Genesis to Revelation in 23 Minutes, or So. Story of the Book #1

July 5, 2015

This book contains 6000 years of recorded history.  It tells the stories of the Jewish people, of
the Messiah Jesus and of the early church. 
It contains intrigue and romance, love and betrayal.  It’s made up of flowing poetry, gripping
prose and soaring apocalyptical prophecies. It’s not just one book it’s a
collection of many books, written by many authors, authors who we believe were
working under the inspiration of the almighty God.  But those many books make one book; a book
that we believe was preserved for us by God for instruction, information and
edification.
Our summer series is entitled “The Story of the Book” and
for the next eleven weeks we will be taking a look at the story of the Bible,
from Genesis to Revelation, but today we are going to look at it all in 23
minutes or so,  so hold on.
Let’s start with some basic stuff. The Bible contains 66
books and is divided into two major portions, the Old Testament with 39 books
and the New Testament with 27 books. 
There are 1189 chapters in the Bible: 929 in the Old Testament and 260
in the New Testament.
The Longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119 with 176
verses. The shortest chapter is Psalm 117 with 2 verses.  Psalm 117 is also the middle chapter in the
Bible.  The Longest verse is Esther 8:9
the shortest verse is John 11:35.
Although the stories of the Bible range across what we now
know as the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean they are primarily centred in
what was known as Canaan in the Old Testament and Israel in the New
Testament.  If we pull up a map of that
area this is where most of it happened. Centred in what we know now as Israel
Canaan stretched as far north as Lebanon and as far south as Egypt and east
into what is now Syria and Jordon.
The first five books of the bible are called either the Pentateuch which is Greek for “Five
scrolls” or simply the Torah which means the law. This section includes Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy
Tradition tells us that Moses
was the author of these five books however during the past 100 years some
scholars have come to the conclusion that there were several different
authors.  However they don’t have any
concrete proof of that theory.  The
reality is that Moses could have written them. 
We are told that he was educated in the Pharaohs court and from
scripture we know that Moses was able to write. He was the leader and organizer
of a movement that he believed would last for many generations so it’s likely
he would have wanted to record their history for future posterity. 
Scholars feel that these books were probably written fifteen
hundred years before Christ was born.
The first book of the bible Genesis contains many of the bible stories that we learned about in
Sunday School it contains the story of Creation and the first couple: Adam and
Eve along with how they disobeyed God and were expelled from the Garden of Eden
as a result. The account of Noah and the ark is here and how God destroyed the
world because the inhabitants became so evil. It’s in this book that we read
about Abraham and Sarah and how their son Isaac was born in their old age. 
This is also where we read about Joseph’s coat of many
colours and his adventures in Egypt. 
In the next four books we read about the baby Moses being
placed in a basket in the Nile River to escape Pharaoh’s plan to kill all the
male children of the Israelites. And how he was rescued by the Pharaoh’s
daughter and raised in the palace.  How Moses
eventually led God’s people out of the slavery they were in in Egypt, and how
God parted the Red Sea to help them escape. 
It’s in these books that Moses was given the Ten Commandments and we see
how God led the people through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud during the
day and column of fire at night.  How
they were fed miraculously with Manna and Quail and water that sprang out of
rocks.  We learn of their disobedience
and lack of faith and that they had to wander for 40 years in the wilderness
before they could enter the Promised Land. 
It’s in these five books that the fundamental laws of the Jews were laid
down.
The Pentateuch ends with the death of Moses.
The next section of books is referred to as the Historical Books by most and as the Early Prophets by others. It includes
the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2
Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
  These
books cover about nine
hundred years in the history of God’s chosen people. They chronicle the history
of the nation of Israel starting with the Israelites finally entering the
Promised Land or the Land of Milk and Honey under the leadership of Joshua and
Caleb.  We had discovered in the previous
section that when Moses had sent spies into the Promised Land that only Joshua
and Caleb believed that God could keep his promise and give the land to the
children of Israel, and as a result they were the only ones who saw the promise
fulfilled.
Several authors wrote these books, including Joshua and the
Prophets Samuel, Ezra and Nehemiah between 1390 BC and 480 BC
It is here that we discover how the 12 tribes of Israel were
comprised.  They were the descendants of
the sons of Jacob with the exception of the descendants of Levi who became the
priests. How the the 12 Tribes were united under King David as one Kingdom but
after the death of his Son Solomon it became the twin Kingdoms of Israel and Judah,
or the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.
The historical books record how when God’s people were
obedient they flourished and when they worshipped other gods and became disobedient
God removed his blessings and they came under military oppression.  You’d think after that had happened a few
times they would have gotten the idea.
Eventually the ten tribes which made up Israel or the
Northern Kingdom were conquered by the Assyrians and were scattered.  If you ever hear people talking about the
lost tribes these are the people and there are many theories about what
happened to them including that they populated the British Isles or alternately
that they eventually crossed the seas and became the people who we refer to as
the First Nations or Native Americans.
A couple of centuries after Israel had been conquered the
Kingdom of Judah fell to Babylon and we read about the dispersing of the Jews,
get it Judah – Jews, and how they eventually were allowed to return to their
country.  The book of Nehemiah records
how the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt after having been destroyed by the
Babylonians.
Familiar bible stories from the Historical books are Joshua
and the children of Israel marching around the city of Jericho for seven days
and then the walls falling down. Samson the Judge with the long hair and how
Delilah cut it and Samson lost his strength and was captured by the
Philistines.  I’m sure most of you know
the story of David and Goliath, where the shepherd boy defeated the giant
champion of the Philistines with just a sling and five stones.  Later we read how David became king and how
he committed adultery with his neighbour’s beautiful wife Bathsheba and later we
read of his repentance.  We discover
David and Bathsheba’s son Solomon assumed the throne and built the temple of
Solomon to God’s glory.
It’s here we read about the prophet Elijah and his student
Elisa and their exploits. Of Ruth the grandmother of David and how she found
love, of Esther and how she became the Queen of Persia and saved the Jews who
were exiled there from being killed. By the way out interest sake God is never
mentioned in the book of Esther. If you like trivia then here’s another one for
you Ezra 7:21 is said to contain every letter in the alphabet with the
exception of J.
The next group of books are called Poetry & Wisdom Literature This section contains the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of
Songs.
And they are exactly what they are called, books made up of poetry
in the case of the Psalms and Song of Solomon and the wisdom included in the
books of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
We don’t know who wrote the book of Job, the Psalms were
primarily written by King David we know that he wrote at least 73 of them.
Other writers include his son Solomon, Moses and several others whose names you
won’t recognize.  The book of Proverbs
was written by King Solomon, with a couple of additional contributors.  Solomon was reputed to be the wisest man who
ever lived, and if you’ve taken the time to read the proverbs you’ll understand
why.
Traditionally we have been told that Solomon wrote the book
of Ecclesiastes but we don’t know that for sure, the author only identifies
himself as “The Teacher”, “The Preacher” or “The Leader of the Assembly.”  Likewise tradition tells us that Solomon
wrote the beautiful love poem called the “Song of Songs” some people even refer
to it as “The Song of Solomon” but we don’t know that for certain. 
For the most part these books were written during the reign
of David and Solomon around 1000 years before the birth of Christ although Job
was probably written around the time of Abraham 1000 years earlier.
You are familiar with these books because of the story of Job
a righteous man who the Devil attacked in order to show God that Job only
worshipped him because God prospered Job and protected him. Throughout the book
Job refuses to curse God and in the end good prevails.  When you hear someone say “They must have the
patience of Job.”  This is the reference.
The book of Psalms is a collection of songs, as
a matter of fact in some churches the only songs they sing even today are the
Psalms.  In the Psalms we see familiar
words like Psalm
23
The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures he leadeth me beside still waters.
  If I ever visit you in the hospital I
will probably read from the 23rd Psalm and if I ever preach at your
funeral I will probably use the 23rd Psalm it is a Psalm of comfort.
Psalm 51 was written when David cried out in repentance over his sin with
Bathsheba and said Psalm 51 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me,
and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken
me—now let me rejoice.  Perhaps
you have a favourite Psalm of your own.
The book of Proverbs is one of my favourite
books in the Old Testament and is the collected wisdom of Solomon.  It has great gems like Proverbs
26:17 
Interfering in someone else’s
argument is as foolish as yanking a dog’s ears.
and Proverbs 10:1  A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a
mother.
Ecclesiastes was written as the author struggled with the
meaning of life, if you’ve ever wondered “why?” this is the book for you. It
reveals how to find spiritual significance in our world.
The Song of Songs was written in celebration
of a couple’s courtship and marriage, it is very intimate and might make you
blush.  The rabbis maintained that it was
written as an allegory for the Love God had for the Jewish people and some
Christians see in it the imagery of Christ and his bride the Church.
The rest of the Old Testament is made up of the
Prophets.
  It has been divided
into two sections, the Major Prophets and the Minor
Prophets.
Hear now and forever more Major and Minor do not, never have
and never will reflect the importance of these books.  They are designations reflecting the length
of the books, so they could be called the long winded Prophets and the rest.
For example any one of the individual books of Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel are
longer then the 12 minor prophets all combined together.
The Major Prophets include Isaiah,
Jeremiah
who also wrote the Lamentations,
Ezekiel and Daniel.
The Minor
Prophets
are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah,
Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
or
Malachi if you are Italian.
The authors are named in the title of the individual books
some of these guys were professional prophets and others were called to be
prophets for a specific period of time. 
Unlike the priests of Israel who came upon their position
genetically, that is they were all part of the family of Levi; the prophets
were specifically called of God to present their message.
Bible Stories that you would be familiar with from the
prophets would be Daniel in the Lions Den. 
The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is also found in the book of
Daniel, where these three young men who had been brought as captives from Judah
to Babylon refused to bow down and worship an idol and were tied up and thrown
in furnace. But when their captors looked in they saw the guys wandering
around, unscathed and so they were released. 
Jonah and the big fish can be found in the prophets, as well as the
story of Hosea and his wife Gomer, golly.
These prophets weren’t prophets like Psychics and fortune
tellers claim to be a prophets. They were primarily proclaimers of the divine
will of God, not predictors of the future, though they did foresee what kind of
future was in store for their listeners if they obeyed or disobeyed the will of
God.  The message of these guys in a
nutshell was “Turn or Burn.”
Another aspect that the prophets, especially Isaiah, focused
on was the coming Messiah and during the Christmas and Easter seasons various
portions of Isaiah are often quoted. 
Wow, that’s the first 39 books, you ready for the next 27?
Between the last book of the Old Testament, the Prophet
Malachi and the beginning of the New Testament story was a gap of about 400
years during which the Jewish people anxiously awaited the Messiah to deliver
them from their oppressors.  The first
four books of the New Testament tell the story of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
These four books are called The Gospels and they are comprised of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Each of the books is named after it’s author
and each has a particular thrust and audience. 
It is in these books that we read the story of Jesus, from his birth to
his death and resurrection. There are some people who complain that the writers
tell the same story in different ways. So? 
I would be worried if all four gospels were identical, because that
would show that they were just copies of one account.  If four of us went on a trip, preferably
someplace warm, let’s say that we went to Disney World.  When we came home if someone asked us to
write down our recollections of the trip I wonder how they would compare?  One event might strike me as important and
you as trivial, I would see a ride as tame you might see it as terrifying or
the other way around. Perhaps at one point I might see an attraction with
someone other then you and my account would speak of that event and yours
wouldn’t.
It’s in the Gospel where we find many of our familiar New
Testament Bible Stories. It’s here that we read the Christmas Story and the
Easter Story, we see Jesus teaching on the banks of the Sea of Galilee and
feeding 5,000 people with a few fish and a couple of small loaves of bread. We
marvel at Jesus as he walks on the water and weep with Mary and Martha at the
death of their brother Lazarus and then laugh and rejoice with them when Jesus
raises him from the dead.  It’s in the
gospels that we reel in horror at the death of Jesus, and then realize the
triumph of his resurrection.
The author of the book of Matthew was one of Jesus apostles and he was a tax collector before
he began to follow Christ.  It was
Matthew who threw a party after he was called by Christ and he invited all his
grotty friends over to meet his new friend Jesus. The particular thrust of
Matthew is to reveal Jesus as the Messiah foretold by the Old Testament
Prophets. His book was addressed particularly to a Jewish audience and he
frequently uses the phrase “The Kingdom of Heaven” or the “Kingdom of God”
The book of Mark
was written by John Mark the son of a Jerusalem widow whose home was a meeting
place for early believers.  Tradition
holds that Mark acted as a scribe for the Apostle Peter and that Mark is telling
the story from Peter’s perspective.  The
book of Mark is viewed as the first of the gospels to be written and was
written to encourage the believers as they began to be persecuted by the Roman
authorities.
This is a very fast paced gospel giving you the highlights
of the life of Jesus. Mark skips many of Jesus’ discourses and focuses on his miracles;
it’s more about what Jesus did rather then about what Jesus said.
The Gospel of Luke
is believed to have been written by a gentile doctor by the name of Luke,
surprise, surprise. Luke is the only non-Jewish writer in the New Testament. He
wrote this gospel for a friend by the name of Theophilus, which to you might be
a funny name but two things should change your mind about that; the first is
that it literally means Lover of God, what a compliment, and secondly it was my
great-Grandfather’s name.
Dr. Luke wrote this book primarily to show that God’s love
reaches beyond the Jewish people to the entire world. Luke, being a doctor,
includes more detail then either Matthew or Mark. And it’s in Luke that we find
the details of the first Christmas. Luke tends to focus on the kindness and
compassion of Christ.
John is the
favourite Gospel of many people.  It was
written by the apostle John, and not John the Baptist. The focus of the book of
John is that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. 
The purpose of the book is summed up by John himself who wrote in John 20:31  But these are written so
that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and
that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. The
opposite of Mark’s account because John focuses more on what Jesus said,
especially about himself, then on what he did.
John in particular seems to describe Jesus as both light
and life.
The next book in the bible stands by itself and it is the
book of Acts or Acts of the Apostles. The
gospels began with Christ’s birth and ended with his resurrection and the book
of Acts begins with the resurrection of Christ and chronicles the life of the
early church.  The author is the same
Luke who wrote the third gospel, and again it was written to his friend Theophilus.  The first chapter tells how Christ ascended
to heaven and how the apostles chose someone to replace the traitor Judas
Iscariot.
It’s in Acts that we read about the first Christian martyr,
a young man named Stephen, and we read about the conversion of a prominent
Jewish teacher by the name of Saul who was renamed Paul and became the greatest
teacher of Christianity.  It was through
Paul that the message of Jesus spread throughout the ancient world.
The book of Luke and the Acts account for one fourth of
the New Testament.
The next section of books was written by the Paul who we
read about in the book of Acts. They are known as epistles which does not mean
the wives of the apostles instead it’s a fancy word for letters.  Specifically these are called the Pauline Epistles or letters of Paul and
they include:  Romans,
1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2
Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon
. Some scholars feel that there isn’t
enough evidence of Paul’s authorship to include the book of Hebrews in this group and have suggested that
it might have been written by Barnabas, Apollos or possibly Priscilla. But
because tradition ascribed it to Paul we’ll leave it here.
Understand that these books were originally letters to
specific churches dealing with specific issues, it’s like we are opening
someone else’s mail and reading it. We have to keep in mind that the first people
who read these letters had inside knowledge that we don’t have about what was
happening in their particular situation. However God in his infinite wisdom
chose to preserve these specific letters for the entire church so even though
they were intended for a specific audience they are for us today as well.
It’s in Romans we discover the wages of sin is death, but he
gift of God is eternal life, we find the attributes of love listed from 1
Corinthians 13, we discover the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5, and we are
told that we can do everything through the power of Christ in Philippians. In Ephesians
we are reminded that we are saved by grace through faith, and in Hebrews we
read about God’s faith hall of fame.
If you are every frantically flipping through the New
Testament looking for books keep in mind all of the books that start with T are
clumped together.
There are seven other letters in the New Testament that were
written by others and these are often referred to as the General Epistles these include the books of James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2
& 3 John and the book of Jude.
These were written for the same reason
as the letters of Paul were written, to encourage and instruct local churches.  These letters were written by two of Jesus’
brothers James and Jude as well as the apostles Peter and John.  The book of James is my favourite epistle although Martin Luther referred to it
as: An epistle of Straw. It was written to warn believers about slander,
favouritism, pride, the misuse of wealth and a lack of patience.  This may have been the first New Testament
book written.
Simon Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter for two very different
reasons.  The first letter was a letter
of encouragement to the persecuted church offering the early believers hope and
meaning in the middle of the suffering they were enduring for their faith. 2 Peter
on the other hand was written as a warning against false teachers and contains
very harsh condemnations of these teachers.
1, 2 and 3 John were all written by the Apostle John who also
wrote the Gospel of John.  They were
written for very similar reasons as Peter’s letters. The first letter is a
letter of encouragement, the second a letter of warning and the third letter is
a short personal note warning a friend about a specific person in the church.
Jude Is a dark little letter that ends the epistles.  Written by Jesus’ brother Jude the letter was
written to warn believers about the dangers of some of the strange doctrines
being spread throughout the church by false teachers.
And here we are at the end, the book of The Revelation, did you catch that there’s no S, it’s not many
revelations, never has been, never will be it’s only one revelation.  Sometimes it’s called The Revelation of John,
but actually it’s the Revelation of God to John. It says that in the first
verse and so I guess that makes the author God. 
The human author or scribe is identified as John who wrote down the
revelation and sent it to the seven churches in Asia. Although we don’t know
exactly which John this was tradition holds that it was John the Apostle who
wrote this book while an exile on the Island of Patmos which is located in the
Aegean Sea just off the coast of modern day Turkey
The Revelation refers to itself as: a revealing, an unveiling
and an explaining.  Anyone who has read
anything written about the Revelation knows that people have very dogmatic
beliefs about this book and everyone is convinced that theirs is the only
correct view.  Understand that there are
any number of interpretations of this book and every one of them has
difficulties and require some straining to make things fit.
The parts of this book that we are most familiar with is the
number 666 and the antichrist, neither of which has been or will be revealed
until the end times come.  I’ve said it
before and I’ll say it again: the Revelation is the playground of the
religiously eccentric.  Don’t get so
caught up in what you don’t understand here that you miss all the stuff you can
understand in the rest of the book.
That’s it, Genesis to Revelation in 25 minutes or so.  What is the most important part of the Bible?
Whatever part leads you into a relationship with God.