Well we’re in the 3rd week of a series I have entitled “Inspired. How God speaks through scripture.”
And my motivation for the series is to equip you with the knowledge and the tools to hear from God through scripture.
Podcasts and YouTube
You know, we live in an amazing time, where we have access to more information than anyone ever has in the history if the world.
- Wikipedia has over 56 million pages that you could read RIGHT NOW from your phone.
- There are over 800 million videos on YouTube that you could watch RIGHT NOW from your phone. It would take you just over 21 THOUSAND YEARS to watch every YouTube video one time.
No one is the history of mankind has ever had anything ANYWHERE close to that.
So to be a Christian in that environment has some serious strengths and some serious drawbacks.
I mean think about it, this morning, there are around 100,000 Christian sermons being preached. This morning. In the US. 100,000. And you can go online tomorrow morning and listen to most of them for free.
And the benefit of that is obvious. Never before has there been so much great spiritual nourishment available to you every moment of every day.
But to me, as a pastor who prepares sermons for a church, the drawback to that is that having constant access to other people’s spiritual life can act as a substitute for you having a spiritual life yourself.
That you effectively have a whole army of pastors who do spiritual work for you, instead of you doing spiritual work yourself.
You have pastors who read and study scripture, and that makes you think that you don’t have to read and study the scripture for yourself. And that’s a mistake.
And, don’t misunderstand me. I’m a pastor. A pastor who delivers sermons. Professionally, this is my profession.
I ABSOLUTELY believe in the power of preaching and teaching. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be up here.
But I never want to lead people into thinking that me, or Pastor Marshall, or any other preacher has any business standing between you and God. We don’t.
But for a lot of Christians, they delegate the responsibility of Bible study to the professional.
And I think the reason for that is not necessarily laziness. I think for a lot of Christians it’s intimidation.
I mean, you can log onto the believers center YouTube, or whatever church or pastors YouTube that you like, and in 30 minutes, you can get something delivered to you in a clear, concise, easy to understand way. Compare that to sitting down for 30 minutes and studying your bible, well who knows what will happen.
- I might just get MORE confused.
- I might misunderstand.
- I might fall asleep.
Look, I am here to tell you, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that you CAN understand the Bible for yourself.
And I’d take it a step further and say that it is God’s will for your life that you study scripture.
And so that’s all I’m trying to do here.
I’m not trying to impress you with my amazing brilliance, or charisma, or humor, or incredible physique (kidding). To be honest, I’d prefer you leave this room not thinking about me at all. But you would leave here feeling equipped and motivated to study the scripture for yourself.
And I have been so blown away other the last 2 weeks how many messages – text messages, emails, people stopping me in the hall ways to tell me that you’ve been implementing what we’ve been talking about.
People who say “David, I bought a new bible and I’m excited to start reading it.” OR “David, I’ve read my bible 3 days in a row.” Or “I did my first SOAP bible study” (if you don’t know what that is, check out last weeks message).
That’s what I’m after. From my heart.
So the first week, we talked about what the Bible IS and WHY we find it trustworthy.
And last week, we talked about 3 different, simple ways that you can start studying scripture for yourself.
We talked about SPECK
5 questions you can ask about any portion of scripture that you open up and begin to read.
Does this show me:
S – Sin I need to avoid or repent of?
P – Promises I can be encouraged by?
E – Examples to follow, or avoid?
C – Commands I need to obey?
K – Knowledge of God, the world, or myself?
We talked about SOAP
Radiating from Jesus
We talked about Radiating from Jesus
Where we start with the Red Letters, the words of Jesus, and we use the cross references in our bibles to let Jesus be our tour guide into all the other parts of scripture.
What would Be Helpful?
And in this series I’ve been having lots of conversations with other leaders and pastors about what we think would be the most helpful for people wanting to understand scripture better. And one thing we all agreed on was that often times people struggle to read scripture because they don’t know the context of what they’re reading.
So what I’m hoping to do this week is something very ambitious, but it’s to give you an overview of the entire bible!!!! You heard that right, I’m gonna preach the whole bible in one sermon!
Well, to be more precise I’m going to try and give you a very high level view of the sections of scripture, so when you flip through you know WHERE you are, and what it is that you’re looking for in each section of the bible.
So I’m sure you see on the top of your handout the title for the morning: Who, What, When, Why?
Let me break that down real quick for you. When you’re reading scripture, I believe it’s important to be able to answer these questions:
- Who is writing and who are they writing to?
- What kind of book is this?
- When was this written?
- Why was this book written and why am I reading it?
And for some of you this is going to be brand new information, others of you this is going be reviewing information that you already know. And if you already know this, I hope you’ll give me grace and understand why it’s worthwhile for us to attempt to make the Bible understandable for people who are still learning.
Ok so here we go.
So as I told you in the first week, the Bible is not a book. It’s a library. A collection of books. 66 books to be precise. 39 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament. And the Old Testament is much larger than the New Testament. Even though 39 doesn’t sound like that much more than the 27 books in the New Testament, the Old Testament makes up about three quarters of the Bible in terms of word count. That’s because some of the Old Testament books are REALLY LONG.
It’s like “Wrap it up Moses!!! I know you’re living to 120, but I’m not. I’ve got places to go!”
Written by over 40 authors, spanning at least 1500 years.
It’s written in 3 Languages:
And they’re not all the same KIND of book. There’s lot of different genres.
And we’re going to fly through the big sections of the Bible and in each section, and then after that, we’re going to answer this question: “Why would I read these particular books?”
It’s been said that you’ll always find what you’re looking for. And that’s certainly true in scripture. So it’s important that you look for the right things.
High Level Bible Overview
First you have the Old Testament, which looks at God’s relationship with a nation known as Israel.
Then you have the New Testament, which looks at what Jesus did and taught and what his followers did and taught after him.
The Old Testament is basically divided up into 4 sections.
You have the books of the Law, the books of history, the books of poetry, and the books of prophesy.
The Books of the Law
You may heard this referred to as the Torah, or the Pentateuch.
So these books are really showing the formation of the people of God.
Of course you know in genesis, we read about the creation of the world, and Adam and Eve, and the sneaky snake.
But you also read about God’s promises to a man named Abraham, and his descendants.
And you’ll remember that they become slaves in Egypt and a guy named Moses comes and brings these horrible plagues on the Egyptians until Pharaoh finally agreed to let them go.
Then they wandered the wilderness for 40 years, and a bunch of them die. In fact the book of ‘Numbers’ gets its name because at the beginning of the book Moses counts all the people, and then at the end of the book he counts all the people again, because so many people died in the 40 years between the countings.
The books of law end with God’s people finally entering into the promised land. This is the land God promised them.
The Books of History
Well this shows how the life of the Israelites played out once they entered into the promised land. Spoiler alert: Not well.
It’s in this section that we meet a man named David who becomes this mighty king for the nation of Israel.
But after David they basically totally abandon God and they end up back in captivity.
But after a few decades, they come back and they work to rebuild their lives and rebuild the temple.
The Books of Poetry
So in the books of poetry, you have very wise people exploring problems and different aspects of the world.
In the book of Job, you have a good person who has really bad stuff happening to him, and he’s trying to come to grips with WHY.
It’s worth noting, that the book of Job is mostly Job and his friends trying to come up with all kinds of insane reasons for why Job is suffering, and then at the end of the book, God comes and rebukes them for it.
Psalms is a book of worship. So it’s 150 different songs and poems that the jews used to worship God. A huge amount of Christian liturgy (that’s a weird word that means language) comes from Psalms when it comes to modern worship songs.
So you might be reading the book of Psalms and you might say “Did Hillsong write this?” – Well actually the opposite. Hillsong music and Elevation Worship and Bethel Music leans HEAVILY on the book of Psalms.
Proverbs is a book of wisdom sayings.
So this is a book that jewish people would use to teach the younger generation. And because of that, proverbs, unsurprisingly, has some of the most practical advice and instruction in the whole bible.
Things like: Wisdom, honesty, hard work, humility, choosing your words, avoiding evil people, being generous, parenting, marriage.
Are all topics covered in proverbs in a very practical way.
Ecclesiastes is a book about the meaning on life.
Song of Solomon
Is erotic poetry. I’ll leave it at that.
Some of the teenage boys in here are like “What?!?!” (Flips open Bible)
The Books of Prophecy
Ok next you have the books of prophesy. And what we see here is God speaking to his people through these human prophets.
And in these books you see a huge range of emotions coming from God. He loves his people and he delights when they do good. And he’s frustrated when they do wrong and he’s sad when they turn against him. It’s really an amazing portion of scripture. So long as you know what it is you’re reading.
That concludes the Old Testament.
And then there’s a 400 year gap between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
So in the New Testament, we have 2 major groups of books.
We have the gospels that tell the story of the life of Jesus. And along with these in the book of Acts, which is kind of unique, but it tells the story of the early church. It’s also written by Luke who wrote the gospel of Luke, and Acts is really like ‘Luke part 2’.
We have the letters. Which are these letters written by followers of Jesus that show practically, how a life following Jesus should look.
You also have the book of Revelation, which is a unique book in the Bible which is a letter to a group of churches of a vision a man had, and it’s written in a form known as ‘Apocalyptic Literature’.
And there will be HUGE disagreement among Christians on what exactly this book is trying to tell us.
I don’t have time to get in to it, but I’ll just say that it’s not where I recommend starting if you’re new to bible study.
Shadow vs Substance
- OLD TESTAMENT: I look for Shadows
- NEW TESTAMENT: I look for Substance
Look for shadows of Jesus
This is not a term I made up, this is a term Paul uses.
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. (Colossians 2:16)
(He’s giving examples of OT laws. He’s saying ‘Don’t divide over that stuff.’)
These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:17)
That’s the thing about shadows. Is they can give a pretty decent idea of what the real thing is, but it’s not very clear and you don’t get all the detail.
Think of shadow puppets. You make your hands in a way that look like a bird. But you can’t tell what color the bird is. Or what kind of bird it is. Not that I would know that anyway. But it’s just a rough idea.
Another thing about shadows is they’re easy to misinterpret. Where you THINK you see something, but you really see something else.
Anything we clearly see in Christ supersedes anything we THINK we see in the Old Testament.
So it’s good to look at the Old Testament to find images and shadows of Jesus, but we also understand that it’s not usually gonna be as clear as when we look at Jesus directly.
But see with the New Testament, now that Jesus has come, we still appreciate the shadow, but now we can see CLEARLY who God is.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, (Hebrews 1:1)
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:2)
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3a)
Ok so with that in mind, what I want to do is quickly go through the sections again and explain why you would want to read them. And these are your fill-ins at long last!
The Books of the Law and the Books of History
Why would I read these books?
To get a historical understanding of God’s relationship with the Israelites.
I would read these books to learn from the examples and anti-examples of the jewish people.
So I might be reading in the book of Joshua, for example and I see people serving God and following God and trusting God and I see the consequence of them living like that. That God is blessing them and protecting them, and bringing them joy and prosperity.
But then I might go to a book like Judges and see these same people making HUGE mistakes, putting things before God, ignoring God, ignoring what God told them to do, and I would see the horrible consequences of that, and that would inspire me to follow God with my whole heart. And it would remind me that God gives me commands not to just be a downer, but because he has my best interest at heart, and the best life I can live is following God.
What I would NOT do
What I would NOT do when reading the law and history books is read God’s specific commands to the Israelites and think that those are God’s commands FOR ME.
“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 23:1)
Is this an important word for today?
No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; (Leviticus 21:18)
no man with a crippled foot or hand, (Leviticus 21:19)
or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. (Leviticus 21:20)
What’s the deal with all this testicle talk?! It’s making half of us uncomfortable.
As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. (Deuteronomy 23:13)
For the LORD your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you.(Deuteronomy 23:14a)
I mean this is hysterical. It’s literally saying when you poop, bring a shovel so you can cover up your poop because God doesn’t want step in it when he comes to your camp.
Ok here’s one that’s a little less comical:
“ ‘Keep my decrees. “ ‘Do not mate different kinds of animals. “ ‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. “ ‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material. (Leviticus 19:19)
Ok, so you might be thinking ‘I don’t know much any mating animals, so I’ll skip that one. Although a half dog half lizard would look a lot like a pet dinosaur, which sounds pretty awesome. But I do wear clothes.
There may have been a time where people wore pure wool or like pure leather, but modern day, a lot of stuff is blends. I mean look at a leather jacket. There’s probably 7 materials represented there.
I mean we could just check each other’s shirt tags to decide who to stone after service.
Do we have to obey that today? No. Why? Because it’s not written to us.
So believe it or not, these were important instructions for the Israelites because God was trying to get the pagan Egyptian practices that they had learned out of them. He was teaching them how to live as free people.
The Books of Poetry
Why would I read these books?
To learn from the struggles and teachings of wise people.
So if we were to go to the book of Job for example, where most of the book is people trying to understand suffering, and at the end of book, God rebukes them for their dumb theories, we wouldn’t learn explanations for ACCEPT, we would be looking for explanations to REJECT.
But can you see that if I didn’t know that, and I just flipped open to a random chapter in Job and said “Well, here’s God’s word to me.” It would actually teach you the EXACT OPPOSITE of the truth.
But it can be a VERY helpful book for you if you can understand what kind of book you’re reading.
Or I could go to the book of Psalms and read through these poems of worship to God, and I would see the honesty that comes with a REAL relationship with God.
I wouldn’t use those poems so show me THE CORRECT way to believe about everything (no, that’s what Jesus is for), I would use the poems to encourage me to communicate honestly with God.
So I might read David praying “I pray that you would crush the bones of my enemies.” – And I wouldn’t read that like “Oh, well I guess it’s good to pray that.” – No, I see a man who is being honest with his feelings before God. And I can say “Wow, I guess it’s ok to communicate what I’m feeling to God. To be honest.”
Or I could read the book of Proverbs for practical wisdom on everyday life issues.
It really is SOOOOO practical. It really is. And it’s in a very easy to understand format:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)
Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. (Proverbs 4:24)
Anyone confused by that? Not really, that’s pretty easy to understand. Guard your heart. And watch your mouth.
It’s also worth noting that the book of proverbs has 31 chapters. And a lot of months have 31 days in them, so lots and lots of Christians around the world read the book of proverbs that coincides with the day of the month that we’re currently on. You wouldn’t want to ONLY do that, you need to keep Jesus at the center of your bible study, not just practical advice, but it’s a great thing to do for a season or to supplement other bible study.
The Books of Prophecy
Why would I read these books?
To read God’s words to a specific group of people at a specific time in history.
The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess,’ says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 30:3)
Ok so what did we just read? Well, we read a prophecy regarding the restoration of Israel and Judah.
But like most of the Old Testament, I would not read these as God speaking to David Eiffert in 2022.
“Both prophet and priest (so think ministers, like me) are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:11)
“Therefore their path will become slippery; they will be banished to darkness and there they will fall. (Jeremiah 23:12a)
“Oh my gosh, God sees me as godless and wicked!!!”
No, he’s talking about specific prophets and priests who were godless and wicked.
Also, you can see that there is a TREMENDOUS amount of shadows of Jesus in the prophets.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
I mean, how cool is that? That’s written 100’s of years before Jesus and it outlines specific stuff that would take place in Jesus’s life.
Ok so now we find our way to the New Testament, and the first 4 books of the New Testament known as the gospels.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Why would I read these books?
To learn about the life and teachings of Jesus.
So Matthew, Mark, and Luke are what’s referred to as the ‘synoptic’ gospels. Which is big weird word. It’s where we get the word ‘synopsis’ which means summary. They’re called the synoptic gospels because they all come from the same viewpoint. They share the same basic timeline.
They do have their own different emphasis’s, but by and large they’re quite similar.
So the gospel of John is the one that is not part of the ‘synoptic’ gospels. It’s the bad-boy. Written by the apostle John.
He’s not particularly concerned about chronology, technical stuff. He’s writing a very artistic gospel. Theological gospel.
The gospels are where all the dots finally connect. Where before Jesus, we have lots of shadows and pictures showing us God, but finally with Jesus we see not a shadow, but the substance of God.
Mount of Transfiguration There’s this scene in the gospels where Jesus goes up to what is called ‘The Mount of Transfiguration’ where Jesus goes up to a mountain and takes 3 disciples up with him and the disciples look and they see Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah. And they say “Oh my gosh, let’s make 3 shelters for these 3 heroes of the faith!” And when they said that, God the father spoke from heaven and said “This is my son. Listen to HIM.” And when they looked up, it was only Jesus standing there.
It’s an interesting story, and what it means is this:
Moses and Elijah, basically represent the law and the prophets. Moses wrote the books of the law, and Elijah was possibly the most prominent prophet. And so this is them in a sense, passing the baton to Jesus. Because Jesus is the perfect and ultimate picture of God.
You could say it like this: The law and the prophets were the moon and stars in a dark night sky. Which is super helpful! When that’s the only light you have, it’s wonderful! It helps you get to where you need to go.
But when Jesus comes, that’s the rising of the sun.
And when the sun rises, the moon and the stars fade away. They’re still there, but you can’t hardly even see them the sun is so bright.
And so when I read the Old Testament, I appreciate the shadows that I see of God’s character, but I NEVER EVER EVER let those shadows hold more weight in my heart than the perfect picture of God that I see in Jesus.
Why would I read these books?
To see the way of Jesus lived out practically.
Keep in mind that these letters are different than anything we have in the Old Testament, because these were written AFTER the life of Jesus. So we’re not dealing with shadows anymore, we’re dealing with the substance of Jesus.
We read about how we are to conduct ourselves as individual Christ followers, how we are to conduct ourselves as a community of Christ followers.
We read about marriage, parenting, finances, how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ, how we treat the poor, how we treat strangers, and on and on and on.
Ok so I’m done, but I have the smallest amount of homework for you this week.
- Flip to each section in the Bible
- Remind yourself why you’d read that section of scripture
- Read 5 verses (anything that looks interesting) from each section
- See if you can pick up anything in those 5 verses.
And I want to leave with you just one more section of scripture if you’re feeling totally overwhelmed.
This is Jesus speaking to his disciples near the end of his ministry.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. (John 16:12)
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)
So that was true for the disciples, but as recipients of the Holy Spirit, we know that’s true for us too. And one of the roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives is ‘The Spirit of Truth’ – who guides you into all truth.
And so as you seek to grow in your understanding of scripture, make sure to lean on the Holy Spirit as your teacher. And invite him in to your bible study. That you might pray something like “God, help me understand what I’m reading. Give me revelation. Give me wisdom. Help me grow.”
And that all starts with accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior…