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Golden Nuggets, Cherries, Pearls

    
          

In this lesson I will survey scriptures in the Old Testament (OT) that are key for witnessing about the most important and essential truth:  God's requirement for salvation (GRFS).  In my experience, many atheists cite problematic OT passages as an excuse for not believing any of the Bible.  They throw out the baby (NT, Jesus’ atonement) with the bathwater (OT passages such as God commanding the murder of babies in JSH).  While the OT may contain murky bathwater or grains of sand, I encourage us to ask Jesus about problematic passages when we get to heaven and to focus now on the golden nuggets pertaining to God’s POS as revealed by the NT.  Actually, I believe it is possible to “ask Jesus” about OT scriptures now—by applying the teachings of the NT to them, which is what the NT writers did.

 

 

 

1. The first key OT teaching (theGenesis or Creation Doctrine”) is that God created the world and humanity for the purpose of providing an Edenic or heavenly existence to those who choose to satisfy GRFS.  We focus on why we were created, because the Bible is not a science or history textbook, but rather a book about theology and salvation.  The significant truth regarding Adam and Eve is not how they were created, but rather the consequence of exercising MFW to disrespect God and His Word.  Although the focus of Genesis is theology rather than science, it is interesting to note the scientific theory that all matter in the universe was compressed to a “singularity” smaller than a marble before banging bigly is amazingly similar to the biblical notion of creation ex nihilo.  Also, 2PT 2:8 might as well say “With the Lord a day is like a [billion] years.”  

God created humanity in his own image, male and female (GN 1:27).  Here we have the equality of the sexes expressed 3,000 years ago, because the word "image" obviously refers to God's personality rather than to sexuality.  The NT equivalent is GL 3:38, “There is neither… male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”    In the story of Adam and Eve, the serpent introduced moral free will (MFW) or the moral option (allowed by God) of ungodliness or functional atheism, which they chose.  Because s image, a rabbit we might need to chase when witnessing is an explanation of how it works, which I will share in connection with key teaching #3 (below).  A rabbit we should NOT need to chase is arguing evolution, because again scientific theory is that humanity descended from one couple.

 

The serpent contradicted God (in GN 3:4) and thereby tempted Adam and Eve to commit the first sinThe first sin was not eating a physical fruit but rather failing to question God or ask Him why the serpent contradicted what God had told them (cf. MT 7:7).  And the consequence of physical death signified the “sting” of spiritual separation from God (cf. IS 59:2), which is what we need saving from.  Adam and Eve tried to cover up their sin, refusing to accept responsibility, when they should have confessed immediately (per PS 32:5 and 1JN 1:9).  Their sin implied thinking they could be good enough to deserve salvation without God’s Spirit, but Jesus said that only God is good (MT 19:17, cf. PS 107:1).  Atheists need to realize that if God does not exist, then everyone’s opinion is existentially equal and morality is relative, so there is no objective rationale for condemning Adam and Eve, Hitler or anyone else’s behavior.  But we believe one almighty and all-loving God exists (GN 17:1), who determines that it is right to reflect His love to Him and to all fellow humans, and who promises never to change this spiritual/moral law.

 

 

As a side note, the role of humanity in enforcing God’s laws is indicated by the command of God (in GN 9:6), “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed”, which teaches that capital punishment is appropriate for capital crimes (cf. RM 13:1-4).  Earthly punishment and death are meant to teach humanity their need of God’s salvation.  Another significant side note is the biblical definition of marriage indicated by GN 2:24 (“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”):  a spiritual union of one man and one wife.  Jesus quoted this verse and added "So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (MT 19:4-6)  The only relationship in which sexual intercourse is appropriate or moral is marriage, and the only option for a married couple is to work to make it happy rather than be miserable and become spiritually divorced.  Regarding procreation, GN 9:7 commands humanity to "be fruitful and increase in number", but NOT to overpopulate the earth.  If God promises not to destroy life again (GN 9:15), we can infer that humanity should not do so either, but rather we should be good stewards of our earthly resources and voluntarily limit procreation as needed.

 

A key doctrine is found in GN 12:3b, "All people on earth will be blessed through Abraham."  About 2,000 B.C., Abraham became a monotheist and moved from Ur to Canaan, where he became the patriarch of the Hebrews, who became the Israelites after the Exodus and eventually the Jews by the time of Jesus, who fulfilled God's promise made to Abraham by completing His mission as Messiah or the Savior of all humanity who accept Him as Lord.  This covenant is restated in GN 17:1-14, 18:18-19 & 22:15-18.  Abraham is also claimed as the patriarch of the Arabs through Ishmael (GN 16:12, 17:19-21 & 21:9-21), who are part of the people who would be blessed by accepting God’s Messiah.  That Abraham's faith in the Lord was credited to him as righteousness (GN 15:6) was a major theme of the teaching of the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans (RM 4:3,9-12&16-17).  This is why Paul teaches that a true Jew is one whose "circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code" (RM 2:29).  Thus, all who become one with Jesus are spiritual Jews and God's chosen people, although it is possible that the political nation of Israel may play a further role in history before the eschaton.  Some people see the words of Abraham to Isaac in GN 22:8 as a prophetic reference to Jesuss Supper as a remembrance of the fact that His death fulfilled this system, so that Believers no longer need to practice it.

 

After Abraham, Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob.  Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (in GN 32:28 & 35:10), had twelve sons, whose families moved to Egypt because of drought and famine in Canaan, where they became slaves of the pharaohs (GN 47:21) until Moses led the Exodus.  When Moses was called by God, he asked God to reveal His name, and God’s answer is our next key teaching.

 

EX 3:14.  God is "I AM" or the source of our awareness of existence.  I won't say much about this other than that thousands of years later Rene Descartes  (d.1650) became famous for saying, "cogito  ergo sum"  ("I think, therefore I am"), which expresses the fact that our own self-consciousness is the only truth that we know with absolute certainty.  Otherwise we walk by faith regarding even scientific and mathematical facts.

After Moses led the Exodus, he received the Ten Commandments from God, which for our purposes we will consider as one key teaching.

 

EX 20:1-17.  God requires moral perfection (cf. DT 5:6-21).  Of course each of the Ten Commandments is important, but for the purpose of this lesson, these commandments will be treated as a unit representing the entire moral law, which was not superseded or rescinded by the death of Messiah.  There are additional moral precepts, such as those found in EX 21 & 22, LV 18-20, but most of the other Mosaic commands are either part of the sacrificial system or instructions for treating various health problems.  Jesus affirmed the moral commandments in the "Sermon on the Mount" (MT 5:21-48), teaching that God's standard is perfection (cf. LV 19:1).  Paul explained how perfection is attained in PHP 3:7-9.

The next key teaching I find is not until after the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  It occurs in the sermon Moses preached just before he died and Joshua led the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan.

 

DT 30:19.  We have moral free will, which makes us accountable for our attitudes and actions, our belief and behavior, with ultimate logical or appropriate consequences, which are termed heaven or hell.  It is this teaching that explains why this life has so much pain and hatred.

Most of the material in the next few books, JSH to EZR is historical rather than doctrinal, but I do find a few important items.

 

JSH 24-26.  God will save everyone who cooperates with Him.  The conquest of Canaan (in JSH 6:17-21, 8:2, 10:28 & 11:20) is cited by skeptics as condoning unjust violence by God against innocent babies.  However, the Bible teaches that God is just (RM 3:22-30, 9:14), so we should be careful lest our explanations of God's will seem unloving or unfair.  My explanation is given in Lesson 2. JSH 24:15.  We must choose whom we will serve.  As a song by Bob Dylan phrased it:  You may serve the devil or you may serve the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody.

 

JDG 2:10.  It is important to teach the next generation about God by word and deed.  Unfortunately, this does not appear to be happening in the United States, which is why I worry that we may lose the blessings God has given to this great country.

 

RUTH 1:16.  “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.”  This verse illustrates the meaning of friendship.  Of course, you can probably see why this statement is sometimes used in marital vows.  With a friend like this, who needs to worry about having enemies?

 

1SM 15:22.  To obey the Lord is better than sacrifice.  This verse speaks of obeying the Lord's moral will (summarized by the law of love) as better than sacrifice or observance of the Mosaic or modern rules and regulations that have nothing to do with moral character and right relationships.  This is the point Jesus tried to teach the Pharisees in MT 9:13, where He quoted HOS 6:6, which echoes IS 1:11-17.

 

1SM 15:10&34.  The Lord was grieved that he had made Saul king of Israel.  Paul also indicated (in EPH 4:30) that God is grieved by the sins of humanity.  Perhaps this should not be surprising, since we who are created in the image of God experience both grief and joy.

 

2SM 7:12-16.  The offspring of David will establish an eternal kingdom.  The NT teaches that this refers to Jesus (in ACTS 2:30, 4:25, cf. 1:6, JN 18:36 & 1CR 15:24), and that it is equivalent to the church (MT 16:18-19).

 

2SM 22:2-4.  The Lord God will save us from all of our enemies including death, which was cited as an enemy by Paul in 1CR 15:26.

 

1KG 4:29.  God's gift of wisdom to Solomon is an OT example of a truth that was not fully revealed until the NT:  That God's Holy Spirit gives various gifts to mankind (every good and perfect gift per JM 1:17), including wisdom and artistic ability (EX 31:3  skill in crafts, NM 11:25 - prophecy, DT 34:9 - wisdom & JDG 6:34  military leadership).  I think the ability to write beautiful music is a God-given talent.

 

1KG 19:11-13.  The presence of God's Spirit should not be equated with miracles or emotional exuberance, but rather with the gentle whisper of truth and love.  Jesus said (in MT 24:24) to beware of false preachers and charlatans, and Paul said (in 2CR 5:7) that we live by faith in God's Word (GW) rather than by miracle or proof.

 

2KG 5:13-14.  The story of Naaman being healed by dipping himself in the Jordan River teaches us the importance of willingness to do it God's way rather than my way, as an old song boasted.  We need humility, which means teachability, so we can learn God’s Word.

Most of 1&2CHR retells the history in 1&2KG.  However, I find one key verse.

 

2CHR 7:14.  If enough Believers in a nation will confess their sins and get serious about learning GW and applying it in their lives and politics, then there is hope they will continue to survive and thrive.

We will skip EZRA, NEH & EST, because the wisdom literature of JOB, PS and PR appears to have been written first.  Job appears to be a dramatic allegory that teaches one main lesson:  We should be patient or persevere in our faith in God.  God allowed Satan to test Job by destroying his material possessions, his health and his family relationships, leaving only his wife, which was the worst part of the trial.  (That's a joke, but she did tempt Job to curse God.)  Job also still had some friends, who tried to help him see what God wanted to teach him through this painful experience.

 

JOB 5:17.  Blessed is the man whom God corrects.  I cite this as a key teaching because it is also found in PR 3:11-12 (using slightly different words), which is quoted in Hebrews 12:5-6:  The Lord disciplines [corrects] those He loves [blesses].

 

JOB 8:3.  "Does God pervert justice?"  No, God is perfectly just.  (See the commentary on JSH 6:17-21, 8:2, 10:28 & 11:20.)

 

JOB 9:2.  "How can a mortal be righteous before God?"  He/she cannot.  PS 14:3 says, "There is no one who does good, not even one," and Jesus said in MT 19:17, "There is only One who is good."  However, HB 4:15 teaches that "we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin," referring to Jesus.  And Paul wrote in PHP 3:9 that he did not claim righteousness of his own, "but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith", which echoes what he said in RM 3:22&26:  "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe; [God] justifies [considers righteous] the man [person] who has faith in Jesus."  This righteousness is sometimes called positional or imputed righteousness.  For my explanation of how a person can satisfy God’s requirement for salvation, see Lesson 3.

 

JOB 10:18.  "Why then did [God] bring me out of the womb?"  What is the purpose of this earthly existence?  Once we are saved, why are we not immediately taken to heaven?  Why do we have to waste time being here on earth?  The answer is that we are not supposed to waste the time but rather we should redeem the time by becoming like God morally, or as Paul says, we should be imitators of God and "live a life of love, just as Christ loved us." (EPH 5:1-2)  Paul calls this goal the "fullness" of God/Christ (EPH 3:19, 4:13, see Lesson 4), becoming more like Him morally or in loving attitudes and actions (PHP 3:7-9, EPH 5:1-3) until the day we die.  This is our calling, our mission, our stewardship, and our goal (1JN 1:3-4).

 

JOB 19:25-29.  This speaks of life and judgment beyond this earthly lifetime.  Paul writes about this prophetic word by Job in 1CR 15:20&42, "Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. So it will be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable."  And HB 9:27 says "Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment."

 

JOB 21:7.  "Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?"  More generally, the question is why does God allow evil, pain and suffering?  My answer is explained in Lessons 2 and 4.

 

JOB 24:12.  "I have treasured the words of [God's] mouth more than my daily bread."  This verse foreshadows the teaching of Jesus in MT 4:4:  "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."  There is a mystical union of God's Spirit or Word and the mind of a man who understands God's words, as implied by JOB 32:8:  "It is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."  JN 1:14 says that Jesus is God's Word in human form, and Paul said 1CR 2:16 that we have the mind of Christ.  We gain the mind of Christ as we learn "the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation." (2TM 3:15)  If we do not hunger for God's Word, then we will die spiritually.  God gives each normal human being the gift of reason, so that He can invite us to reason together (IS 1:18), or logical ability so that we can "test everything [and] hold on to the good" (1THS 5:21), or in the words of JOB 34:3, "The ear tests words as the tongue tastes food."

 

PS 1:1-2.  "Blessed or happy is the person whose delight is in the law of the Lord."  To the extent we learn God's law or Word or truth we can cooperate with God's Holy Spirit and be happy on earth.  There are two main aspects of this truth.  First "we" implies that no one is an island, so establishing the kingdom of heaven on earth--in a marriage, in a family, in a church, or in any group of people--is a communal project (it takes two to tango or tangle).  Second, the word "cooperate" implies that people have free will, so that although God's truth is the best way to live, people are free to disbelieve God or to ignore His will, and many do so.  Even many of those who attend church learn very little, and so they become confused, divide into denominations and behave in ungodly ways.

 

PS 2:1-2.  "Why do the nations rage against the Lord's Anointed One [Messiah] or Son [v.7]?"  Although this question may have referred to King David, we can see that it is even more relevant today with reference to Jesus.  Thus, as we apply the teaching of 1THS 5:21 to test everything and hold on to the good, we must keep in mind the warning of 1JN 4:1-3, which teaches that those who do not acknowledge Jesus as Messiah have the spirit of the antichrist or Satan.

 

PS 3:8.  "From the Lord comes deliverance" or salvation.  I find the NT equivalent or counterpart to be 1CR 10:13, "God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear."  This life is not heaven yet, so godly people will suffer physical pain and natural disasters, but spiritually they will learn the lesson of Paul in PHP 4, "to be content whatever the circumstances" (v.11), accentuating the positive (v.8), rejoicing in the Lord (v.4) and becoming more loving like Him (1:9-11).

 

PS 4:4.  "In your anger do not sin" is quoted by Paul in EPH 4:26.  Anger can be righteous, as demonstrated by Jesus when he cleared the temple of the money-changers (MT 21:12-13).  The trick is to link our angry emotion with rational love immediately, before we say or do something unloving that we will regret and need to confess later, since two wrongs do not make a right.

 

PS 5:1.  Give ear to my words, O Lord, Listen to my cry for help.  For my understanding of prayer, refer to Lesson 5.   Briefly, prayer is simply addressing one's thoughts to God, which is half of our relationship with Him.  We should express our agreement with the perfect will of God, as 1 JN 5:14 says and Jesus exemplified when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (MT 26:36-46).  In order to pray in accordance with God's will, we must know God's Word (JN 15:7).  Like bread and butter or romantic love and spiritual marriage, prayer and learning GW go together.  The reason for this series of lessons on key teachings in the OT is so that we may understand God's will and become mature believers

 

PS 6:1-4.  "O Lord, do not discipline me in your wrath, [but rather] save me because of your unfailing love."  Like a parent, sometimes God's love is expressed by wrath or discipline that is intended to teach us the right way to believe and behave.  Paul noted this in HB 12:5-6, where he quoted PR 3:11-12, "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son [or child]."  My explanation of the biblical teaching that God is just (called theodicy) is in Lesson 2.

 

PS 8:4-6.  "What is man?"  Mankind is God's steward over His creation.  The Bible does not really address the question of mankind's stewardship in detail, but I hope it is evident that if we should take care of our bodies because they are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1CR 3:16-17), then we should take care of our world, because the environment affects the health of our bodies.

 

PS 9:10.  "You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you".  We can take this as an OT precedent for the teaching of Jesus in MT 7:7, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find".  Or in the words of HB 11:6, "Anyone who comes to [God] must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."  This is a statement of God's requirement for salvation (GRS) that is relevant especially for those who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel about Jesus.

 

PS 10:1.  "Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?"  This question arises again in PS 13:1-2 and in 22:1, which says "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?"  You will recognize that Jesus quoted this Psalm when He was on the cross.  Even the Son of God felt distant from God the Father during His crucifixion, which is why this truth has been called "distanciation" by some theologians.  The truth is that we walk by faith, and that God does not normatively or as His "SOP" prove He exists by performing miracles that make faith unnecessary.  In fact, we are warned against being deceived by counterfeit miracles of Satan (2THS 2:9) performed by false prophets (MT 24:24).

 

PS 11:6-7.  Different (opposite) ultimate destinies await those who are evil and those who serve God.  This passage describes hell by saying "On the wicked [God] will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot."  But we find a hint of heaven when it says, "upright men will see [God's] face."  A clearer reference to heaven is found a few Psalms later in PS 16:10-11, which says "You will not abandon me to the grave; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."  (Also see PS 17:15.)  We might compare these verses with JN 3:18, which says "Whoever believes in [God's Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already."  We have already seen this teaching when we discussed DT 30:19, "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses."

 

PS 14:1.  "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'  Paul addresses the atheists and antichrists in 1CR 1:20, saying "Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" and in verse 25 "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom", and again in verse 27, "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise."  And again in RM 1:22-23 Paul wrote, "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images", and we might add:  the truth of God for darkness and the love of God for selfishness.

 

PS 15:1.  "Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?  Who may live on your holy hill?"  In other words, who may be saved?  The answer is "He whose walk is blameless" (v.2, cf. MT 5:48), but the NT teaches us that all have sinned (RM 3:23) except Jesus (HB 4:15), so we can obtain righteousness only by becoming one with Him by faith (PHP 3:9, RM 3:22-26).

 

PS 19:1&4.  "The heavens declare the glory of God."  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."  What this means is that God has made it possible for those who have not heard the gospel of Jesus to perceive the truth in a way that is sufficient for salvation.  As Paul said in RM 1:20, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, so that men are without excuse."  This is because God "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth", as Paul says in 1TM 2:4.  And this truth is not apart from Christ, who is GW incarnate (JN 1:14), but is a manifestation of the pre-incarnate Word/HS.  Thus, GRS may be stated most universally as "faith in God as revealed".

 

PS 22:6-18.  This passage is significant because it apparently prophesies the death of Jesus on the cross.

 

PS 23.  Thankfully, the tragedy expressed in PS 22 is followed by the joy of this Psalm.  While we are not likely to be crucified, we know that this life is not heaven yet.  We experience numerous trials and temptations; we have problems with relationships and loneliness.  May we find comfort like the Psalmist in knowing that the Lord is with us, leading, guiding, providing, protecting, blessing and loving us every moment of every day as we look forward to spending eternity with Him.

 

PS 26:1&13.  The Psalmist claims to have a blameless life, but we know that is not true, because everyone has sinned.  What he should mean is that He loves God and tries to live in accordance with God's truth (v.3).  This leads us to note that there are two types of sin and faith:  saving faith in Jesus as Lord and working faith in the moral teachings of Jesus/God or the faith that expresses itself through loving works (GL5:6, JM 2:17).  Similarly, the sin of unbelief in God is the opposite of saving faith, whereas sins (plural) refers to immoral attitudes and actions that believers may commit as they strive toward perfection.

 

PS 27:1.  Since the Lord is our light and salvation, of whom shall we be afraid?  The answer is "no one".  Of course, this teaching refers to our ultimate destiny and does not mean we will experience no problems during our life on earth, such as disease or divorce or persecution or loss of a job or death of a loved one.  But as Jesus said in MT 10:28, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul."  And if we love God, we certainly have no reason to fear Him, and He will resurrect our souls to a heavenly life that will be well worth everything we suffer and endure on earth.  Thus, just as there is a type of anger that is righteous, so there is a type of fear that is prudent and will help us to avoid unnecessary risk.  As Jesus said in MT 10:16, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."

 

PS 32:3-5.  This verse teaches the same thing as 1 JN 1:9, that if we confess our sins to God, He will forgive us and we will be able to have fellowship or a right relationship with Him.  We saw the importance of the prayer of confession in connection with PS 5.

 

PS 33:1-2.  It is appropriate for people to praise God with songs and instrumental music.  Choirs and music add a very enjoyable element to religious services.  While one would not want heavenly existence to consist only of playing a harp for eternity, we can look forward to hearing some great music in heaven, just as beautiful music has blessed this earthly life.

 

PS 34:11.  "Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord."  Indeed, teaching the younger generation about God is a parent's primary responsibility.  When taught by moral example as well as by loving words, children will not be prone to rebel against their parents and reject faith in God.  Jesus taught us to let the little children come to Him (MT 19:14), and Paul instructed parents not to exasperate or embitter their children, but to teach them about the Lord (EPH 6:4).

 

PS 40:10-11.  This speaks of God's love and truth, which comprise the basis of my personal motto:  Love to learn, and learn to love.  Love to learn the truth or God's Word, and learn the truth that we should love others by allowing His Holy Spirit to work through us.  This is the recipe for joy and heaven on earth.

 

PS 47:1.  Shout to God with cries of joy!   Joy is a main theme in the Psalms, being mentioned in over 50 of them.  Paul said in PHP 4:4, Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again:  Rejoice!  And Jesus said in JN 15:11, I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  Although Jesus was crucified and Paul was persecuted, and we experience painful trials in this life, our faith remains strong because it provides us great joy, just as the angels promised to the shepherds on the night of our Savior's birth.  So, do let neither man nor devil rob you of your joy in this life as we await the coming joy beyond imagining in the next life.

 

PS 62:12.  "You, O Lord, are loving.  Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done."  Perhaps you realize that this verse raises the question regarding the relationship between faith and works.  For my explanation of this doctrine, please see Lesson 3.

 

PS 78:2.  “I will open my mouth in parables.”  Sometimes people seem not to understand that ultimate or spiritual truth may be communicated using two types of language.  It may be stated literally or using historical stories, and it may be conveyed metaphorically or using fictional stories or parables.  It is not always obvious which type of story is being used, such as in the Genesis creation stories.  Some people seem to think they are historical accounts, but they may be allegorical or like the parables of Jesus.  (For an example, see the discussion of "The Beginning" in Lesson 15.)

 

PS 78:18&56.  These verses refer to the Israelites putting God to the test.  This is what atheists do, and even Believers would rather not walk by faith, wishing that God would zap evildoers or perform miracles to prove He exists.  However, Jesus said we should not put the Lord our God to the test. (MT 4:7)  Instead, the purpose of this life is for God to test humanity and see who qualifies for heaven.  This is indicated in PS 81:7 & 95:8-9, which refers to God testing the Israelites in the wilderness even as they tested Him.  Paul instructs us in 2CR 13:5 to examine or test ourselves to see if we are saved or in the faith.

 

PS 97:10.  “Let those who love the Lord hate evil.”  Notice that we are to hate evil deeds, but Jesus taught us to love evil-doers or God’s enemies (MT 5:44), because before we accept God as Lord, that is what we all were (RM 5:10).  So we have now noted that there is righteous anger, prudent fear and divine hatred.

 

PS 95:2 & 100:4.  These teach that we should be thankful.  Indeed, sometimes it is easy to become discouraged when something bad happens, and if we are not careful we can become paranoid, always seeing the glass as half empty and talking ourselves into depression.  The antidote of depression is appreciation, which is why Paul, despite all of the persecution and hardships he endured, taught us to “give thanks in [not for] all circumstances” (1THS 5:18).

 

PS 103:3.  This introduces a topic that can be controversial, when it says the Lord “heals all my diseases.”  So what is the truth about faith healing?  I believe it is in the same category as the teaching regarding prudent fear.  God may work a miracle to save us from an enemy including the enemy of disease, but most of the time God works through human doctors to provide whatever benefits can be given by their knowledge of medicine.  So, while we can ask for a miracle, we may also ask God to guide the doctors and to show us how we can be a source of comfort to the sick person.  Remember that a common practice in the Psalms is to say the same thing twice in one verse using different words, so it may be that the diseases referred to are more those personality defects that contribute to our sinfulness.  We can see this meaning in PS 107:17&20, “Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities… Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and …  He sent forth his word and healed them.”

 

PS 105:5.  This teaches the need to remember what the Lord has done and taught us., and thus it is related to PS 95:2 and 100:4.  2PT 1:12-15 makes this point most emphatically, saying “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body… and I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.”  Probably, most of us would like to have a photographic memory, so that we could remember everything read and become a genius.  However, for most of us, memory is rather short term; if we don’t use something we will lose it.  Thus, it is necessary for us to go over the same teachings many times during our lives, so our knowledge will not fade.  I think that in heaven we will have perfect memories that will aid our free will in choosing never to repeat the error of rebellion committed by Adam & Eve.

 

PS 107:1.  “The Lord is good.”  Jesus said that only God is good (MT 19:17).  Atheists and others need to realize that if God does not exist, then everyone’s opinion is existentially equal and morality is relative, so that there is no objective rationale for condemning Hitler or anyone else’s behavior.  But because God exists and is almighty, He has the right or power to determine what is right, and He has determined it is right to love the truth and each other.  And He has promised to be faithful to this teaching and never change His mind, which is why we praise Him, because if He were to change, then God would be the Devil.

 

PS 110:1&4.  These verses are important to the writer of Hebrews, who applies them to Messiah in his explanation of how the OT is fulfilled by the NT (in HB 1:13 and 5:6-10).  This is why we refer to Jesus as both Messiah/Christ and Lord or God with us, as Paul does in 2CR 4:5, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.”  The right hand of God refers to the power to act as judge on behalf of God Himself (PS 110:6).

 

PS 111:10.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  God wants people to love Him freely because of desire to fellowship with Him in heaven and not to obey Him grudgingly because of coercion or the threat of hell.  God loves a cheerful giver and believer (2CR 9:7).  Hell is simply the logical consequence of rejecting God’s love, joy and peace that actualizes free will so that we have a moral choice and are not merely robots.  So instead of fearing the Lord, it would be better to say “reverence” for the Lord or appreciating who He is should be the motivation for loving and serving Him by those who are wise.  As PS 116:12 asks, “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?”

 

PS 118:24.  “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  A major theme in Psalms is rejoicing and singing.

 

Psalm 119.  This psalm celebrates learning God's Word as the way to achieve moral maturity.  Almost every verse interprets itself by paraphrasing in the second part what is said in the first part.  For example in verse one, “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless…” means “who walk according to the law of the Lord.”

 

PS 119:11.  “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  This verse and verse 105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” teach the importance of memorizing Scripture.  Notice how figurative language (metaphor) is used to convey truth.  Rather than saying the Bible is literally true, we should say the Bible contains truth, expressed both figuratively and by literal language.

 

PS 119:113.  “I hate double-minded men, but I love your law.”  Double-minded means hypocritical, so it is ironic and tragic that the sin Jesus condemned more than any other was that of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees or teachers of God’s law (MT 23).  Again, let us note that almost every verse in PS 119 mentions God's Word using various synonyms.

 

PS 122:6.  “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”  God wants peace on earth, as the angels told the shepherds (LK 2:14) on the night Jesus was born, as Jesus told his disciples (JN 14:27) on the night before He died, as Paul taught in RM 12:16&18, “Live in harmony with one another… as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”, and as HB 12:14 teaches, “Make every effort to live in peace with all people.”  In order to have peace between people, it is necessary to forgive others rather than hold grudges, so that there will be peace inside people.  Thus, the blessing of PS 122:8 is very apt, “Peace be within you.”

 

PS 128:1-6.  This could serve as a proof-text for the prosperity preachers.  It is true that those who fear the Lord (= walk in His ways = learn God's Word = cooperate with the Holy Spirit) will tend to be blessed physically as well as spiritually.  Those who are moral normally will experience material prosperity (DT 8:18).  In America this phenomenon has been called the Puritan work ethic.  Although it may be tempting to take shortcuts such as gambling, selling drugs or prostitution, those who are wise realize that these sins eventually lead to dissolution and death, whereas wages for good jobs invested wisely will accumulate wealth.

 

PS 132:13. This verse raises two key questions.  First, it says “the Lord has chosen Zion”, which prompts us to consider who is chosen and why?  Why did God choose the Jews, and where does God reside?  Paul said the purpose of Judaism or the OT was to lead us to faith in Messiah (RM 3:21-31).  The reason God chose the Jews was not because they were special or better (DT 9:5), but because He had to choose someone to provide the heritage for Messiah for the benefit of all people (IS 42:1-6, GN 22:18).  Second, when PS 132:13b says “He has desired it [Zion] for his dwelling”, this makes us think about where God resides.  Although God is omnipresent, Paul teaches that God’s temple is each believer’s body (1CR 6:19), and that together all believers comprise the dwelling of the Lord (EPH 2:19-22).  Thus, the church or body of Christ is now God’s chosen people, not the Jews.

 

PS 139:7.  “Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?”  The answer, of course, is nowhere.  Thus, this verse teaches that God’s Spirit is omnipresent.  We can perceive God’s Spirit by the physical world He sustains, but more importantly by the love He motivates people to share.

 

The remaining Psalms do not seem to contain any new key teachings, so now we are ready to move on to the book of Proverbs.  This book begins by stating its purpose, which is to impart wisdom to the reader.

 

PR 1:7 states that “The fear [reverence] of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”, and v.8 warns children to respect their parents’ teaching.  Many of the teachings in Proverbs are practical or tell how to behave.

 

PR 1:10-19.  “If sinners say, come with us, let’s waylay [rob] some harmless soul… do not go along with them…, because ill-gotten gain will cost your life.”  We did not consider each of the Ten Commandments individually when we skimmed through the teachings of Moses, but let us consider this passage against stealing or robbing as a key teaching:  crime does not pay.

 

PR 2:1.  “Store up wisdom or God's Word within you.  A person must build character rather slowly by adding one moral lesson at a time, so that when the time of tempting and problems come, there will be a large reservoir from which to draw in order to survive.  Just as in agriculture it is wise to store up extra food for times of drought, so also spiritually it is wise to prepare for difficult experiences.  Jesus taught the importance of being prepared in the parable of the Ten Virgins (MT 25:1-13).  It may not always be obvious how information taught in either secular classes or in the Bible will apply in our lives, but it probably will someday.  And it may not be possible to make up the deficit in our learning in time to resolve a problem in the happiest way.  In PR 2:16-19, the problem is marital unhappiness that leads to adultery.

 

PR 3:1.  Obeying God’s commands will bring prosperity.  We discussed this truth briefly in connection with PS 128:1-6, but let us elaborate now.  The fact that godliness results in prosperity is not miraculous but quite logical or natural.  Godly people treat their bodies as the temple of the HS and so will tend to live longer than unwise people.  In the words of v. 8, being godly “will bring health to your body.”   They obey God’s command to work, which is illustrated in PR 4:6-11 by observing the worker ant, so they will tend to get a job and earn a good living for a longer period of time than those who are irresponsible or lazy.  They value virtues such as integrity and maturity, so they will not waste what they earn on frivolous activities such as gambling, but be good stewards of what they earn and accumulate wealth.  At least before taxes!  Of course, life is never simple, and it is possible that a natural disaster or disease will befall godly people as well as the ungodly, but because they were probably active in church and charity work, when that happens it is quite likely that they will have many friends who will want to help them out of their difficulty.  PR 3:27 instructs us to not withhold aid from those who deserve it.

 

PR 6:1-5.  Be careful what you say.  The children’s saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is one adage with which I cannot agree.  The book of James warns us against the damage that can be done by the tongue (cf. JM 3:7-11).  May we always speak the truth in love (EPH 4:15).

 

PR 7.  This proverb teaches men—and by implication women—to be wise and not have extramarital sex.  Fornication is wrong for at least three reasons.  It promotes venereal diseases and may produce unwanted babies, but unfortunately many people want to cure the disease or abort the babies rather than to behave responsibly.  The third reason is that it undermines marriage and family, because a person who treats sex casually is unlikely to change and view sex as the act of marriage. However, it is not just the individual or couple who is affected by this attitude.  It tends to spread and infect society, especially our young people through music and movies, which preach to them the message that extramarital sex is perfectly normal and acceptable, demeaning the value of waiting until marriage, marital sex and having children, which after all is the biological function of sex.

 

PR 8:13.  Those who fear or revere the Lord hate evil, as we noted in connection with PS 97:10, and PR 8:21 teaches that wisdom produces wealth or prosperity, which we have already noted, but Jesus (in MT 6:19-21) and Paul (in EPH 3:8&16) teaching what is stated in PR 18:19, that wisdom is better than gold or silver. Having the wisdom of GW is spiritual wealth more valuable than material possessions.  As PR 11:4&18 say, “wealth is worthless in the day of wrath… [but] he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.”

 

PR 8:22 speaks of wisdom in connection with the beginning of the world, which is how JN 1:1-3 speaks of the Word that became incarnate in Jesus.  We have already noted that God is almighty and present everywhere.  Now this passage indicates that God is all-knowing or omniscient.

 

PR 9:8-9.  “Rebuke a wise man and he will love you.  Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still.”  Later in PR 17:10 we find, “A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool.”  Jesus taught us to rebuke a fellow Christian who sins (LK 17:3), and Paul instructed Timothy to “correct, rebuke and encourage” believers (2TM 4:2).  Sometimes we may think it is wrong to lay guilt trips on people, but the wise person welcomes being told about something he/she is doing wrong.  If it does not apply, ignore it, but if it does apply, correct it and become a better person.  We should always be trying to become new, improved versions of ourselves.  Of course, it is a much more pleasant process if people are nice or tactful when they give us feedback!

 

PR 10.  This proverb turns from praising wisdom to giving wise advice, much of which we have noted previously.  For example, v. 2 warns against ill-gotten or stolen treasures, v. 4-5 teach the value of work rather than laziness, and v.14 reminds us to store up knowledge so we will have wisdom when we need it.  A new teaching is found in PR 10:8, “The wise heart accepts commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.”  You probably know people who tend to talk too much, and it is interesting to see this trait contrasted with the ability to be silent and obey commands, assuming they are lawful.  While it is okay to be talkative or outgoing, we need to be careful that we do not become obnoxious or regarded as full of hot air.  PR 17:28 says “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent.”  We especially need to avoid gossip (PR 11:13).  Our marriage or other relationships might have problems if we like to talk but are lousy listeners, so we may need to work on that.  As PR 18:13 says, it is foolish to answer before listening.

 

PR 11:22.  A beautiful woman with an ugly character is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.  Or again, “like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion [is a slut].” Just as we noted in the Psalms that two parts of a verse interpret each other, so PR 12 contains a string of words or phrases that describe aspects of what it means to be wicked [he who hates correction = crafty = wickedness = disgraceful wife = wicked = men with warped minds, etc.].

 

PR 13:24.  “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who love him is careful to discipline him.”  I don’t know if this recommendation of corporeal punishment applies equally to girls, but it does seem that boys may need to experience a little physical pain applied in appropriate cases and amounts.  Of course, God does not desire child abuse.  Other verses in this vein include PR 10:13, 29:15, 23:13 and 22:15.  In order for the rod or spanking to have the proper effect, the relationship between the child and parent must be loving and positive 90% of the time.

 

PR 15:11.  God knows our hearts or thoughts and motives.  PR 16:2 says “motives are weighed by the Lord”, and 17:3 says “the Lord tests the heart.”  We have noted before that God is almighty or omnipotent and that He exists everywhere or is omnipresent, and now we learn that God is all-knowing or omniscient.  He knows anything that is possible to be known including future events.  However, if he knows what moral choices people will make in the future, I believe He does so in a way that does not take away free will and thus nullify our responsibility for those choices.

 

PR 16:18.  “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Jesus said (in MT 23:12) “whoever exalts himself will be humbled.”  The irony of this truth is that pride is the main temptation for those who are rather spiritually mature.  They may become proud of how humble they are!  Paul says (in 2CR 12:7) that he was given a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from getting conceited.  So, we should have humility, which is manifested by teachability (PR 11:2, “with humility comes wisdom), and never think we know it all and stop wanting to learn.  As PR 16:19-20 says, “Better to be lowly in spirit… Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers.”

 

PR 18:18.  “Casting the lot settles disputes.”  It is true that in some situations it is appropriate to let chance decide who goes first, such as in football games.  While the teaching of PR 16:33 is problematic, flipping a coin is a useful technique for resolve a tie regarding mundane issues.  Certainly, it is better than arguing.  (Another technique is for one person to divide something and the other person have first pick.)

 

PR 19:2.  “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge.”  In churches, the participants come from various denominational backgrounds and have different ways of doing things, but we should remember that services and sermons need to have both zeal or emotion and knowledge or teaching.

 

PR 20:1.  “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler.”  May we follow the NT equivalent of this verse, EPH 5:18 “Do not get drunk [high] on wine [or drug], which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled [happy, relaxed] with the Spirit”.

 

PR 21:9.  “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife [or husband].”  Again in v.19, “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered [spouse].”  And also, “As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome [person] for kindling strife.”  NT statements about quarreling include 2TM 2:24, “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel”, 1CR 3:3, “For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” and JM 4:1, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?”  That is a good question.  James goes on to suggest that quarrels come from selfish desires, and the Corinthians verse mentioned jealousy or desiring what someone else has.  Sometimes I think it is caused by boredom.  Some people seem to like to argue just for sport, but we need to find a more positive way to channel our energy.  As PR 17:14 says, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”

 

PR 22:1 teaches us that “A good name is more desirable than great riches.”  It is more valuable because it is more difficult to obtain and once lost is almost impossible to regain.  As PR 15:17 says, “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.”  Or 16:19, “Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.”  Our good character traits are the only thing we can take to heaven.  These are the treasures Jesus teaches us to store up in heaven (MT 6:20).  How sad it is when people sell their souls for money, and even more tragic when their reputations are just thrown away like trash.

 

PR 22:6.  “Train a child in the way he [or she] should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  This is true most of the time, but of course when a child becomes an adult he/she has a free will and is responsible for his/her own moral decisions.  Training means modeling or practicing what we preach, so that a child has no good reason to rebel against the parents.

 

PR 24:23-25.  “To show partiality in judging is not good:  Whoever says to the guilty, ‘You are innocent’, peoples will curse him… but it will go well with those who convict the guilty.”  The movie, “The Devil’s Advocate”, portrays the fact that in our criminal justice system, the role of defense attorneys is to keep their clients from being convicted whether or not they committed the crime.  I think it should be everyone’s duty to ascertain the facts including who committed crimes, and the role of defense attorneys should be insuring that their clients’ punishment is fair.

 

Ecclesiastes, like many of the Proverbs, is attributed to King Solomon.  This book views life from a secular and almost agnostic perspective.

 

ECC 1:2.  Everything is meaningless if there is no God.  Seeking pleasure is chasing after the wind, and working is toilsome.  If there is no God, then there is no authority superior to human opinion, and as existential equals, everyone’s opinion is equally valid, so that Hitler’s Nazi philosophy is no more right or wrong than the teachings of Jesus, and morality is relative.  Thus, life is a tragic-farce, especially for those who value meaning and morality and the hope of heaven.  This is why Paul says (in 1CR 15:32, quoting IS 22:13) that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”, echoing ECC 2:24, “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink” if there is no God.

 

ECC 1:9.  There is nothing new under the sun.”  If there is no God, then there is no New Covenant and no New Jerusalem, and the universe must be like the water cycle cited in verse 7, with no progression from creation to crucifixion to heaven, but rather only atoms evolving into various forms including sentient beings who soon die and devolve back into atoms from which other bodies will come that are no different essentially, although there may be consciousness of existence that involves newness for awhile. ECC 3:1-8.  We must discern when various actions are appropriate:

The right time to be born is when two parents decide they are ready to raise children; the time to die is after a long life filled with good experiences and loving relationships.  The time to plant is at the beginning of the growing season, and the time to uproot is at the harvest.  The time to kill is when murderers cannot be stopped or reformed, and a time to heal is when someone is suffering from injury or illness.  The time to tear down is when old structures stand in the way of progress, and a time to build is when some enterprise will benefit humanity.  A time to weep is when lovers have to be separated by unfortunate circumstances, and a time to laugh is when people need cheering up. A time to mourn is at a funeral for someone whose death was tragic, and a time to dance is with joy at the birth of a baby to loving parents. A time to scatter stones is when bombs must destroy an evil society, and a time to gather them is when the good people who survive need help in rebuilding. A time to embrace is when love is pure, and a time to refrain is when the relationship is wrong. A time to search is when an answer needs to be found; it is time to give up when the truth becomes fully known. A time to keep is when a friend blesses your life; but those who would lead you astray should be thrown away. A time to tear away a facade is when lies need to be revealed, and a time to mend is when sincere apologies have been offered.  A time to be silent is when in awe of something beautiful, and a time to speak is in praise of admirable spiritual beauty or qualities. A time to love is at all times, and a time to hate is when evil is the object. A time for war is when ungodly aggressors attempt to enslave and murder people, and a time for peace is when people serve the Lord.

 

ECC 3:18-22.  This passage teaches us that the purpose of this life is a test by God to see who will choose to be righteous even though they do not know for sure if there is a judgment.  This passage is equivalent to 2CR 5:7, “We live by faith, not by sight.”  For example, in ECC 3:18-22, the writer states that humans die and their bodies decompose back to dust, just like the animals, and he asks, “Who knows where the spirit goes?”  And then he concludes, “Everything is meaningless”, because “righteous men get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men get what the righteous deserve” (ECC 8:14).  This seems to be true because we do not know the future (ECC 3:22, 8:7), and we cannot be sure there is a God who judges humanity and rewards Believers with heaven.  Because “death is the destiny of every man” (ECC 7:2, 9:2), the only satisfaction life has to offer is if a person enjoys his/her work (ECC 3:22, 5:18).  Also in accordance with this agnostic belief, “wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything.” (ECC 10:19)

Finally, in the last chapter the writer turns from philosophy to theology and states a key truth that we should consider.

 

ECC 12:14.  God will judge the deeds and motives of people.  When?  Apparently, at the eschaton.

 

The next book of the English Bible after ECC is Song of Songs.  This book celebrates romantic love, although in terms that do not excite me very much.  {Read SofS 4:1-7 as a sample.]  The only key teaching I glean from this book is this:  Physical beauty is good and romantic love is appropriate as long as sexual intercourse is reserved to express marital commitment.

Now we come to the prophet Isaiah, which was written near the end of the divided kingdom before Israel and then Judah were captured and many of the people were taken to Babylon.  IS points the way to the NT Messiah, but unfortunately Isaiah seems to have been ignored by Ezra when he led the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity, and so Judaism became very legalistic, which paved the way for the Sanhedrin to crucify Jesus.  For example, IS 1:13-14 says, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!  …Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates.”  Compare this with EZR 3:2-5, “Then Jeshua… and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it…They celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day.  After that, they presented the regular burnt offerings, the New Moon sacrifices and the sacrifices for all the appointed feasts…”.  The reason the offerings are meaningless is because those who offer them are evil-doers.

 

IS 1:17.  This verse says to learn to do right, which includes seeking justice, encouraging the oppressed and helping the poor.  Jesus had to teach the Jewish religious leaders that it is right to do good works on the Sabbath (MT 12:12).

 

IS 1:18a.  “Come now, let us reason together.”  I view this verse as teaching that that human logic is a divine gift.  Other verses that imply this include JN 15:25, ACTS 17:17, 1CR 2:6, 13:11 and 1PT 3:15b.  These passages indicate that we should at least think and attempt to learn the best opinions or solutions regarding issues, even if we have little power to enact them.

 

IS 5:20.   “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”  You may be familiar with the "hip lingo" among adolescents in which something good is called bad, and good behavior is considered bad.  This is both a symptom and a contribution to the moral confusion so many people have.   And loose morality results in unhappy relationships among people and rebellion against God.

 

IS 6:9-10.  This verse seems to make God responsible for spiritual blindness and deafness, but we know that God loves all people and wants everyone to be saved, so we should understand this verse as expressing the permissive will of God rather than His intentional will.  God allows people to choose to have callous hearts.

 

IS 7:14.  “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”  Jesus was a human being like you and me, but in order to fulfill this prophecy and show that Jesus was the Messiah, apparently the Holy Spirit implanted a specially created embryo in the virgin Mary, who had not yet consummated her marriage to the virginal Joseph (MT 1:18&25).  [I try to give equal credit and respect to both men and women!]

 

IS 8:19.  This subject was first taught in DT 18:10, where it is stated more definitely and comprehensively:  “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”  Moses said these practices are detestable, and one reason is because they are fraudulent.  How ironic it is that people will reject faith in the one true God, but believe in such superstitions!  As Paul writes in RM 1:22-28, “They became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images… They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things… Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness.”

 

IS 9:2&7.  These verses are cited in the NT as prophecies about Messiah (servant/chosen one), as is IS 42:1-9, in which Messiah will be “a light for the Gentiles” as well as for the Jews.  This teaching is expressed also in 45:22-23, “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth… Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.”  A third statement is found in 49:6, “…I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”  And again in 60:3, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”  Finally, in 66:23, “All mankind will come and bow down before me, says the Lord.”  Paul wrote about this "new thing" in EPH 2:11-3:13.

 

IS 48:17.  “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.  If only you had paid attention…”  This verse reminds us that God is on our side when we are on His side, and that His desire is for our eternal joy.  Of course, many people do not pay attention or try to learn God's Word.  Instead, they go off on their own and find all kinds of trouble as prodigal children.

 

IS 52:13-53:12.  This one of the clearest and longest prophecies of Messiah’s death for sins.

 

IS 55:6.  “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”  The implication of this verse seems to be that God may not always be found or that He is not always near.  Now we know God is not the one who hides, but rather it is Adam and Eve and sinners ever since them who try to hide from God.  As we find in IS 59:2, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you.” There may be a time in our lives when we are open to faith in God, but if we do not turn to Him then, we might close our hearts, turn our backs and never repent again before we die.  This is why the writer of Hebrews warns three times (in HB 3:7-8, 15 & 4:7), “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts,” lest one becomes like the Israelites who were not able to enter God’s rest or heaven as signified by the promised land of Canaan.

 

IS 55:9.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  A question prompted by this verse is this:  How does the infinite and spiritual God, who is able to create and sustain the four dimensional universe plus supernatural dimensions of reality, communicate with finite and barely intelligent mortals?  Somehow spiritual truth is able to be conveyed by truthful words and loving deeds, but that somehow remains a mystery.  As Jesus said in JN 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.”  So it is with the word or spirit of God, which brings us back to IS 55:11, where the Lord declares “my word that goes out from my mouth will not return unfulfilled but will accomplish the purpose for which I sent it.”

 

IS 58:5-8.  This passage teaches about fasting.  Isaiah condemns fasting that is not motivated by a desire to do God’s moral will of loving our fellow man.  The right kind of fasting is to maintain justice, free the oppressed, and help the poor.  The NT does not command us to fast, but Jesus said (in MT 6:16-18) that whenever we do fast, we should not make it obvious in order to impress people with our piety.

 

IS 63:10.  This verse teaches that God is grieved when people rebel and become His enemy.  The NT counterpart is EPH 4:30, which says “Do not grieve the HS of God”, but instead get rid of all sins including bitterness, rage, and every form of hatred as well as sexual immorality.  We know that Jesus said He came “so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (JN 15:11), so one might assume God would always be joyful, but we feel sorrow when loved ones suffer or sin because we are created in the image of God, who has this capacity.

 

IS 65:17 & 66:16&23.  This speaks of the doctrine called eschatology or the study of the end of time, when God will judge humanity and reward Believers with eternal life in the new creation, where joy will conquer misery, so there will be no more sound of weeping caused by pain and suffering, and there will be one fellowship (1JN 1:3).  Hallelujah!  Of course you recognize that these verses are the inspiration for RV 21:1-4 (“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…”) and PHP 2:10 (“at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…”).

I do not find many new teachings in Jeremiah, because much of it is similar to IS, consisting of indictments of Israel’s sins, prophecies of coming judgment by being taken captive but eventual restoration (JR 29:10-14).

 

JR 4:4.  “Circumcise your hearts”.  This emphasis on the inner spiritual faith rather than on the outward physical circumstances is found in the writings of Paul, who even went so far as to say that spiritual faith is the essence of what it means to be Jewish or chosen by God.  RM 2:28-29 says that “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit…”  Again in RM 3:29, Paul asks, “Is God the God of Jews only:  Is he not the God of Gentiles too?  Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by that same faith.”  And finally in RM 4:11-16 we find, “So then, [Abraham] is the father of all who believe… who also walk in the footsteps of the faith… He is the father of us all.”  This teaching in JR & RM is foundational for the mystery of the Gospel of salvation for all humanity, both Jews and Gentiles, that Paul revealed in EPH 2:11-3:13.

 

JR 31:31.  Here we find mention of the coming new covenant (NT).

 

Lamentations contains one key teaching, which is not completely new, but does have a new nuance, in LAM 3:31-39.  I like this passage because it answers the question of why God allows suffering due to sins.  The phrase “he does not willingly bring affliction or grief” to humanity means that it is not His intentional will that people should suffer either here or in hell, but that He permits people to reap the logical consequence of their sins in order to actualize free moral will, which is the essential aspect our humanness.

 

Now we come to Ezekiel, which contains allegorical language like Revelation, with figurative or symbolic meaning.

 

EZK 11:24.  This apparently refers to the Holy Spirit.  Also see EZK 36:27 and 39:29.  My understanding of human interaction with God's Spirit is explained in Lesson 5.

 

EZK 12:4.  “The people have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.”  This is significant, because it suggests the reason there is so much confusion and strife on this earth, using a physical analogy.  I think what this verse means is that we also have spiritual eyes and ears or the ability to discern truth from falsehood, right from wrong and good from evil, but many people do not use this ability or gift wisely if at all because they choose to rebel against faith in God, who is the Spirit of truth, Right or Holy and Good.  Such people are the hard soil in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, in whom the seed or word of God is not able to take root and grow.

 

EZK 13:3 & 18.  “Woe to …”.  You will remember that in MT 23 Jesus repeatedly (7 times) said “Woe to” the Pharisees, hypocrites and blind guides.  Woe refers to hell.  The important thing to realize that this is not God’s wish or will, but rather it is the appropriate or logical consequence for those who reject God, God's Word, His Holy Spirit and Messiah.  So the words “Woe to” indicate that God is grieved by the sinful attitude of those who hate Him and He is warning them, wanting them to repent, as in EZK 14:6, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  Repent!  Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practicies!”

 

EZK 16:32-38.  These verses compare the relationship between God and people to marriage, calling the Israelites adulterous for being unfaithful to the Lord.  This reminds us of Paul describing the church as the bride of Christ in EPH 5:23-32, and it teaches us that the second most important thing to learn after how to be saved or “married” is to remain faithful until the day we die by continuing to LGW and apply it to our lives.

 

EZK 18: 2.  This quotes a proverb, “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”  This can mean that children are affected negatively by poor parenting or the mistakes made by their parents, but apparently in Ezekiel’s culture there were those who thought it meant that children were condemned by God because of the sins of their parents, so Ezekiel had to explain (in v.4) that “The soul who sins is the one who will die” or receive the appropriate punishment.

 

EZK 18:21 & 30-32.  This states more clearly the teaching in IS 63:10, that God is grieved by having to discipline sinners, just like a loving parent who has to spank a disobedient child.

 

EZK 20:27.  This explains the sin of blasphemy by saying, “Your fathers blasphemed me by forsaking me.”  Jesus mentions this sin in MT 12:31, saying that blasphemy against the Spirit of God will not be forgiven.  I think HB 6:4-6 explains why.  In other words, it is possible to commit apostasy by choosing to repudiate your saving faith in Christ, but there is no reason a person would ever repent again.

 

EZK 34:11-31.  This is an analogy of God’s relationship to Believers in which God ‘s servant [David = Messiah, v.23] is the shepherd and his people are the flock.  Of course, this reminds us of Jesus saying that He is the good shepherd in JN 10:11-16.   Notice the reference to other sheep not of this sheep pen, which refers to Gentile believers who are also chosen people or saved.  Of course, sheep in this context does not refer to smelly, dumb animals, but rather to pets or creatures God loves and protects.

 

EZK 37:12.  This is a pretty clear prophecy of the resurrection.

 

Much of EZK is allegorical like the book of Revelation, which I do not pretend to understand.  The same is true of the book of Daniel, although the first part is historical, telling about his interaction with the kings of Babylon.  Then chapter eight begins telling his visions of the future culminating in a final judgment in DN 12:1-9.  The end will come for each person when they die.  Thus, we should pay attention to the words of Jesus in MT 24:36-44, and not waste time trying to decipher the words of books like Daniel and Revelation instead of concentrating on the plain teachings of God's Word and be ready whenever the end comes.

 

Like the passage in EZK cited previously, Hosea employs the marriage analogy and condemns Israel for being unfaithful or adulterous.  I did not find any new key teaching in it, but let us look at one verse that inspired Paul.

 

HOS 13:14.  “Where, O death, are your plagues?  Where, O grave, is your destruction?”  Compare this to 1CR 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”

            

The next prophetic book is Joel, a short book with no new teaching but it does have more verses about God’s Spirit and salvation of all believers.

 

JL 2:28.  “I will pour out my Spirit on all people… in those days.”  And verse 32 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”, which Paul quotes in RM 10:13.

 

Amos is another short book of prophecy with no new key teaching, but it reaffirms what we have learned previously, that God desires justice and righteousness (AM 5:21-24).

 

Obadiah is the shortest book in the OT and contains nothing new.

 

Jonah is a familiar story about the prophet being swallowed by a great fish, but it also has no new teaching.

 

Micah contains a few interesting verses.

 

MIC 4:3.  “They will beat their swords into plowshares… nor will they train for war anymore.”

 

MIC 5:2-5.  This prophesies the birthplace of Messiah, “You, Bethlehem Ephrathah… out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from… ancient times… He will stand and shepherd his flock… his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth, and he will be their peace.”

 

MIC 6:8.  The Lord requires us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him. 

 

Nahum teaches that the Lord is good and will not leave the guilty unpunished (v.7 & 3), which is not new but is a truism that gives meaning to life, because we know that how we believe and behave makes a difference in our destiny.

 

Habakkuk has one brief sentence I want to highlight.

 

HAB 3:6.  “God’s ways are eternal.”  A person is saved by faith in God’s truth as revealed and receives the Holy Spirit even if he/she has not heard the teaching of the NT or even the OT.  As Paul said in RM 1:17, “In the gospel a righteousness is revealed that is by faith from first to last.”

 

Zephaniah contains one topic we should consider.

 

ZPH 1:7&14.  “The day of the Lord is near.”  This day is also called “the day of the Lord’s wrath” (1:18 & 2:2) or simply “that day” (1:15, 2:2 & 3:11).  It seems that prophecies concerning doom often have two fulfillments (historical and eschatological).  For example, ZPH 1:4-13 seems to have been fulfilled when Judah was conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians, but 1:2-3 & 14-18 seem to describe an end of the world holocaust.

 

Haggai contains no new key teaching.  It describes the rebuilding of the temple during the time of Ezra.

 

Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, which we skipped, are historical books about the time Israel returned from the Babylonian Captivity and contain no new key teachings.  And so we come to Zechariah.

 

ZCH 2:11.  “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become [His] people.”  This refers to the latter days between the first or second coming of Christ, when the mystery revealed by Paul occurs:  Gentiles as well as Jews who have saving faith like Abraham will become God’s chosen people.

 

ZCH 8:3.  “Jerusalem will be called The City of Truth”.  This probably refers to the New Jerusalem at Christ’s second coming.

 

ZCH 14:9.  “The Lord will be king over the whole earth on that day”, which would seem to be the last day or judgment day.

 

Now we come to Malachi, the last OT book. 

 

ML 2:16.  “I hate divorce”.  This speaks of marital strife, but we know that God hates strife and divisiveness in all types of relationship.  God desires peace, but a tactic or scheme used by Satan (2CR 2:11, EPH 6:11) is to divide and conquer:  husband from wife, children from parents, friend from friend, country from country, but primarily people from God by making them apathetic about learning God's Word, which was the teaching point of Jesus’ first temptation in the wilderness (MT 4:4).

 

ML 3:1.  This prophesies the coming of “the messenger of the covenant”, who Jesus said (in MT 11:10) was John the Baptist.

 

ML 3:5.  This verse condemns those who commit adultery, perjury and defraud or oppress the poor including workers, widows, orphans and foreigners.

 

ML 3:8.  This condemns those who defraud God by withholding tithes and offerings for ministry and charity.  I believe a tithe or 10% should be viewed as a fair share or guideline rather than a legalistic requirement, because Paul says in 2CR 9:7, “God loves a cheerful giver”, which applies to all aspects of our service.  The proper attitude is that everything we have is God’s, so we should be good stewards and manifest His love by the way we share our blessings with others.  As Paul says in 2CR 8:13, God’s desire is not that others might be relieved while we are hard pressed, but that there might be equality, and EPH 4:28 teaches that we should work to earn a living so that we will have something to share with those in need.

I think it is fitting that we conclude our survey of key OT teachings with Malachi’s instruction about giving, interpreted in light of Paul’s statement about serving God cheerfully.  The joy of knowing the Lord is our strength for living (NEH 8:10), so I hope you have enjoyed reading this lesson, seeking to know the Lord better by learning His Word and teachings.  May we rejoice in the Lord always!