Information On Christianity And Old Testament

Many Christians overlook the Old Testament because it's difficult to read and occasionally dry yet there is tremendous wisdom for us there.

Many Christians overlook the Old Testament because it's difficult reading and occasionally dry. Yet there is tremendous wisdom for us there, things that make daily living so much easier. Grasping the significance of the Old Testament begins with understanding how it's laid out.

The Old Testament can be broken down into five major sections. Each section has a primary purpose or theme. Understanding what the books of any given section are about, clarifies the message the individual books offer.

The first five books of the Bible are the Books of Law. They include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The author of these books is believed to be Moses, except the end of Deuteronomy, which was probably written by Joshua. They are estimated to have been written between 1450 and 1400 B.C.

The Books of Law teach us God's will for us. From Genesis through Deuteronomy, God teaches us about the nature of sin, His judgment, forgiveness and redemption. He takes us from the foundations of His plan for us through the first covenant of the Law, giving us a tremendous appreciation for Christ's sacrifice for us.

Genesis means "╦ťbeginning' and tells the story of humankind up to Moses time. It records the creation story, which is the beginning of our relationship with God. It takes us through the destruction of humanity by the flood and teaches us about God's plan of salvation for us. We learn the story of God's covenant with us through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Genesis establishes the foundation of our relationship with God and what He has expected from us from the very beginning. In Genesis, God begins to teach us about sin, sacrifice, forgiveness and salvation.

Exodus is an epic book recounting the story of Moses and the Israelites. The Hebrews have been in Egypt some 400 years since the days of Joseph. They are now slaves to Pharaoh and number around two million. God calls on a reluctant Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, freeing them from slavery. In Exodus we see the might of God, His loving provision for His people, His patience and His plan for salvation. God presents Moses with the Law and re-educates the Hebrews before bringing them into the Promised Land. This book is symbolic of how God frees us from the slavery of sin and transforms our lives, perfecting us for our future life in the Promised Land.

Leviticus is God's instruction book to the priests. It teaches them how to perform the tasks of their office and teaches us what God means by holiness. Leviticus offers important lessons on worship that is pleasing to God and living a holy life. While the Laws are no longer necessary for us because of our new covenant through Christ Jesus, Leviticus still offers us important information about the nature of God and what pleases Him.

Numbers is so titled because it is in part a census of the Israelites. It records their numbers but deals more with their discontent in the wilderness. The book spans nearly the entire 40 years spent wandering in the desert. The people grumble, moan and whine and are disobedient to God, yet He remains faithful and patient with them.

Deuteronomy readdresses the Law and God's covenant with His people. This book is of such great importance to believers that it's quoted many times in the New Testament. It re-establishes the plan God has had for us since the beginning, to be reunited with Him.

The Books of History are those from Joshua to Esther. They cover the years (arguably) between approximately 1240 B.C. and 1050 B.C. and are a record of God's people and their leaders, trials, triumphs and relationships with God.

Joshua picks up where Moses' story ends. Joshua was Moses' successor and the man who lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land. The book is the epic story of the Israelites conquest of the Promised Land, but it is also a picture of God as Leader, Conqueror, Protector and Provider.

Judges was probably written by Samuel and also covers the period of time between approximately 1240 B.C. and 1050 B.C. It is a history of the Judges of the Promised Land. These judges were political leaders and warriors. Many of them lead less than perfect lives, but were faithful to God in service. Their stories and the stories of the people they lead show us God's extraordinary patience and willingness to forgive.

Ruth is a beautiful story of love, loyalty, faith and God's attention to the weak. His concern for us and His involvement in our personal lives is evident in Ruth's story.

1 & 2 Samuel are filled with drama and exciting stories. They cover the transition from rule by judges to rule by kings and include the reigns of King Saul and King David. These books include important lessons for us about obedience.

1 & 2 Kings covers about 400 years of history from the end of King David's reign to the division of the nation into the two nations of Israel and Judah. In these stories, we clearly see God's willingness to forgive those who repent and turn back to Him.

1 & 2 Chronicles traces the line of David and teaches us about genuine worship. It is somewhat repetitive of earlier histories but focuses on David's line and the meaning behind the earlier histories.

Ezra recounts the return of the first group of Jews to Israel. Earlier histories tell how they were sent into Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem. In Babylon, they were slaves. In Ezra there are important lessons about obedience and faith, but we again see God's tremendous willingness to forgive.

Nehemiah continues the story of the return to Jerusalem. It's filled with action and power. Nehemiah teaches us a great deal about dealing with problems with prayer.

Esther has all the elements of a powerful novel; intrigues, power plays and romance are all found in this fascinating story. Queen Esther and Mordecai foil a plot to kill all the Jews. Here we see God's power to protect His people and how He can use anyone, especially those we don't expect, to carry out His will.

The Books of Poetry and Wisdom comprise the next major section of the Old Testament. Within these books there is some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. We find also the wisdom of the ages, passed down to us by Solomon. With Job and Song of Solomon, we see the full spectrum of human emotion and experience.

Job is the story of a tortured man restored. While it is superb poetry, it's actually considered one of the Books of Wisdom. Job is a picture of absolute faith and teaches us how to deal with trials and suffering.

The Psalms are the hymns of the nation of Israel. Many themes run through the Psalms, faith, forgiveness, praise, power and thankfulness among them. They are beautiful poetry but are also packed with lessons for us.

The Proverbs are the collection of the wisdom of Solomon. Many teachings are packed into this relatively short book. Those who seek to please God will find many ways to do so in Proverbs.

Ecclesiastes is one of the wisdom books and can be thought of by some as disjointed. However, it is strong commentary about the futility of sin and teaches us how empty life without God is.

The Song of Solomon is lyrical poetry at its best. It tells the story of Solomon's love for his bride and his desire for her. The story is also a metaphor for the love of Christ for His Church.

The Books of the Major Prophets are the revelations of God to His people. The prophets, major or minor, where people of faith and prayer. Their messages were often not popular to the people of the times. The books of prophecy have several major themes, God is Sovereign, our need to reconcile with Him, good and evil, sin and salvation and the Messiah.

Isaiah was written by the prophet himself somewhere between 800 and 780 B.C. It is a call to the people of Judah to get right with God. In Isaiah we find much of the prophecy about the Christ. For years, Isaiah has been a book of comfort to those who suffer or mourn.

Jeremiah is a plea to the people of Judah for repentance. Written by Jeremiah between 625 and 585 B.C., the book begs the people to repent. It is a lesson on sin, punishment, forgiveness and the incredible faith of one man.

Lamentations was written by Jeremiah after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. We learn about the consequences of sin, God's mercy and about hope. We also see how our sin hurts God.

Ezekiel foretells the salvation of God's people, but was also an announcement to the people of Israel about judgment. We see God's holiness in Ezekiel's vision. Though the book begins with a message to Israel and other nations about doom and destruction, it ends with the hope of salvation.

Daniel predicts the Messiah and teaches us about holy behavior, prayer and perseverance. Though he is a slave, Daniel serves God faithful and seeks God's guidance in all things. Daniels faith and holiness are models for us to follow.

The Books of the Minor Prophets are not less important than the Books of the Major Prophets they are only shorter. Their purposes are much the same as the Major Prophets, sin and repentance, reconciliation and God's holiness are all themes of the books.

Hosea was a prophet in the same time as Isaiah. His message to the people is about sin and judgment, but also about God's love for us and willingness to forgive us.

Joel was also an 8th century B.C. prophet. His message is a fiery warning of impending judgment on Judah. Joel also predicts the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Amos was probably written between 760 and 750 B.C. as a pronouncement of God's judgment on Israel. They had fallen into idolatry and were oppressing their own people. It is a warning to us today about complacency and oppression of the poor.

Obadiah brings a pronouncement of judgment to the Edomites, who were oppressors of the Jews. Edom is destroyed and Israel is restored. We see in Obadiah God's willingness to protect His people.

Jonah is perhaps the best known of the Minor Prophets. The Book of Jonah was written between 780 and 760 B. C. God gives Jonah a warning to take to the people of Nineveh, which Jonah reluctantly delivers but only after trying to hide from God. Nineveh repents and is spared God's judgment. God's compassion is revealed in Jonah's story.

Micah is another warning of impending judgment, this time to the people of Israel. It offers salvation to all who would repent. Micah also gives prophecy about the coming Messiah.

Nahum, like Jonah, contains a prophecy for the Assyrian city of Nineveh. It was written between 663 and 654 B.C. and pronounces judgment on Nineveh. The secondary message is one of comfort to the people of Judah.

Habakkuk was written between 612 and 589 B.C. to remind Judah that even though evil seems to be flourishing God is still in charge.

Zephaniah is a wake up call the people of Judah. They had grown complacent and Zephaniah warned them if they didn't repent the nation would be lost. We can learn a lot about the consequences of complacency from this book.

Haggai was written about 520 B.C. and is a call to finish rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. The people had returned from Babylon to do this, but never finished. Meanwhile, the Judahites were living in lavish homes, putting their comfort before God. This is something many of us do today, so the book has a message for us too.

Zechariah records his prophetic visions of destruction and restoration. The book has two sections, chapters one through eight are written before the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem and chapters nine through 14 follow the rebuilding of the temple. Much prophecy of the Messiah is found in Zechariah.

Malachi was written about 430 B.C. and brings the Old Testament to a close. His message confronts sin and asks us to restore our relationship with God. He teaches us that if we repent, we will be forgiven and restored.

Old Testament Bible study is admittedly difficult in spots, but well worth the time spent on it. The New Testament is built on the Old, and to fully understand God's message to us, we need to be versed in both texts. Keep in mind the context of a book, the type of book it is, law, history, poetry and wisdom, or prophetic, when you study. Further help can be found with Bible study guides available at your local Christian bookstore.

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