Finding my way, sharing my finds
Happy Sunday! Today, I thought I would continue my series of Holy ScriptNotes by giving you a review of the next 22 books in the Bible, finishing out the Old Testament. As you might recall, it was a Bucket List item last year to read the entire Bible in a year – which I’m happy to report I was successful in accomplishing.
(For a quick review of the first 17 books, check out my last blog)
Here we go!
18. Job: This book is where the phrase “patience of Job” comes from. Basically, Job is a man of great wealth, great prosperity and great character at the beginning of the book. But pretty quickly, God allows Satan to test Job’s faithfulness to God. So Job loses everything and has to endure a lot of suffering, without the benefit of knowing why all of these things are happening to him. And although his friends wanted to find him culpable for why all of these things were happening (it almost made me think of people’s tendency today to try to justify bad things happening to people as a way of assuring themselves, “That could never happen to me.”), Job rested in his faith, even proclaiming it in the midst of his misery. Ultimately, God restores Job’s good fortune and vindicates his trust in Him.
19. Psalms: The psalms has some really fantastic nuggets of wisdom in it. But it wasn’t until I understood the context of the book that the words of this book started making sense. Basically, this is a book of songs and prayers offered to God and mostly written by King David. It’s worth noting that while King David was beloved by God, he also sinned greatly in his life and also had a great deal of enemies. Thus, a lot of these psalms were written in times of great struggle for King David. For me, this made this book more digestible because knowing that he wrote many of these prayers in times of great strife made the words in Psalms a lot more digestible and relateable to me. After all, if King David could praise God in the midst of that struggle (as well as complain to God and express doubt to God and generally be real with God), it kind of set an example for me that I too can be real with God and be in contact with him during similar times in my life.
20. Proverbs: This is another book that is just overflowing with nuggets of wisdom. In fact, that’s exactly what Proverbs is: Practical wisdom for living. The book is centered on this idea that the beginning of wisdom – in fact, the essence of wisdom – is fear of the Lord. But it’s worth noting that fear doesn’t just mean being scared of the Lord. It really means to be aware of His power, His greatness, His sovereignty. This book talks about everything from watching your tongue because it reveals what’s on your heart, avoiding being haughty and arrogant, valuing humility, and reducing anxiety by having faith in God’s master plan for your life. Although it’s been written by various authors, it’s mostly attributed to King Solomon. This is definitely one of the more digestible Books of the Bible as well as one of the books most densely packed with practical, everyday application advice.
21. Ecclesiastes: This is another lovely book of the Bible. Basically is contains the reflections of an old man (known as the “Preacher”) who is considering the question of the meaning of life. The main message is that there’s some level of futility in chasing after the things of this world, even those good things that life offers, such as work and pleasure and wealth. After all, even if those things satisfy us, death will bring an end to that satisfaction. Those people who live in fear of the Lord (remember, fear: recognition and awe of God’s power), however, can enjoy God’s good gifts forever. Interpreters have often suggested that “Preacher” was really Solomon, the son of David, king of Jerusalem.
22. Song of Solomon: There are definitely some romantic verses in this book, although I had a hard time connecting what I was reading with God and my relationship with him. Essentially, this is a collection of love poems between a man and a woman, celebrating a sexual relationship that God set aside for marriage. Some scholars have also said this book is also an illustration of the mutual love between Christ and his church. But honestly, as I was reading it, it was a lot easier for me to think it was between a man and a woman than between Christ and his church. Although Solomon is in the title, scholars believe this was actually a book dedicated to Solomon and not necessarily written by him.
23. Isaiah: I am not going to lie, the books of the Major Prophets (including this one from Isaiah) were kind of a downer. Many of them have to do with the fact that God’s people continued to turn their backs on him and not live in his ways and God brings his judgement on His people as a result. I found them to be very repetitive – although to their credit, they definitely drilled in my head that it’s in my best interest to follow the will of God, lest he bring judgement on my life. What’s more, these books do show in their own way that God really does care deeply for his people and that he doesn’t necessarily want to have to bring judgement on his people, but the people kind of left him with no choice. Isaiah lived during the time of the decline of Israel under the shadow of Assyria. Although Isaiah warned that the sin of the people of Judah would bring God’s judgement, he also said God is sovereign and would use Cyrus the Persian to return them from exile. The book also seems to prophesize the coming of Jesus, noting that a “man of sorrows” would be “wounded for our transgressions,” thus accomplishing God’s purposes of salvation (Isaiah 52:13-52:12).
24. Jeremiah: So Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet” – so I’m sure that tells you how fun and upbeat this book was. But seriously, this book shares how Jeremiah is really sorrowful over hearing this persistent message of God’s judgement on His people. In fact, that was Jeremiah’s task as a prophet: to declare the coming of God’s judgement. Still, despite this central theme, the book also chronicles God’s concern for repentance and righteousness – not just of individuals but of entire nations. Jeremiah also seems to prophesize a new covenant with God. After all, he sees a future when God will write his law on human hearts and “they will all known me” and “I will remember their sin no more” (31:33-34).
25. Lamentations: Again, the freaking book is called Lamentations. So, you can imagine the tone this book takes on. This book consists of five poems, each one expressing grief over the fall of Jerusalem. Evidently, the purpose of the book is explained in Chapter 3: The graphic depictions of sorrow and suffering are meant to produce hope in the One whose compassion is “new every morning (v. 23) and whose faithfulness is great, even to those who have been deeply unfaithful. So, there’s definitely some level of beauty and poignancy in that. This book was said to have been written by Jeremiah.
26. Ezekiel: This is definitely one of the longer books in the Bible. This chronicles Ezekiel’s ministry as a prophet and a priest who was exiled to Babylon in 597 BC. In his book, Ezekiel addresses both the exiles as well as the people left in Judah, sharing messages of warning and judgement and predicting the fall of Jerusalem. After Jerusalem’s fall (586 BC), he prophesied hope and reassurance for the people of Judah, who at that point had really taken their focus off of God’s covenant.
27. Daniel: Daniel, who was exiled to Babylon in 605 BC, was one of several young men who were chosen to serve in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. After Persia conquered Babylon in 539 BC, Daniel was again put in a position of power. During this time, he remained faithful to God, even though he was in hostile environments. Throughout all of his prophesies as well as experiences (including some of the well-known story of the lion’s den, the fiery furnace and the handwriting on the wall), the Book of Daniel’s recurring theme is one of God’s sovereignty over human affairs. Later in the book, Daniel’s visions consist of future judgement and deliverance by the Messiah. Many of these themes are echoed in the New Testament, particularly in Revelation.
28. Hosea: The books of the minor prophets are relatively short and quite repetitive in theme. Basically, the main messages were: Don’t indulge in worldly things and repent and follow God because judgement day is coming. Seriously, this is the message over and over and over again. So let’s turn our attention now to this first book. Hosea was the last to prophesy before the northern kingdom fell to Assyria. His ministry came right after a golden period for the northern kingdom, with the people saw a peace and prosperity that hand’t seen since the days of Solomon. But this period of prosperity also meant a period of moral decay, with Israel forsaking God in order to worship idols. Hosea is told by God to marry a “wife of whoredom” in order to serve as a metaphor of sorts of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. (Poor Hosea!) As with many of the prophets, Hosea warned the people that unless they repented of their evil ways, God’s judgement would come down on them.
29. Joel: Again, this book is more of the same. Joel was really concerned about Judah and Jerusalem and urged the people to repent, lest they face God’s judgement. He also told of a day when God would “pour out [his] Spirit on all flesh” (2:28). Scholars say that that day arrived on the first Christian Pentecost, which is discussed in Acts 2:17. Pentecost describes how, seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, during the Jewish celebration of Shavuot/Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Jesus’s first followers. This not only empowered these individuals but also brought them together as a church.
30. Amos: Often considered one of the first of the writing prophets, Amos was a shepherd as well as a farmer. During his times prophesizing during the 700s BC, both the northern and southern kingdoms of the Hebrews were enjoying a time of political stability as well as prosperity. Of course, as happens over and over again in the Bible, this also led to a time of idolatry, extravagance and corruption. Amos warned the people that if they didn’t repent, God’s judgement would come down upon them. Nevertheless, Amos also noted that God would remember his covenant with Israel and would restore the remnant of people that were faithful.
31. Obadiah: This book has the distinction of being the shortest in the Old Testament. Obadiah wrote it soon after the armies of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. During this conquest, distant relatives of the Israelites actually capturing fleeing Israelites and turned them over the Babylonians, which angered God because, as distant relatives, they should have helped the Israelites. Obadiah prophesied that these individuals would be repaid for their betrayal. He also asserted that God is sovereign over the nations and that the house of Jacob would be restored because of God’s covenant love for his people.
32. Jonah: This is one of the better known stories in the Bible where a fish swallows a man. Unlike other prophetic books, this one focuses on the prophet himself rather than his message. Basically, this is the story of how God sent Jonah to Nineveh but Jonah rebelled. Afterward, Jonah was swallowed by a fish. He ended up repenting and going on to fulfill his mission. During his repentance, it was revealed why he had rebelled in the first place: Jonah had feared God would forgive the Ninevites and this angered Jonah.
33. Micah: This prophet was actually active around the same time as Isaiah. Once again, it was a time of prosperity and Micah denounced the wealthy, who were oppressing the poor, and warned of impending judgement. The book contains three sections, which oscillate between messages of warning and messages of hope. Micah also seemed to prophesize the coming of Jesus, noting that there would be a day when there would be peace among all nations and when a royal deliverer would save God’s people from all her enemies. That deliverer, Micah said, would be born in Bethlehem.
34. Nahum: Nahum preached on the streets of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, asking its people to repent. But they did not and the community fell to Babylon in 612. This was good news to the people of Judah because Nineveh had destroyed Israel’s northern kingdom in 722 BC. A lot of Nahum’s prophesy about Nineveh was directed at the people of Judah.
35. Habakkuk: This book was probably written just before the fall of Assyria and the rise of Babylon. God used Assyria to punish Israel in 722 BC and now he would use Babylon to punish Assyria and Judah. The main purpose of this book is the answer the question: “How can God use a wicket nation like Babylon for his divine purpose? Habakkuk said that God just all nations and that even Babylon would be judged one day. Habakkuk used the series of events to demonstrate that even though God’s ways are mysterious sometimes, “the righteous shall live by his faith” while awaiting salvation (Habakkuk 2:4).
36. Zephaniah: Zephaniah prophesied on the fact that God judges corruption and wickedness but also had a plan to restore Judah. Zephaniah talked about the coming day of the Lord, when sin would be punished and justice would prevail and a remnant of the faithful would be saved. Although he didn’t give specifics about the “day of the Lord,” he did say it would have fearsome consequences and called people to seek the Lord. (Are you picked upon on a pattern with these prophets?)
37. Haggai: This book as well as the next book, Zechariah, details how the first wave of Jewish exiles returned from Babylon to Jerusalem around 538 BC and started rebuilding the temple. But soon after, they gave up. Haggai rebuked the people for living in nice houses while the house of God remained in ruins and called on them to repent and renew their covenant with God. So with his encouragement, they were able to finish the temple in 516 BC, which symbolized God’s restored presence among his people.
38. Zechariah: While Haggai was the one to encourage the Jews to finish the temple in ruins, Zechariah really encouraged them to repent and renew their covenant with God. Zechariah also accused the Jews of doing the very things their ancestors did before the exile. He was particularly passionate about social justice for widows, orphans and foreigners. Zechariah also encouraged the Jewish exiles that God would be there for them and that he would continue his covenant with them. The book ends with the promise that the Lord would establish his rule over all the earth.
39. Malachi: This is the last book of the Old Testament, which I am sure you have seen by now, has a very similar message for much of the second half. Malachi came after the temple was finished but before the Jews were really committed to being devoted to God and following his ways. Thus, Malachi comes along and calls the people to repent in specific areas: The priesthood, which had become corrupt; worship, which had become routine; divorce, which was common; social justice, which was being neglected; and tithing, which was being forgotten. Malachi also predicted the coming of both John the Baptist and Jesus, whom we’ll meet in the New Testament.
Whew! Congratulations: We’ve made it through the Old Testament! In the next blog, we’ll move on to the the New Testament, which has so many more fantastic nuggets of wisdom in it. For that reason, I’ll be adding two Quotables for each book.