Leslie M. Grant
These brief outlines of the 66 Books of the Bible first appeared on the pages of the "Lord Is Near"-a daily Scriptural meditation calendar-which is available through many Christian Bookstores or from the publishers of this book (Believers Bookshelf).
Leslie Grant has, in his usual concise and straightforward style, set forth the highlights of each book of the Bible. Individuals, Bible students and teachers alike, will find these outlines to be very helpful in gaining an overall view of the Scriptures It is our prayer that the Holy Spirit will use these outlines to stimulate all who read them to a fuller and deeper study of God's Holy word.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.'
Genesis means "beginning." It deals with creation and life, giving the seeds of all that is later developed throughout the entire Bible. Genesis beautifully depicts the simplicity of early life upon earth; but the beginning of sin and corruption is also seen there together with God's abhorrence and judgment of evil. Genesis symbolizes the life-giving work of God begun in a soul-new birth-with promise of fruit to come.
The book specially revolves around the lives of seven outstanding patriarchs:
1. In Adam are seen lessons of life and death. He is the figure of Christ, for he was the head of a race; but a contrast to Christ, for death claimed him, whereas Christ is a Living Head.
2. Enoch teaches us of walk and translation. He walked with God, and "by faith was translated," a type of saints to be raptured at the coming of the Lord.
3. Noah illustrates work and salvation. His work was a work of faith, and his salvation was into a new world, a type of those believers saved through the Tribulation for the millennial earth.
4. Abraham tells us of faith and separation. His altar speaks of the first, his tent of the second. By God's call he became a pilgrim.
5. Isaac shows the principles of submission and continuance, for in general his was an obedient, consistent life.
6. Jacob illustrates discipline and anticipation. God's dealings are seen in his life in securing Jacob's subjection and leading him on to worship as death approached.
7. Joseph: suffering and exaltation is the theme of his life. a precious example for faith in all ages.
And Jehovah said, I have seen assuredly the affliction of my people who are in Egypt ... And I am come down to deliver them.
Exodus means "Going out." Deliverance is its great theme. Here we find Israel grown to a great nation, but under bondage to the Egyptians as slaves. After much trouble and anguish, and after God's sending many dreadful plagues upon Egypt, Israel is liberated. First in chapter 12, the blood of the lamb sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel of the houses was typical of our redemption from the guilt of our sins by the blood of Christ. Secondly, the parting of the Red Sea and Israel's safely crossing before the Egyptians were trapped and drowned is a type of our redemption by the power of God from the bondage of sin and of the world, a redemption accomplished through the death and resurrection of Christ.
A second section of the book, beginning with chapter 19, deals with the giving of the law and the building of the tabernacle, together with the institution of a special priesthood in Israel. While today believers are in no sense under law, yet the giving of the law symbolizes God's authority being established among a redeemed people. The high priest is a type of Christ, linked with the family of priests, who typify all saints today-the Church of God, believer-priests who worship God by the Spirit, rather than by carnal forms. But the tabernacle service illustrates beautifully also the grace by which God cares continually for His people, delighting to have them near Himself on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ.
This is what Jehovah spoke, saying, I will be hallowed in them that come near me, and before all the people I will be glorified.
Leviticus is named for Levi, whose name means "joined." It is a book that deals with God's holy principles in joining His people to Himself as worshippers. Therefore we are first faced with the offerings necessary for approaching God: the burnt offering, meat offering, peace offering, sin offering, trespass offering-all pictures of the one offering of Christ in its various aspects. The priesthood too is prominent. Aaron is a type of Christ, the Great High Priest; his sons are a type of all believers of this present church age who are called "a holy priesthood," and "a kingly priesthood" (I Pet. 2:5, 9).
Various other laws also appear in this book. Defilement would disqualify one from approaching God until such time as the defilement was cleansed away by God's appointed means. The eating of unclean meats was forbidden; this symbolizes the refusal of that which is morally unclean. And leprosy, typical of the corruption of sin at work in an individual, would render him unfit for drawing near to God. So would other ceremonial uncleanness, but only because they are typical of moral uncleanness or spiritual uncleanness. We no longer observe the type, but the reality which the type is intended to impress upon us.
Chapter 23 lists the seven feasts of Jehovah to be kept by Israel, not for their own pleasure, but in the worship of God. All of these point to the greatness of God's own work in His dispensational dealings. The great theme of Leviticus is that of drawing near to God in holy worship.
According to the commandment of Jehovah they were numbered by Moses, every one for his service, and for his burden, and numbered by him, as Jehovah had commanded Moses.
This book gives the numbering and ordering of Israel on their march through the wilderness. God gave directions for their service and warfare as they were on their way to the land of Canaan. All were given their own particular place by God, whether each of the twelve tribes, whence were chosen the soldiers; or whether Kohathites, Gershonites, or Merarites, the families of the tribe of Levi, who were appointed to serve the priests in caring for the tabernacle and its service. In these details we see a picture of God's great wisdom and care in ordering all the affairs of the lives of' His saints for their history in the world, a world which in experience we find to be a wilderness.
Their history is one of almost forty years of general weakness, failure, complaining, and disobedience. It has been too sadly repeated in the Church today. Yet God's unfailing care and faithfulness shines beautifully above their failure. This is prominent in the history of Balaam (ch. 22-24), in which is seen God's defending of His people against every effort of the enemy to put them down.
Joshua and Caleb (ch. 14:6-9) are refreshing examples of unswerving devotedness, however, in contrast to the general disobedience; and they remind us strongly that we need not be failures. A true sense of God's numbering and ordering, and placing us where He sees fit, in whatever service pleases Him, will give us steadfast endurance, whatever others may do.
And thou shalt remember all the way which Jehovah thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or not.
Deuteronomy means "repetition of the law." It is mainly an address by Moses to Israel, in which he faithfully reviews their history, bringing everything out in the light of God's own glory. He shows in that history not only God's approval of their acts of obedience and His disapproval of faithlessness and disobedience, but also the marvellous grace, patience, and wisdom of God in the ways of His government. So they are to remember that God has led them, and all the way in which He has led them. Far from exalting them in the world, He has humbled them, and put them to the proof as to whether or not they would be obedient. He had allowed them to hunger, and fed them with manna, that they might realize their dependence upon Him and upon the truth and sufficiency of His Word.
The book also confirms and emphasizes the responsibility of Israel to diligently do the will of God in view of giving account to Him. In this way it puts us in mind of the judgment seat of Christ; and being a book of great detail, it reminds us that the details of our lives are far more important than we might like to think, for these will receive close attention when we stand before the Lord in that day.
Every place whereon the sole of your foot shall tread have I given to you, as I said unto Moses.
Joshua means "Jehovah-Savior," the same name as Jesus in the Greek language. This is a book of militant conquest and victory. Israel is seen calmly dependent upon God, not rushing eagerly to battle, but with quiet deliberation taking each step as led by the Word of God. They enter the Promised Land by the divine stepping of the river Jordan, a type of the death and resurrection of Christ as linked with His people. Each enemy in turn must give way to God's power among His armies. Though there were painful setbacks for Israel because of their lack of faith, yet the general theme is that of taking possession of the land God had given them, and this by disposessing their enemies.
The book compares with Ephesians in the New Testament, for the land of Canaan speaks of "heavenly places," the present blessed sphere into which believers are brought "in Christ Jesus." Our blessings are in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3); our position is there (ch. 2:6); and our conflict is there also (ch. 6:12). And in order for us to take proper possession of our possessions, we must have on "the whole armor of God," by which to resist and defeat the hosts of Satan, who would hinder our enjoying what is rightly ours. Therefore, the Word of God is to be our meditation "day and night" (Josh. 1:8). And Joshua is a type of "Christ in you," that is, in all His saints, leading them in victory over all the enemy's power. By faith let our feet tread in that good land, and make it experimentally our own.
In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges is a sad contrast to Joshua. It deals with the time in which a succession of judges followed Joshua as governors of Israel in their land. But its main theme is that of Israel's failure to take possession of all their land. Instead, through indifference or weakness (or both), they did not drive out the enemies of God, so that those enemies often and again brought Israel into subjection to them. Again and again, through disobedience to God, they were overcome by enemies*, yet on every such occasion God in wonderful mercy raised up a deliverer for them.
This reminds us of those books in the New Testament, such as Galatians and I Corinthians, written because of the need of serious reproof and correction. Though we may in some degree be enjoying the pure truth of the living Word of God, our inheritance-that great land of the heavenly places with its innumerable blessings-remains very largely unpossessed by the saints of God. Lack of faith, lack of spiritual energy, lack of genuine love for Christ, has left us too indifferent to the precious fulness of the possessions that are properly ours.
The last verse of the book of Judges, quoted, above, emphasizes Israel's unthankful independence in those days, each man doing right in his own eyes. A spirit of insubjection to proper authority will leave any of us just as barren of spiritual prosperity.
And Ruth said, Do not entreat me to leave thee, to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.
The name Ruth may mean "satisfied" or "beauty," either of which seems very appropriate. This is a refreshing book, written during the time of the judges, like a bright, sparkling jewel set in a very dark background. Naomi, who with her husband and sons had left Israel. God's place for them, is eventually in Moab bereaved of her husband and both sons. She is a picture of the nation Israel out of their land, desolate and without hope.
Ruth however, her daughter-in-law, is a Gentile, a Moabitess, disqualified as such from entering the congregation of Israel for ten generations. Yet Ruth is a type of the Jews also, in the same degraded place as the Gentiles-not God's people. But in her we see a new, precious, lowly faith awakened in the God of Israel, so that if in Naomi Israel's desolate, hopeless state is seen, in Ruth is seen the fresh faith of the godly remnant of Israel.
And Boaz ("in him is strength"), a mighty man of wealth, is a type of the Lord Jesus. He by grace encourages Ruth in such a way that eventually, because he is a "kinsman-redeemer", she is brought happily into the commonwealth of Israel by marriage to him. And Naomi too shares the joy and blessing of the results of this.
But Jehovah said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; for I have rejected him; for it is not as man seeth; for man looketh upon the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh upon the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7
Samuel is the first of the prophets who were raised up by God because of the solemn failure of the priesthood. Priests were successional, not so prophets; theirs was a call strictly and personally by God. But Samuel's faithful care for Israel was not rightly appreciated, and they demanded a king. God allowed them their own way, and gave them the type of king they desired, Saul, a man head and shoulders taller than all the people. He began well, but rapidly declined from any purpose of obeying God; and God decreed in chapter 15:26 that his reign must cease.
In chapter 16 David was anointed king by Samuel, yet did not take the throne; for God allowed Saul to hold this for some time. Saul turned viciously against David, determined to put him to death. In this David is a type of Christ, though anointed as God's king, yet suffering rejection, waiting patiently for the time that God Himself would so order events that he might take the throne.
So today God allows human government its sway, while He has purposed that only Christ can be trusted with the place of sovereign authority in the world. The book ends with the sad history of the death of Saul and his sons. Man in the flesh cannot be suffered to remain.
The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me, The ruler among men shall be just, ruling in the fear of God.
2 Samuel 23:3
This book describes the kingdom of David. Raised only to the throne of Judah at first, he reigned in Hebron for seven and a half years; then over the other tribes of Israel also for thirty-three more years. He is a type of Christ in gradually subduing by conquest all the nations surrounding Israel. This is seen particularly in the first ten chapters.
From chapter 11 onward, however, we see a sad and startling contrast to this, as the same King David utterly fails in representing Christ. So we are faced with the painful lessons of his acting contrary to the blessed principles of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the governmental consequences of this are shown in such a way as to impress us deeply with the faithfulness and truth of a God who cannot ignore the disobedience of His own.
David's son Absalom, in callous hatred toward his father, becomes an unhappy type of Antichrist, with an attractive appearance and personality, and words as smooth as butter. God however preserves David, and Absalom comes to a humiliating end. Yet David's kingdom did not recover its vigor of earlier days.
Thus David, though a true believer, beloved of God, teaches us clearly that man, even at his best, cannot be trusted with a place of prominence and authority over men. How pertinent a book to warn Christians against seeking place of authority in government!
There has not failed one word of all his good promises which he spoke through Moses his servant.
1 Kings 8:56
First Kings introduces the kingdom of Solomon over Israel, a type of the glorious kingdom of the Lord Jesus in its settled state of millennial peace and prosperity-not in its powerful conquests. Its wealth and glory have been unsurpassed in history. Solomon was given the honor of building the temple of God, a building of marvellous magnificence, the center of Israel's worship and unity. God has never, and will never authorize the building of any other temple than in the same location.
But Solomon sadly failed to bear the responsibility of such honor. Though a believer, his personal life degenerated deeply through unholy marriages and other self-indulgence contrary to kingly dignity. And when he died, the kingdom of Israel was split cruelly in two, with ten tribes revolting from Judah and Benjamin. This rift has never been healed nor will be until the Lord Jesus takes the throne over Israel.
The book then deals largely with the history of the succession of kings who ruled over Israel, the ten tribes, in Samaria. Their kingdom passed from family to family through many conspiracies and rebellions. This was totally contrary to God, of course, and not one of these kings appears to have been even a believer. The kings of Jude (the line of David) are also mentioned, but with much less detail. The prophet Elijah appears in chapter 17, a stern witness against Israel's wickedness; and other prophets also intimate to us the fact of the kings proving a failure.
And the children of Israel did secretly against Jehovah their God things that were not right; and they built them high places in all their cities.
2 Kings 17:9
This book continues the history of the two separated kingdoms, with the prophet Elisha replacing Elijah as God's witness, both of truth and grace. Other prophets also witnessed and suffered for their faithfulness. The book of Kings give special prominence to the ministry of the prophets, in contrast to the books of Chronicles where the priests and Levites are more often noticed.
Again, no believing king is found in Israel (the ten tribes), in spite of the grace of the prophet Elisha. Israel's growth in evil leads to the invasion of the land by the king of Assyria, who carries them captive out of their land. Since that time the ten tribes have been lost sight of, and only God knows where to find them and bring them back to their land, as He will do in days yet to come.
Judah continued in the land some time longer, and the reigns of two godly kings, Hezekiah and Josiah, stand out beautifully in contrast to the general downward trend. Yet both these reigns ended in the sadness of human failure; and eventually Judah was carried captive by the Babylonians.
This is another book of solemn admonishment in its application to us. It again emphasizes equity and truth in government, showing that the true place of man is one of thorough subjection, rather than of prominence and authority, which in every case proved beyond the capacity of men-even godly men-to be entrusted with. How all this cries out for the coming of the one true and faithful King, the Lord of glory!
Jehovah, for thy servant's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all this greatness, to make known all these great things.
1 Chronicles 17:19
This book is a summarizing of God's ways of grace toward Israel in reference mainly to the reign of David, the man after God's own heart. The two books of Chronicles are therefore similar to Deuteronomy, for they are a review from the standpoint of God's grace. Saul's reign is not even mentioned, but only his sad end in battle. For Saul is typical of man in the flesh, who can receive or exemplify nothing of the grace of God. David is a type of Christ, in whom that grace is preciously manifested. No mention is made either of David's reigning seven and one-half years in Hebron over Judah alone, but only of his reigning over all Israel; for the grace of God embraces all of His people, not merely a part.
The glaring moral evils that affected the house of David are silently dropped from the record here: David's grievous sin, that of Amnon his son, and the proud rebellion of Absalom. On the other hand, much is said of David's preparation for Solomon of the plans and great provision of materials for the building of the temple. This, too, was for the display of the glory and grace of God.
David's history then is seen here, not as a biography of the man, nor even officially as king, but as typical of Christ; so that those events are dwelt upon that show him most strikingly in this character.
If my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from the heavens, and forgive their sin, and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
Here the gracious summing up of God's ways in connection with the kings is continued. Solomon's magnificent kingdom is seen here beautifully typifying the reign of the Lord Jesus in the peace of millennial glory. Nothing is therefore said of his grievous deviation from the path of obedience to God; his marrying many wives and being badly influenced by them.
The dividing of the kingdom, however, in the days of his son Rehoboam must be taken note of, for grace does not set aside God's government. Rehoboam is forbidden to attempt to bring the ten tribes back again by force. The ten tribes set up a new center at Samaria and a new king, not even of Judah. They are therefore only referred to in this book in connection with the history of Judah; for God's grace must be shown only in connection with His chosen line, that is, the line of the true Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. This stands out beautifully in the histories of Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah.
Such a review, that so magnifies the blessed counsels of the grace of God, is a precious intimation of the character of the judgment-seat of Christ for the believer. If the books of Kings show us the obnoxious history of man, Chronicles, on the other hand, shows how God's grace transcends man's sin.
For we are bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us before the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God and to repair the ruins thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.
Ezra, meaning "help," is written by a scribe of this name, and is an account of a restoring work of God in bringing back some of the Jews to Jerusalem; a first group coming with Zerubbabel (ch. 2:2), with the object of rebuilding the temple. This was at the commandment of Cyrus, king of Persia, for the Medes and Persians had by this time conquered the Babylonian Empire. Cyrus decreed that the vessels of the temple (previously carried away by Nebuchadnezzar) should be restored to the about-to-be rebuilt temple. There were hindrances in the building, but God, using the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, eventually enabled the completion of this, as chapter 6:15 shows.
Another group of Jews later returned with Ezra during the reign of Artaxerxes; and he, being a priest of the line of Aaron, was sent both to give help in the service of the rebuilt temple and to establish magistrates and judges who knew the law of God to rule in the land.
This is a necessary book for our own days, when those who desire a return to the true worship of God according to Scripture can expect opposition. Their faith will be rewarded, however, if they are steadfast and stand firmly for the true principles of God.
Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions to them for whom nothing is prepared; for the day is holy to our Lord; and be not grieved, for the joy of
Jehovah is your strength.
Nehemiah (his name meaning "comfort of Jehovah") writes the history of his connection with the remnant of the returned captivity. He followed Ezra by about thirteen years in going to Jerusalem, stirred through news he had received of the decayed condition of the city. God gave him favor with Artaxerxes, king of Persia, whose cupbearer he was. He obtained authority to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
A man of faith and energy and a capable administrator, he was able to organize the Jews for the labor of rebuilding the wall and imbue them with willingness both to work and to fight for God's interests in the city. His firm decision, his wise avoidance of the enemy's cunning snares, and his short, earnest prayers cannot fail to attract every interested reader. Yet the authoritative influence of the Persian government is felt throughout and cannot be ignored.
Nehemiah is a book specially helpful in our own day. It illustrates the fact that true devotedness to God on the part of His saints, and their purpose of heart to build a wall of separation from the world and its evils, will meet with bitter opposition from the enemy. Yet however small and despised such a testimony may appear in men's eyes, their firm, lowly faith in a day of confusion is precious to God.
For Mordecai was great in the king's house, and his fame went forth throughout the provinces; for the man Mordecai became continually greater.
Esther means "I will be hidden," and the book deals with the Jews during the time of their captivity, outside their own land, hidden among the nations, yet cared for providentially by the God whom they had disobeyed. Yet God's name is not found in the book: He is also hidden. He cannot link His name publicly with them, for their dispersion is chastening because of disobedience. Moreover, these had chosen to remain in Persia despite God's having opened the way for them to return to Israel: they had no real concern for returning to God's place for them when others had done so.
Still, His overruling hand in mercy and protection is beautifully seen here. It is typical of the blessing that is to come to the now scattered children of Israel after much cruel affliction and persecution.
Esther herself may remind us of the beauty that God sees in His people in spite of their failure and departure: and Mordecai is a type of Christ, first, in protecting the Gentile king from those who plotted his death; and then in becoming greater and greater among the Gentiles after having first been marked out for
How well this illustrates, too, the dealings of God with any true believer who becomes careless and disobedient in his ways. He has no real communion with God. No joy in the Lord's presence, yet God cares for him by means of trials that have in view his restoration in submission to the Lord.
I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
Job (meaning "the cry of woe") is poetic, and has long been honored for its superb language. Job evidently lived about the time of Abraham. Though the most righteous man on earth, he was allowed by God to suffer intensely under the hand of Satan. His three friends assumed that to merit such suffering Job must have been guilty of flagrant hidden sin, and in their speeches they seek, gently at first, then more cruelly, to extort some such confession from him. Job protests his own innocence, and feels that God's dealings with him are without reason.
This very feeling indicates the reason, however, for it was necessary that God should bring down Job's proud self-righteousness.
After his three friends are silenced, Elihu, a younger man, speaks truly for God such words that so affect Job's conscience that he has no answer. Elihu is a definite type of the Lord Jesus, the Interpreter of God's ways.
Then God Himself speaks to Job out of a whirlwind. He points to many marvels of creation which demonstrate that the Creator's wisdom must be infinitely higher than man's conception, and that in comparison, man's wisdom is pathetic ignorance. Job takes to heart the lessons involved in this and says, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." This is the grand turning-point, and Job is afterward blessed more greatly than ever before. Job is a most valuable book to teach us true self-judgment and submission to the hand of God.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, and standeth not in the way of sinners, and sitteth not in the seat of scorners.
Psalms, like Job, is poetic, a collection from the pens of various writers inspired of God-David, Asaph, Moses, Heman, Ethan, and possibly others unknown. Yet they are
arranged in perfect order by the overruling of the Spirit of God. How full of comfort they are, in dealing with the feelings of the heart in circumstances of every kind, bringing the answer of God to every need of the soul.
Pre-eminently, they speak of Christ, and here we find His own feelings, in concern for the glory of God and for the blessing of souls; in suffering as the lowly Man of sorrows, as persecuted by men; in suffering the anguish of the cross, the forsaking of God; in the joyous results of that cross; of anger, too, against the wickedness of man-indeed, feeling as various as the circumstances with which He deals. To consider His feelings is a marvellous balm for the feelings of our own hearts.
It must be remembered, however, that the Psalms are written from a Jewish point of view, and the blessing of Israel, together with her afflictions, sorrows, and chastening, is most prominent in the book. Thus it is prophetic of the history of Israel through all her troubles
until she is established in the glory of the millennial kingdom. Yet this does not in any way detract from the spiritual blessing to be found there for ourselves: it is a book of infinitely sweet values and comfort for our souls.
He that is wise will hear, and will increase learning; and the intelligent will gain wise counsels: to understand a proverb and an allegory, the words of the wise and their enigmas.
Proverbs 1:5, 6
Proverbs is also poetic, written by King Solomon in his younger years, a book of wise instruction in reference to every department of personal life and conduct. Its great, outstanding truth is simply this: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Its warnings against subtle evils are accompanied by instruction as to the means of avoiding these evils.
It presents things in their true light, so that the reader may form a proper, clear judgment. It goes to the root of matters also and shows the motives that produce certain actions, thus exposing to the reader the actual workings of his own heart. It deals with the thoughts, the mouth, the lips, the tongue, the ear, the eye, the hand, the foot, as all connected with the conduct of the individual. It shows faithfully the results of thoughts, words, or actions, good or bad; that is, the reaping of what is sown. And how clearly it teaches that only the true knowledge of the Lord Himself can preserve the soul in ways of truth.
These things therefore are principles becoming to the kingdom of Solomon, established in peace, and therefore closely related to the principles of the Kingdom of God, as in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. Chapter 25, however, begins with proverbs copied by the men of Hezekiah, and is therefore a provision of God for times when the kingdom was in a state of division and ruin. They are thus particularly precious also for our day, the kingdom of heaven being in a state of degeneration.
The book provides an excellent course in psychology.
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that it had cost me to do them; and behold, all was vanity and pursuit of the wind, and there was no profit under the sun.
Ecclesiastes ("the preacher"), written also by Solomon but in his older years, is a striking contrast to Proverbs. By inspiration of God he declares the results of all human wisdom, of earthly advantages and aspirations, of indulgence in everything that wealth and wisdom could procure which might show fair promise of producing utmost happiness on earth. Being himself in a position to test this to the full-wiser and wealthier than all other men
-he learns by bitter experience that "all is vanity and pursuit of the wind."
Let us carefully remark that this is simply taking advantage of every material thing "under the sun," that is, considering things only from an earthly viewpoint. Hence it teaches us that, apart from the revelation given of God, man's history is hopeless misery. How wonderful the contrast in the New Testament's presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ, of His revelation of the glory of God, of the eternal inheritance of the saints in light!
This book then cannot be regarded as teaching doctrines as revealed by God, but as showing man's thoughts and conclusions apart from the higher revelation of God's thoughts.
Therefore, it only stresses more strongly that we must look far higher for the full truth that will meet the need of the heart. This is fully provided in the blessed Person of the Lord Jesus, in whom is revealed all the glory of God, as is so beautifully seen in the New Testament. But Ecclesiastes provides the best course obtainable on the subject of philosophy.
While the king is at his table, My spikenard sendeth forth its frangrance.
Song of Songs 1: 12
Written by Solomon also, this is a poetic book that deals with the personal communion of the soul with the Lord Jesus. Being highly figurative in its language, it must be interpreted with godly care and sobriety. The above verse finds its precious counterpart in the anointing of the Lord Jesus by Mary of Bethany with her precious ointment of spikenard, the symbol of fragrant worship that delights the nostrils of God.
The deep delight of the bride in contemplating the beauties and glories of the Bridegroom is a refreshing picture of Israel's eventual joy in the Lord when gathered back to their land and restored into permanent favor in the millennial age. Certainly this has a spiritual application now also to the Church, the heavenly bride of Christ; yet the book does not teach any fully settled, eternal relationship of the Church with Christ, as does Ephesians. Therefore, its help for us is mainly in connection with experiences in regard to personal communion with the Lord.
The Bridgroom's delight in the bride also is surely no less precious, and is more striking in view of her many imperfections in contrast to her Beloved. But it is divine grace that imparts to her such beauty as rejoices His heart. It is a book for quiet, diligent Meditation in the secret of the Lord's presence.
Soon deepest joy our inmost souls shall fill, Soon Thine own joy be more exceeding still, Soon we shall see Thee, thine enraptured bride, Soon, to Thy great delight, be at Thy side.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that announceth glad tidings, that publisheth peace; that announceth glad tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
Isaiah, meaning "Save Thou, Jehovah," stands fittingly at the head of the prophets, being most remarkable for its stirring gospel themes. Like the Epistle to the Romans, however, it begins with the stern and faithful exposure of man's guilt (Israel's guilt, in the case of Isaiah), and uses conditions then present to typify its prophecies of future conditions and judgments.
The first thirty-five chapters show God's dealings in a general way with Judah, Israel, and the nations, in allowing no cover-up or excuse for sin, but exposing it in pure truth.
Then four chapters (36-39) are occupied with history, illustrating both the faithfulness of God in the preservation of His people, and the failure of the people to rightly value the marvels of His grace.
But the ministry of sovereign grace begins with chapter 40, as from here on the remedy for Israel's condition is presented in its various aspects. The following note from F. W. Grant is most helpful here: "From chapter 40 to 48 Israel is seen as the servant, and unfaithful; then from chapter 49 to 60 Christ is the Perfect Servant, and standing under the load of the sins of others; and finally, from chapter 61 to 66, the remnant (of Israel) are now seen and accepted as the servants" (Numerical Bible).
This book, though couched in Old Testament language, will help us to gain a right perspective of the blessed gospel of God's grace.
Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy words were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by thy name, 0 Jehovah, God of hosts.
Jeremiah ("Jehovah will cast forth") has been called the weeping prophet. Called of God evidently at a young and tender age, he prophesied during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah, and following the capture of Judah and Jerusalem-apparently altogether about forty years. He was of the priestly family, but like John the Baptist was more a prophet than a priest. The deep sorrow of his soul over the condition of the kingdom of Judah is evident, but he faithfully delivers the stern message of God to the effect that the Chaldeans would take Judah captive.
Yet, though he was grieved to the point of anguish, the fact that he penned the above verse is precious; the word of God had penetrated into the depths of his being, and in this he found joy and rejoicing of heart, for he knew the reality of the name of Jehovah his God upon him. Here is joy and strength amid sorrow and weakness. He had the heart of a priest and the faithfulness of a prophet.
When Zedekiah was taken captive and Judah made tributary, Jeremiah was allowed to remain in the land, as were others, under the authority of Gedaliah. But further disobedience of the remaining people led to further trouble. Jeremiah continued to prophesy, but his words were refused even by the preserved remnant. His last chapter is strictly history, but such as proves the truth of his prophecies.
Jeremiah is an excellent book to encourage continuance in the face of grief and opposition.
Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, whom Jehovah hath afflicted in the day of his fierce anger.
This is a book of deepest pathos, written after the captivity of Judah, the city of Jerusalem having been reduced to desolation. Yet the very language of the prophet bears clear witness to the tender concern of the Lord for His people in all their afflictions. If in one respect the sorrows of Israel are considered as caused by the malice of enemies (and God will take full account of this), yet too, Jeremiah rightly feels these to be from the hand of God in chastening Judah for her sins. This is suited language for those exercised properly before God, in brokenness and confession.
Jeremiah being a priest, he is one who knew in reality what it meant to "eat the sin offering" (cf. Lev. 6:25,26); that is, to feel in his own soul the sin of God's people as though it were his own, and to confess it as such. The book has a most important bearing for saints of God today, especially as showing our own becoming attitude in view of the sorrow And confusion of the public testimony of the Church of God on earth. The ministry of this book should find a real place in our souls' experience. Not that these things should in the least discourage us, or make us morose, but they should develop in us a more serious, humble attitude, which involves a willingness to face the truth honestly as it is.
And behold, thou art unto them as a lovely song, a pleasant voice, and one that playeth well on an instrument; and they hear they words, but they do them not.
Ezekiel ("He will be strengthened of God"), like Jeremiah, was also a priest, but he prophesied outside the land of Israel, in captivity. He prophesied first against both Judah and Israel, depicting their bondage, suffering, and humiliation in various graphic ways. God makes him a virtual object lesson for Israel: he must himself feel the bitterness of those things of which he prophesies. Here is another priest, therefore, who in an earnestly practical way "eats the sin offering," having to feel, not only the sin of God's people, but the governmental judgments of God against that sin.
Yet even this humiliation and anguish fails to touch the hearts of his people. But he has been before warned that they will not hearken to him. And still, he is allowed no alternative but to speak out.
From chapter 24 to 32 he turns to pronounce the judgment of surrounding Gentile nations; then he returns to deal with his own nation again, prophesying however of the grace of God that will eventually restore that afflicted nation through the midst of sore judgments.
Chapters 40 to 48 then give the description of the future temple and the divisions of the land in the millennial kingdom.
Ezekiel is a book most helpful for strengthening the soul to stand firmly for God, even when alone and when faced with continual opposition.
Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever; For wisdom and might are his. And it is he that changeth times and seasons; He deposeth kings, and setteth up kings; He giveth wisdom to the wise, And knowledge to them that know understanding. It is he that revealeth the deep and secret things.
Daniel ("My judge is God") also prophesied in captivity. He earned a place of honor and respect among the Gentiles by the simple, firm reality of his faith in the Living God that produced a life of consistent godliness, of wise and circumspect conduct, with no compromising of truth.
To the end of chapter 6 historical matters of deep interest are given. These provide clear insight into the character of the kingdoms of Babylon and of the Medes and Persians. They also show us God's preserving care of the godly remnant of Israel among the Gentiles. Besides being histories these accounts are also prophetic of events to take place in the future.
But from chapter 7 to the end of the book the subject matter is that of distinct prophetic visions given to Daniel. These visions involve the great empires of the world and Israel's connection with them, and the eventual triumph of the Lord of glory over all the nations, on behalf of His own people.
How excellent a book to teach us that prophecy is only properly understood through godly exercise coupled with a faithful walk, and that God expects of His own a vital interest in His prophetic revelations!
O Israel, return unto Jehovah thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to Jehovah; say unto him, Forgive all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves of our lips.
Hosea 14: 1,2
Hosea ("To save") is again an earlier prophecy, given during the reigns of several kings of Judah, ending with Hezekiah. His first chapter is a brief survey of God's dealings with Judah and Israel (Israel is called "Ephraim" also in this Book, for it was this tribe that led Israel in rebellion). God indicated first the unfaithfulness of each in turn, and that they have been reduced to the same level as Gentiles-"not my people"-yet He affirms His sovereign grace in restoring them as "sons of the living God." Both Judah and Israel will again be united under one Head.
Then the body of the book is engaged mainly with Israel (or Ephraim). It consists of a vigorous and scathing exposure of the debased corruption of the ten tribes, while Judah is only incidentally noticed.
The last chapter, however, beautifully shows God as the resource and remedy for Ephraim's ruined condition-God, in fact, as in the blessed Person of His Son, though this is in measure veiled, and not as clearly stated as in the New Testament. The chapter also calls tenderly for Ephraim's return to the Lord God, a call that produces precious results.
How needed is this book, not only to warn against a wandering heart, but to show how to recover from it.
And Jehovah uttereth his voice before his army; for his camp is very great; for strong is he that executeth his word: for the day of Jehovah is great and very terrible; and who can bear it?
Joel ("Jehovah is God") gives no indication of the time of his prophecy, but his subject is the Day of the Lord with its great and sore judgments. A devastating invasion of insects had left the land of Israel famine-stricken; and Joel uses this as a vivid illustration of the invasion of Israel in the last days by the King of the North and his confederate armies, who, though proud, fierce, and ungodly, are yet the means God will use for the punishment of His people Israel. Covering the land like swarming parasites, they will at least accomplish the bringing of Israel to her knees before God. And when this end is reached, the Lord Himself will judge these Gentile nations unsparingly, and deliver the afflicted children of Judah and Israel.
The signs and wonders spoken of will take place before the coming of the Day of Jehovah (ch. 2:30, 31); that is, during the first three and one-half years of Daniel's "week"; therefore before "the Great Tribulation" which begins at the middle of the week of seven years. The pouring out of God's Spirit, mentioned in the previous verses (vv. 28, 29) is "afterwards," that is, in the millennial age of blessing. Peter's quotation of this (Acts 2:18-21) does not infer a complete fulfilment at that time, but simply a present application.
The book of Joel illustrates the solemn warning that they who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind.
In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David which is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.
Amos (meaning "to burden") received his prophecy in the days of Uzziah, who reigned in Judah at the time that Jeroboam II reigned in Israel, and "two years before the earthquake," which evidently left a great impression. Likely the prophecy was known before the earthquake came, so that when it did come, this would lend serious significance to the prophecy.
The book is impressive for its orderly, deliberate condemnation of evil, especially in Israel, and the resulting measured judgments of God. The evil is exposed in a calm, judicial way, rather than in burning anger; and the punishment from God is perfectly adjusted to the guilt.
First, various nations are summoned, as it were, for judgment; the Syrians, Philistines, Tyre, Ammon, Moab, and Edom. But if God must in justice judge the nations, then Judah and Israel must also be brought before His throne, and judgment be meted out in perfect truth and impartiality. Yet the prophecy, in common with all prophecy, ends with the victory of God over evil, and the eventual restoration of Judah and Israel by the power and grace of God.
The book then is excellent for showing us that God must just as calmly and decidedly judge our own ways as the ways of others, while He yet in grace delights to restore.
Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith Jehovah.
Obadiah ("Serving Jehovah") writes the shortest book of the Old Testament; and he prophesies entirely against Edom. This is, of course, the family of Esau, Jacob's brother. His hatred and violence against Israel was a dreadful result of pride and self-righteousness, which could not bear his brother's receiving blessing from God.
Let us notice that God takes account, not only of their flagrant outward wickedness, but of the secret motives of the heart: "How is Esau searched! his hidden things sought out!" (v. 6). Their gloating over the suffering of Israel is sternly denounced, and their taking advantage of Israel's misfortunes to strengthen themselves. The fearful judgment of God is the result of all this.
Edom is actually the same name as Adam, but somewhat disguised. The nation stands therefore for the flesh, and "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." The flesh may appear in various plausible forms, pleasing to the natural senses, and appealing to the rationalizing minds of men. In our day the strong humanist movement is a marked example of this proud, empty, fleshly pretension that will fall under the awesome judgment of God, while the despised people of God will be delivered.
The book of Obadiah then would lead us to a very serious self-judgment of our ways and of the secret thoughts and feelings of our hearts.
When my soul fainted within me, I remembered Jehovah; And my prayer came in unto thee, into thy holy temple.
Jonah ("A dove") is more than anything a personal history of the prophet in connection with God's sending him to prophesy against Nineveh, the Assyrian capital city. He shows us, not the secret workings of the heart of an unbeliever, but those of even a chosen servant of God. How humbling is the exposure, but the prophet himself must faithfully write it all for our benefit.
When given a message from God, he first flees from the responsibility of delivering it. But the discipline of God in his being cast into the sea and swallowed by a great fish brought his soul low indeed. Yet in spite of so traumatic an experience, when he is brought back by God and driven to obey, then he would fain take the credit for the message, and think more of his reputation as a prophet than of God's rights to show mercy to a repentant city. Does it not teach us how guarded we should be in every service for the Lord, that we should seek no recognition or place for ourselves, but rather obey out of love for Himself and for the souls of others?
Let us notice, too, that Jonah records the fact that God has the last word with him; and the very fact of his writing an unvarnished account of the whole distressing history is a clear indication that his soul was in the end truly benefited by it all.
And many nations shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and Jehovah's word from Jerusalem.
Micah ("Who is like God?") shows the Lord coming forth in judgment, not only of Israel, but of all the nations. The condition of Judah and Israel is seen to be an indication of the condition of "all the peoples"-the "earth, and all that is therein." So that, if in Amos God must judge Israel when once He begins to judge the nations; in Micah He must judge the nations if Israel must be judged. For Israel is but a sample of all mankind: now that she is proven guilty, this is proof of the guilt of all the world (cf. Rom. 3:19). God can therefore alone execute judgment, and He is infinitely capable of so doing.
Later, too, the remedy is seen only in God, who pardons iniquity because He delights in mercy. He turns His people to Himself, and casts all their sins into the depths of the sea. The blessing of Israel will mean great blessing also for the nations, who will find delight in the mountain of Jehovah at Jerusalem.
Chapter 5 contains a great prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, the Protector of His people when the Assyrian of the last days attacks them.
The Book then shows beautifully that when all else fails utterly, God is the eternal Rock:-Who is like God?-
Jehovah is slow to anger, and great in power, and doth not at all clear the guilty: Jehovah,-his way is in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
Nahum ("Comfort") is a vigorous prophecy of the judgment of Nineveh, which, being the capital of Assyria, stands for that empire, the King of the North in a coming day. While Egypt denotes for us the world in its complacent independence of God, Assyria indicates the world's vicious opposition of Him. The prophecy was doubtless occasioned by the cruelty of Assyria when Sennacherib ("He that dasheth in pieces" ch. 2: 1) invaded Israel, and was partially fulfilled when Nineveh was destroyed: but it looks on to God's judgment of the King of the North in the latter days. Notice that the determined rapacity of this enemy is fully matched by the unbending rigor of the judgment of God.
Yet, while the first few verses of the Book describes the indignation and fierceness of His anger, this is followed by the marvellous comfort of verse 7: "Jehovah is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him." He is slow to anger, perfect in calm deliberation; for He does not desire to condemn. But He will judge evil, whether by whirlwind or storm: and here the wisdom of "His way" will be seen.
Let us learn well then from this prophet both the awful strength of God's wrath, and the blessed strength of His protection.
He stood, and measured the earth; He beheld, and discomfited the nations; And the eternal mountains were scattered, The everlasting hills gave way: His ways are everlasting.
Habakkuk ("Ardently embraced") is a prophecy that particularly deals with the deep exercises and sorrows of a godly Israelite in considering the shame and degradation of his own nation, their being taken captive by "the Chaldeans, that bitter and impetuous nation." This contemptuous enemy-the Babylonian Empire-is the very picture of the world in its religious corruption and confusion, that is, in its gross misuse of the blessings of God. Little wonder that a godly soul is deeply distressed by Israel's captivity to such a type of evil. Has not the same dreadful enemy today enslaved the professing Church'?
Yet these sorrows cause the prophet to more "ardently embrace" the promises of God. They lead him to a thorough confidence in God's sovereign power and grace. He recognizes that God takes the measure of earth itself, and therefore everything in it: the nations He will painfully humble: the mountains (higher authorities) He will scatter, though men think them eternal; and hills (lesser authorities) will bow before Him. This being true, then however great may be the destitution and desolation to which Israel is reduced, the prophet can truly say, "Yet will I rejoice in the Lord" (ch. 3:18).
This is a book of precious help to those who, faced with evil and trying conditions, sorrow before God.
Jehovah thy God is in thy midst, a mighty one that will save: he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will exult over thee with singing.
Zephaniah ("Treasured of Jehovah") prophesied in the days of Josiah, a godly king whose faith and energy had produced a marked revival in the outward state of Israel. But this book takes no notice of this revival: instead it launches immediately into a declaration of the sweeping judgment of God, His utterly consuming everything from the land. The apparent revival was outward only: the actual condition of the nation at heart remained the same as before, and this became evident immediately after Josiah died. Whatever seeming improvement may have developed, God had already ruled that His judgment would go out in every direction, Judah and Jerusalem being clearly the center of it.
However, the book also dwells beautifully upon the effects of these judgments in producing great blessing in a coming day. The people will be turned to a pure language, and the Lord God will be in the midst of the once guilty city, saving that afflicted nation, rejoicing over her, resting in His love, His long labor with her finished; and the mourning of His heart over her turned to exultant singing.
Attention to this prophecy would surely preserve us from the prevalent error that present-day measures of revival may forestall the judgment of God upon Christendom. No! The coming of the Lord is imminent.
For thus saith Jehovah of hosts: yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith Jehovah of hosts.
Haggai 2: 6,7
Haggai ("My feasts") was written after the Jews' return to Jerusalem from the captivity. It subject is the temple, once destroyed, but its foundations built again on a smaller scale. The prophet presses upon the people the shame of their laxity in reference to the house of God and its building, urging them to consider their ways. A true prophet, he seeks to "shake" them from their selfishness in running every man to his own house, while God's house was neglected. For very soon the Lord would shake everything in heaven and earth; and "the desire of all nations." That is, Christ, the great Messiah, would come, through whom God's house would be filled with glory.
Four distinct messages are given in the book. The first comprises chapter 1 and gives solemn reproofs. Thankfully these produced good effects in leaders and people, in their being stirred to build. The second (ch. 2: 1-9) gives refreshing encouragement in its precious prophetic vision of Christ. The third (ch. 2:10-19) insists upon the purity and separation becoming to God's house, and urges godly consideration. The fourth (ch. 2:20-23) is prophetic of the overthrowing of all oppressing kingdoms, and of blessing established in the person of Jehovah's Servant, the Messiah, typified by Zerubbabel, ruler of Israel.
This book should surely exercise us now as regards God's present-day interests in His "spiritual house", the Church of God.
And it shall come to pass in that day that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone unto all peoples: all that burden themselves with it shall certainly be wounded, and all the nations of the earth shall be assembled together against it.
Zechariah ("Jehovah remembers") writes at the same time as Haggai, but he deals with the city Jerusalem. He reminds the people of God's displeasure with their fathers as the reason for former inflictions and bondage, an evident warning of what the city would yet suffer if they were "as their fathers."
The prophecy then goes on to show how the eyes of God take account both of the guilt of Jerusalem and the guilt of those nations who "burden themselves" with it. It is God's earthly center, and He will not tolerate the proud interference of men, whether in antagonism, or in patronizing protection of the city. It is God who will deal with and purge her: the great Messiah Himself, whom they had pierced, will appear in the city and produce a profound repentance that nothing else could produce (ch. 12:9-14). Then He will go forth and fight, and Judah will fight with Him against their oppressing enemies. And Jerusalem shall be the great center of all the earth, with every nation yielding allegiance to her, the city of the great King (ch. 14).
Let this speak to our own hearts today to the effect that God's center for His Church is not on earth, but in heaven. It is, indeed, the blessed person of the risen Lord-and He will tolerate no rivals to, nor substitutes for, this glorious Center.
Then they that feared Jehovah spoke often one to another; and Jehovah observed it, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared Jehovah, and that thought upon his name.
Malachi ("My messenger") shows us the miserably self-complacent condition of the Jews who had returned from the captivity. Their energy had very soon deteriorated into a state of callous indifference to the claims of God, a state of self-pleasing. It is a deeply pleading word from God, in which He reproves their gross contempt for Him expressed in various ways. Yet with brazen defiance they reply as though they were entirely without blame! Hence, this is God's last word to Israel until four hundred years later, when John the Baptist was sent from God. Israel, refusing to listen to God, would be left to reap the bitter results of their own haughty choice.
Yet how precious it is that there were still those who in heart "feared Jehovah," though no doubt only a small remnant within the remnant who had returned to Judah. They are given no distinctive name, for it is the Lord's name that was precious to them. But they spoke often one to another of the things of God, and this was a delight to His heart. He assures us it was not forgotten, but written in a "book of remembrance."
How fitting that this last book of the Old Testament shows Jehovah concerned with, not merely actions, but the thoughts and motives of hearts. And they are promised the rising of the Sun of Righteousness-Christ yet to come in power and great glory.