What is the Old Testament all about?

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Episode Synopsis

As Jani encourages us to read through the Bible in the coming year, she wants her listeners to have a basic understanding of how God establishes His rule over this rebellious world. In this episode she teaches from Genesis through Judges.

Audio Transcript

Jani Ortlund: Hello, everyone. I’m so glad you’ve tuned in again and are listening to our discipleship series. We’re hearing from many of you and we’re so grateful for what you’re sharing. Thank you. Thank you for letting us know that this has been helpful. I talked to a woman who is doing it on her own recently. She told me that she could not meet with other women. She is pregnant with baby number two and baby number one is not even very old yet. So she has her hands full. She’s doing it on her own. And then I’ve heard from some others of you who are meeting in groups and it’s going well for you too. So thank you for letting me know that.

TODAY’S RESOURCES

Weekly Review: Accountability

Today, we want to do many things, we want to have a time of accountability, a little time of worship, we’re going to have some teaching, some more teaching on our Old Testament survey and we’re going to have time to share prayer requests.

Let’s start with accountability. I wonder how your quiet times are going. If you’re in a group, I want you to pause the podcast and leader, you choose one of your members or two of them to share how they’re quiet times are going.

Next, take some time to share how your meditation is going. Remind each other of your verses that you’re meditating on. How is God using them in your life? Can any of you share a specific example of how you’re grateful that you’ve been meditating on this particular part of Scripture at this particular time in your life? And I wonder if any of you have had your extended quiet time. I wonder how it’s going for you. Could you share what it was like where you had it, what you did, were there any benefits to you from it? Any questions you might have? Any suggestions for others in your group who are going to have their extended quiet time in the next few weeks?

Finally, we’ve been working on memorizing the books of the Old Testament. So I want you to turn off the podcast and recite out loud Genesis through the Song of Solomon. Genesis through the Song of Solomon, go ahead and you can do it.

Worship: Praising God in the Christmas Season

Now, I want you to know that we’ll talk about goal setting later in this podcast but right now let’s turn to worship. And it’s Christmas so I’d like to have our worship time be centered around the Christmas season. What can we praise God for this Christmas season? That first Christmas we see the main characters in our Christmas Story opening their mouths in joyful praise. We want to be like them. Think of Elizabeth in Luke 1:41-42. When Mary comes to visit her and Mary enters Elizabeth’s house. The Bible says Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Do you see how she was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry God’s blessing over Mary? And then Mary, of course, and in Luke 1:46-49. Let me read some of those verses. Mary says,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he who is mighty has done great things for me. And holy is his name.”

Luke 1:46-49

I wonder what you, in your group, could praise God for this Christmas season? What mighty things has he done? What great things has he done for you? How do you find his name holy, set apart. Take some time and share with each other what you can praise God for this Christmas season and then when you close by singing your chorus together.

Teaching Time: What is the Old Testament About?

Now we’re going to come to our time of teaching. I want to review a little bit from last week about the importance of knowing your Bible. Remember, in 2 Peter 1 we said we want the word to be like a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns. That’s what we want God’s word to be in our lives, in the dark places of our home, of our heart, of our life. Psalm 119:103, says this,

“How sweet are your words to my taste. Sweeter than honey to my mouth.”

Psalm 119:103

We want his word to taste sweet to us. His word is important. Do you remember how last week we talked about believing it, receiving it, being willing in this upcoming year to read it daily and accept it to take it in deeply?

Also, let’s review the different kinds of literature in the Bible. pause the podcast leader and see if your members can remember the three different kinds of literature we find in the Bible.

Did you get them? Yes, they’re their history, experience, and prophecy.

Continuing an Overview of the Old Testament

Now, we want to carry on with a brief overview of the Old Testament. This is part two of three parts. We’re going to do part two today. And I want to remind you that these are based on notes from a class I took from Dr. Bruce Waltke when Ray was a student at Dallas Seminary Dr. Waltke, very kindly, taught us wives, any wives who wanted to come, any student wives could come and take a Thursday night course from him on Old Testament survey. And I took another Old Testament survey class as well and kind of combined the notes. So these are not Janee’s own, I want to give credit where credit is due.

Free Download: “Old Testament Timeline” (PDF)

From Abraham to Jesus, this timeline will help you see the history of Israel in the years before the Messiah.

Also, I want to mention that timeline again that I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, go to our website, herestoresmysoul.org and make a copy of the Old Testament Timeline. That will help you as we talk through the Old Testament, or at least parts of it today.

Reviewing The Basic Theme of the Old Testament

Let’s begin this section by reviewing the basic theme of the Old Testament. Do you remember this from last week? God is imposing his reign of peace and righteousness upon this rebellious world through the agency of Abraham’s seed, and he will not be defeated. As God establishes his rule, man is continually rebelling, but God is continually saving man. You might remember from our general overview, you might have the handout still available, that at the very beginning when God created man, man was to have dominion over creation. We see that in Genesis 1, but man is under God’s dominion. He is mediating the rule of God over the whole earth, Genesis 2:16-17.

At the fall, man refused to submit to God. We see this in Genesis 3. And God said that the earth will now rule over man and ultimately swallow him up in death. So now God is allowing the earth to rule over man. Despite God’s judgment at the Fall, God restores man to himself. All throughout the Old Testament we see God’s proud enemies rising up against him, and God’s gracious restoration of those he has committed himself to in covenant to love.

Now, as the centuries moved on, God chooses a single man to mediate his rule on earth. Do you remember who that man is? Abraham. So we have God, governing Abraham, who is to govern the nations. From Abraham grew the nation of Israel. You might remember we see this in Genesis 12, where God was going to bless Abraham, making him into a large nation called the Israelites. And through the Israelites, he was ultimately going to bless the world.

Israel was to be a geopolitical kingdom of priests, mediating God’s rule on earth. We see this in Deuteronomy 26. But Israel rebelled, many Israelites turned traitor to God. Rather than enforcing her rule upon the nations, Israel lets the nations enforce their rule upon her. And so God lets the Gentiles rule over Israel. Assyria led away Israel, the northern kingdom and 722 BC and Babylon captured Judah, the southern kingdom, in 586 BC. God instituted the times of the Gentiles. The Israelites hoped that Messiah would come and again set up His kingdom on earth. Well, someday, he will, even as the scriptures promise in Nehemiah 9, and Habakkuk 1, and Luke 21:24.

Someday, God will use Israel and the church to rule over the nations. You see, God is moving history to a great renewal of his people who will reign with Him forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5 teach us that.

Now let’s, that’s our general overview of the Old Testament, which we’ve gone through a couple times now. Hopefully, it’s settling into your mind and your heart because I want it to make sense to you when you start to read through the Old Testament together, beginning in January.

The Next Chapter: The Formation of Israel

Let’s pick up from last week on our Old Testament timeline. We had talked about creation and then we talked about the patriarchs. So let’s talk about the formation of Israel. I want you to go back to your political science class, can you go that far back? Maybe it’s not so far back for some of you, and maybe some of you are still in college. Think with me, what it takes for a nation to be a nation. Well, for a nation to be a nation, it needs three things: common people, common laws, or a common constitution, and a common land. People, laws and land. So we ask ourselves in the formation of Israel, why Egypt? Why did God bring his descendants of Abraham to Egypt?

Well, let’s contrast the first three generations of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the fourth generation. The 12 sons of Jacob, which are the fourth generation had no spiritual dynamic at all.

You see, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all had a clear sense of their calling and purpose. They built altars, they worshipped God, they cried out to him. Leaders, you could look this up if you want, you could pause the podcast and look up Genesis 12:8, Genesis 26:24, and Genesis 35:9. That’s Genesis 12:8, Genesis 26:24, and Genesis 35:9. You see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all had a sense of separation. Abraham chooses Isaac’s wife from his own people. Isaac chooses Jacob’s wife from his own people. But the fourth generation, the 12 sons of Jacob, not one builds an altar. Joseph is the only one of the 12 with any spiritual perception.

Think of it. Simeon and Levi take circumcision, which was meant to be a gift and a sign of God’s covenant with Israel and they use it as an instrument of death. We see this in Genesis 34. You’ll read about that in January. Ruben commits incest with his father’s concubine in Genesis 35. Judah has no sense of unity or brotherhood or separation. Here is the first case of intermarriage with the Canaanites in Genesis 38. Israel is losing her identity, her unity.

So, what does God do? God leads them to Egypt. The Egyptians were segregationists. Turn to Genesis 43:32. Genesis 43:32. You’ll read there that to eat with the Hebrews would have been an abomination to the Egyptians. They would not even eat with them. Egypt was a land where they couldn’t integrate. It’s perfect in God’s plan and timing. Why Egypt? Well for preservation, for discipline, and for preparation.

God Forms The People, the Law, and the Land of Israel

The Formation of the People

So let’s keep talking about how God forms the nation Israel. Remember we said a nation needs common people, common laws and common land. Let’s talk about God’s miraculous acquisition of the people. When Joseph brings his family to Egypt, because of the famine in Canaan, he came with a family of 70 people. At the end of Genesis we read, so Joseph died. 430 years later, in the book of Exodus, there are 650,000 men. 650,000 men over 20 years old. That would equal about 2,500,000 total Israelites with women and children included. This is a miracle. Their growth is a miracle. Their protection is a miracle.

The Formation of the Law

What about their law, their common constitution? Well, we read about God’s law in Exodus. The primary purpose of the law was to make Israel a nation built on God’s ethical and moral principles. We see this in Exodus 19:4-6,

“You yourselves has seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagle’s wings, and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine. And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Exodus 19:4-6

The law was to set Israel apart as distinct and unique as a holy nation. As you read through the Old Testament, you’ll see that there are three kinds of laws.

First of all, the moral law in Exodus 19 and 20. We know them as the 10 commandments. These are principles straight from God’s heart. They reveal the characteristics of his nature. This moral law is the righteous standard for our relationship with God and others. It’s a permanent obligation and the foundation of every other law. It is eternal in its nature and function. The Moral Law of God will carry on throughout eternity.

A second kind of law you will read about an Exodus is what we call the civil law. This is in Exodus chapters 20 through 23. These were their laws as a nation, God intended Israel to be a theocracy. Not a democracy, a theocracy, and represent him in her reign of peace and righteousness on Earth. These laws dealt with war, with land use, with debt, things like that. They pointed forward to the kingdom of Christ, and foreshadowed Christ as King.

So we have the moral law, the civil law, and then the rest of Exodus and all of Leviticus tell us of their ceremonial law. These laws told Israel how to conduct worship in the sanctuary and during their festivals. These laws gave instructions for the sacrificial system. They pointed forward to the cross and they foreshadowed Christ as a prophet and priest. Israel’s common law distinguished it from all other religions. She was a kingdom of priests representing God to man and bringing man to God. She was wholly different.

The Formation of the Land

So we’ve talked about their common people, their common laws. Now let’s talk about their common land. Israel’s foreign policy is found in Deuteronomy 20:1018. Leaders, please pause the podcast and stop and read those verses with your group. Deuteronomy 20:10-18. You see that the cities that are not within the promised land were to be captured and the people were to be bound over as slaves. The cities in the Promised Land, well, their time of grace was over. They were consigned to death. This might be hard for you to read. It might be hard for you to understand, hard for you to accept. Ask the Lord, to make you willing to give him the permission to write his own word and his own laws and to give you the grace to understand what he’s trying to do in them and through them.

You see, the time of grace for these cities in the Promised Land was over, as I said. They were consigned to death. Anything that had breath was to be killed. It was to be total destruction of anything that had breath in the land that Israel was to conquer. Their religion, if left, would become a cancer that would grow and grow and eventually come to ruin Israel. These cities were culturally more sophisticated than Israel, but they were immoral and decadent. They practiced wanton violence and joy in terrorism. One historian quoted them as “butchering babies, and letting their soldiers wade through with blood up to their knees”. Can you imagine?

There was a huge sexual emphasis throughout the cities. The prostitutes were called the holy ones. Can you imagine? Their priests moulded sexual organs on spoons, so you would feel them with every bite of food you took. I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

God called his new nation of Israel to totally destroy these evil people. He was going to give them that land and they were to conquer it. Now we read of the conquest in Joshua. This takes place around 1400 BC. 1400 years before Christ was born. During the conquest, there would be no king like the neighboring lands, but rather a priesthood, human agents connecting God to the people. The Mosaic law did not provide for a military leader. A spontaneous judge or a military leader would arise and the people would recognize him. There was no police force, there was no military draft. You see, during the time of the conquest, Israel had a very weak, loose form of government. And yet God used them to conquer the promised land. They were a theocracy.

The Time of the Judges

And then we come to the time of the judges, I want you to turn in your Bibles to Judges 2, Judges 2. Now, in your groups, I want you to read Judges 2:10-19. Judges 2:10-19. Go ahead and pause and read that together.

Here you see in these verses, the cycle that will keep repeating itself throughout the whole book of Judges. Judges takes place over 350 years in the history of Israel. And this is the cycle the people did not eradicate, and totally destroy the people whose cities they conquered. They let them live. And then they started worshipping the gods that those people worship. They started serving the Baals, they started breaking the first commandment, and they did not communicate the Word of God to their children. You just read that in Judges 2:10.

The second step in this cycle after they began serving the Baals and breaking the first commandment, God comes and disciplines them. He turns them over to plunderers as Judges 2 says. Then the people cry out to God and God raises up a judge who judges them for a while, and the people turn back to God for a while. And then they go back to step one, where they leave the God of Israel and they serve Baals and break the first commandment, and God disciplines them turning them over to plunderers. And then they cry out to God again, and he raises up another judge. And this cycle goes on and on for 350 years.

You see, a judge would right the people politically and religiously. He would right the wrong and restore the people to the covenant. A judge would affect on earth what God intended in heaven. He established on Earth the heavenly ideal and the people would follow him for a while. But ultimately, because they had not obeyed God, they would absorb the religion of the people around them, and break the first commandment of serving God alone, having no other gods before him. And that cycle would carry on and on and on.

Why Israel Rebelled

Until, until we come to the next stage in our Old Testament timeline, which is the united monarchy. Remember our theme of the Old Testament. God is imposing his reign of peace and righteousness upon this sinful world, through the agency of Abraham and his seed, and he will not be defeated.

The priestly rule of the judges proves ineffective. You can read it in the last verse of Judges 21:25, where we see “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. And it climaxes with the Ark being captured in 1 Samuel 4. Why did God judges people? Because they had sinned. Psalm 78:54-64 talk about putting God to the test, rebelling against the Most High. They were disobedient, they were disloyal, they were faithless, they were unreliable.

They had not been taught Word of God

Why did they rebel? Well, we learned in Judges 2:10, they had not been taught the Word of God by their parents. Oh dear moms, if you’re listening, or Sunday school teachers or grandmothers, make every effort to teach the little ones in your lives the Word of God.

They did not want to fight

Another reason and why they rebelled, the new generation didn’t want to fight they were hesitant to break down their opponents altars. Let me say though there is great value in engaging yourself in God’s battles. In Judges 3:1-2, we see that often God’s battles are a test. Don’t be hesitant to engage in what is absolutely a battle of God. Now, I’m not talking about a political battle, I’m not talking about a family battle. I’m talking about a moral battle. Something that God has declared is evil.

They put material prosperity over God

So why did they rebel, they hadn’t been taught the Word of God, the new generation didn’t want to fight, they were hesitant to engage in God’s battles. And thirdly, they put material prosperity before fighting for God. We see this in Judges 5:16-17.

Therefore, God has a new act of Salvation. Oh, thank you, Lord. And we’ll continue this overview later on in our year together, when we get to talk about the united monarchy, How God brings Israel a king.

Now, right now, I think it’d be great as a group just to take your break, pause the podcast, get up, stretch your legs, get a fresh cup of tea or a snack, and then come back, and I’ll give you your assignment.

Next Week’s Assignment

All right, dear friends, dear disciples of Jesus Christ. Here is your assignment for this coming week. I want you to have six quiet times and I want you to meditate on your verse of meditation three times each day. Do you have it printed and posted somewhere where you can see it and be reminded? I want you to memorize all the books of the Old Testament. Oh my goodness, can you go from Song of Solomon all the way through those prophets, the major and the minor? I think you can.

And then goals, your lifetime goals. I want you to keep thinking about setting lifetime goals. Read through your worksheet together that you did last week, discuss it together. And then I want you to copy down these verses on a piece of paper or you can go to our website and find them written in the script. At the end of the script. Read and pray through these verses this week as you think about writing lifetime goals. Here are the verses if you want to copy them down.

  • Psalm 90:12
  • Proverbs 24:12
  • Jeremiah 17:10
  • Colossians 1:10
  • Ephesians 5:10
  • Hebrews 4:13
  • 2 Peter 3:18
  • Revelation 22:12.

Now I’ll read through these again and you might copy them down and use them as one of your quiet times this week. That would be great or two, if it takes a little bit longer for you to read and meditate and pray over these verses in light of writing lifetime goals. Here they are, again, Psalm 90:12, Proverbs 24:12, Jeremiah 17:10, Colossians 1:10, Ephesians 5:10, Hebrews 4:13, 2 Peter 3:18, Revelation 22:12. That’s your assignment.

Wrapping Up with Sharing

Now I want you to share if you haven’t completely taken the time to share from your lifetime goals handout from last week. Make sure everyone gets a chance to share from that. And then also I’d like you to take time to share your prayer requests. Catch up with each other. Walk in the light together 1 John 1:7. Maybe spend time honoring each other. Romans 12:10 says,

“Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Romans 12:10

And then share your prayer requests and pray for each other. God bless you as you go through this discipleship series. May he restore your souls through it as you look to him.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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