jesus, outlining what it means to be saved by grace, and how to walk in that grace; how to receive forgiveness, and how to give it; and how to walk with God and receive the joy that comes with His walk. It teaches us more about God’s love, and gives us a peek into Heaven. As believers, we are God’s chosen people. Again, cross-references trace back to Old Testament passages pointing the way.
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In the Old Testament, God’s chosen people were the Israelites. His chosen location was Israel, and the temple in Jerusalem. Through the Israelites, the world learned about God – they were a living testament for Him; through the Israelites, God sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. In Acts, Jesus commanded us to go and tell the world about Him (Acts 1.8). Also in Acts, God sent His Spirit to live within us (Ch. 2). We are now the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3.16). We are fearfully and wonderfully made to His exact specifications.
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The genius of God’s moral code is that everything He requires of us is for our own good. When we violate His code of life, we suffer harmful consequences. – Quiet Walk, May 1, 2015
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. – Hebrews 11.6
It’s not that God hates us when we disobey Him. It’s that He designed us to be in perfect peace when we walk in His ways; and He loves us so much that He wants us always to walk with Him and have that peace. We cannot walk with Him if we don’t know Him. One way to get to know Him better is to read His Word. Another is to commune with His Holy Spirit. Another is to listen to Godly preaching and teaching of His Word. And another is to congregate with His children, talk about Him, encourage one another.