Summary: Old Testament - The first in a series of sermons designed to encourage personal Bible study by demystifying the Scriptures and providing background and context to the Old Testament.
I suppose that we can all think of a situation or two in our own lives where going to the instruction manual or to the owner’s manual would have been very helpful. When we need to learn how to set up a telephone, or find the fuses in a car or put together a complicated piece of furniture, the instructions can be a lifesaver! The owners’ manual and instructions are meant to make the experience with the product more positive, but admittedly, sometimes these can be quite intimidating.
I think that it is the same with the Bible. It can be a bit intimidating to get into the Scriptures and to make sense of them. Other people may believe that it takes a long time to get into the Scriptures. Still others may think that the Bible really doesn’t have much to offer them personally and feel that they get all that they need at church. So as a result, many folks avoid opening the Bible.
My hope for the next few Sundays is to give you a sense of confidence when approaching the Scriptures. I’d like to share with you such things as: What is the Bible? How did the Bible come to be? How it is organized? What is its main message? And what is its primary teaching? If I take the time to read my Bible, what’s in it for me?
Ok, so what if a person carrying a stone came by and simply dropped it on the ground. A while later, a different person carrying another stone came by and dropped it on top of the previous one. Then another person came by and did the same. Now, suppose that this continued for about 1600 years. When the last person dropped his stone on the pile, presto – the whole pile of stones coalesced into a perfectly shaped statue. Now, consider this - most of the people that dropped the stones did not know each other. They lived at different times in history and did not know each other. What conclusions can you reach?
One of the conclusions that we can reach is that it was all a great big coincidence. But another conclusion is that this incredible effort was under the direction of a person or intellect that was in a position to guide a multi-century endeavor. Well friends, the Bible is exactly that. From the time the first part of the Scripture was written until the time it was assembled as a whole, 1600 passed. There were many authors each making contributions at different times in history and in different locations of the world. They had no capacity to consult with each other nor to plan with a committee their work. And yet, at the end of the day, the 66 different books that make up the Bible coalesce into a beautiful whole. Clearly, God the Holy Spirit guided the preparation of the Holy Scriptures.
Over the next several weeks, we are going to take a look at our instruction manual – that miraculous, often neglected, frequently questioned book called the Bible. The goal will be to get everyone engaged in using the Bible at church and in for personal reading. Our adventure will begin by looking at the Old Testament – the Scriptures that God gave to the Jewish people before Christ was born. [Point out blanks on the sermon notes page.]
The events in the first books of the Bible occurred near 1500 B.C. and so that is the time when the first the Bible was started. The final book of the Bible was written at about 100 A.D. Multiple writers were involved in preparing the scriptures over these sixteen centuries. How is it possible for so much time to transpire and yet for the Bible to be such a completely unified document in terms of theme and message? Answer - there was a greater mind at work than the individual writers. Listen to the words of a couple of the Apostles:
• All Scripture is God-breathed… (2 Timothy 3.16a)
• For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (1 Peter 1.21)
When Paul and Peter wrote this, the Bible as we know it today hadn’t yet been assembled. The words that they wrote were referring to the writings that we today refer to as the Old Testament. Both Paul and Peter were absolutely convinced that the Old Testament scriptures were of divine origin. [Ask people to open their Bible to the Table of Contents]
There are many misconceptions about the Old Testament. Some say that we don’t have to worry about what the Old Testament says because the only thing that counts is what was written after Jesus was born. Some people say that the Old Testament is all Law – full of thou shalts and thou shalt nots. Some will say that the Old Testament message is completely and qualitatively different from the message in the rest of the Bible. Some say that the Old Testament is full of myths (Creation account; Noah and the Ark; Dividing the Red Sea, etc.). Some say that the Old Testament has been done away with and therefore is no longer relevant. All of these are absolute misconceptions or outright errors. I’ll take the time to deal with these things later in a future message in this sermon series.