Another Bible Survey
It will not be my intention in these series of study to lay out a prolonged study of the books. Some undoubtedly will be brief and others long. I will cover many of the high points, maybe not all, and seek the underlying principles they may have to offer. This will not be a commentary or an exposition of the Scriptures. (I will leave that to the scholarly.) Many works of uninspired writers have been consulted in the preparation of this series, and proper credit is due those authors. All the material is not of my own thoughts; I merely reassembled some of the thoughts and ideas to the present form. This survey is intended primarily for the novice, the babe in Christ, though the scholarly may also benefit from it. It can also function as a concise reference tool, hopefully to open new doors to new areas of study that would become part of a basic study library. This, my first effort, will cover the Old Testament only. As time may permit, and if God wills it, I will endeavor to survey the New Testament as well.
The right approach to a Bible examination is to analyze it first, and then to synthesize the contents. As we survey the Scriptures, we will be concerned with the first aspect of the approach, or looking at the Bible as a whole. That is just what this writing is all about. We are going to see a panoramic view of the entire Bible by an analysis of each book with its people and its events. Bible study, if properly approached, can be like an adventure-packed experience. An approach such as this can serve two purposes; one designed as an aid for our study of the Word of God, and another for a call to holiness, and prayerfulness, and fruitfulness of life in Christ. Notwithstanding our need for preachers and teachers of God's word, it is of more urgency that we need men and women who will LIVE the Bible.
May this be helpful to all of us to learn, love, and live the Scriptures. I desire no glory in this endeavor - give God the glory. Should this Bible survey prove to be a valuable tool in helping the reader to have a better grasp of the general themes and thoughts contained in the Bible, and know how to find them quickly, it will have served its purpose.
One way of telling the story about the Bible is by mentally projecting ourselves into the pages of Scripture, right at the very beginning. Here, we find ourselves with darkness all around us, and by the sounds we hear, we sense that we are on an ocean of murky, disturbed waters. But, then, all of a sudden it is light everywhere, just as if you snapped your fingers and, lo and behold, it was now light. We were on disturbed waters. Looking ahead in the distance we can see lands appear before us, with green grasses and trees. Above us we see great lights in the heavens. Now and then we see birds, fish, and animals moving around. Next we come upon those that look just like we do. They are living in a beautiful garden, a virtual Eden. They seem happy and contented at first, but then something has happened to change all that. They now have a sad expression on their faces as they are ushered out of this beautiful place, never more to return, forever to wander in fear and in anxiety, not knowing what the future may bring. It seems like we have gone in a circle, for we find ourselves again upon troubled waters. We see a family, eight in number, emerging from a boat, but we see none of the people we saw before. Evidently this was another "beginning" for man, maybe to see if he would turn out better this time. After a time we do see many more people building a "skyscraper" in a land called Shinar. But it is not finished for their work has been interrupted; bosses are unable to communicate with the workers. These people are once again scattered upon the earth. Beyond the garden and beyond the tower and after some time, we come across an area of stark contrast with Eden. It is set in a valley near a sea. All the land is blackened by fire. The area around has been laid waste, all destroyed. We learn this has all happened because the people of the land were very, very wicked.
As we pass over the pages of time and are on our returning journey from the past we pass through Jerusalem and we see on a hill three crosses, now empty. We learn that one claiming to be King of the Jews was crucified on one of them. Another "beginning" has once again been afforded man. We pass on through troubled times down through the ages. We find wickedness, bloodshed, tyranny, oppression, starvation, and destruction filling the pages of time. Now, we are back to the present. However, we are not left here very long. We are at once transported into the future and find ourselves standing among a myriad of people before a throne. Is this the Judgment scene? The One on the throne tells each and every one of us where we must go. He had been reading "our lives" out of one of the books. Alongside was another book, the Book of Life. Why, I thought the Bible was an old-fashioned, out-of-date book, but look, it is still around, even at the end of all things. When the trump sounds, we are awakened from our vision and are back with our normal senses and in our present time. Were we really ready for the Judgment? Wow! What a journey! Now, let us return to reality.
I suppose that most people have a TV set in their houses, and with cable or satellite serving many sets. On my set I can access channels such as History, Travel, Discovery, and The Learning Channel. What a gold mine of information is out there, if we would but dig for it. On these channels, we learn about people, we learn about places, we learn about the things we have and see how they really came about. In this vast emptiness of space we live in a very small segment of time and place. But, with all this at our fingertips, we can travel all over the world and not leave our easy chair. We can see people we never had the chance to meet. We can learn about events that happened a long time ago. We are able to travel through time and explore our wonderful world about us; actually a "library" in itself at the push of our remote.
Now the same thing is true about our Bible. The Bible is a library; in fact, there are sixty-six books contained in it. That doesn't sound like very many books compared to the great libraries of the world. But, in those few books we have at our fingertips everything, I mean everything, we need to know of God, His will, and His people. Thus, we have a "divine library." This divine library provides not only spiritual enlightening, but also the practical application of diligent and reverent study in order to grasp its different subjects, and its unity in message as well.
Like an explorer, the student is made to climb the heights now and then to look out and survey the whole view. Just as an explorer would view mountains, valleys, rivers from his viewpoint, the Bible student will view features such as "doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness." From our lofty advantage point, we look out with our mind's eye with hands over our face (as if we are trying to look into the far distance) and see the themes of the Bible like rivers that wend their way from Genesis to Revelation. We see mountainous ranges of prophetic truth and high peaks of revelation. It will be like a voyage of discovery, for we find ourselves at times in "unfamiliar" and in "unknown" parts. That is why a Bible survey is such a basic and important method of exploring the Bible. Are we ready to climb the heights and survey the land?
With such a glorious perspective, we are prepared to begin our exciting journey through God's world of unfolding truth. We will let God be our guide through the pages of His holy writ. As we finish each of the books in this survey, we will be disposed to want to continue to the end before we lay the book aside. Maybe it will be like the old movie "serials" that did not tell the whole story, but will demand that you anxiously wait until the next week to see the "rest of the story", as Paul Harvey would say.
An approach such as this can be two-fold: designed as an aid for our study of the Word of God, and also for a call to holiness, and prayerfulness, and fruitfulness of life in Christ. Notwithstanding our need for preachers and teachers of God's word, it may well be a more urgent desire that we need men and women who will LIVE the Bible. May this be helpful to all of us to learn, love, and live the Scriptures.
We are now ready to climb to the lofty heights and discover God and His wonderful works in and through this panoramic survey of the Bible. We are going places through time and events. We may rightly view the Bible just as we do a map. The topography of the Bible is indeed varied. First on the scene are the foundation stones of the Law. Then we can see the rolling plains of Bible history unfolded. Next come the clear lakes and rich pastures of Hebrew poetry. Behind these tower the overhanging crags of prophetic ranges. We might refer to these as the Himalayas of God's word, which shall challenge the vigorous student to come and plant his feet on higher ground. Beyond a mountain we will call Mt Malachi is a dark valley lying between two testaments. After this appear the gospel accounts - familiar territory to most - leading on into the city of Acts. Next are the fertile fields of the letters to the saints. Then, for the last time, the land slopes upward by way of another mountain, the mysterious Mt. Revelation, until finally, very high and lifted up, we see the golden street of the celestial city, the New Jerusalem.
The Bible is a book of peoples and places. Let us, in our study, that is, quickly visit the lands and peoples as the pages unfold. We visit first the beautiful, serene, placid garden of Eden, man's first home. Then somewhere in our journeys we come across Ur, the birthplace of Abraham. Then on to Bethel, the house of God, then to Egypt of the Nile, then to Canaan, the Promised Land, where most of our study takes place. We can't forget Jerusalem, Jericho, the Jordan, or Bethlehem. Beyond those borders lie the great empires of that day: Assyrian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman. There are also those cities of antiquity: Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, Athens, and Rome.
And what about the multitudes of people that cross the pages of the Bible? We are introduced to Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Enoch and Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Joseph. These fill the pages of Genesis. Next, we meet Moses and Aaron in Exodus and then Joshua. After these come Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon followed by the long line of Hebrew kings. Within that time frame we find Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Jonah, Joel and the good company of the other prophets.
Passing from Malachi to Matthew (skipping over the interval) we move from the old to the new and are ushered into the presence of Jesus, the Lamb of God, that Holy One of Israel. He it is who dominates the Bible from cover to cover and around whom all history revolves. The Gospels throng with people. There we find Jesus, Joseph and Mary, the Apostles, Herod, and Zaccheus. Passing to the book of Acts we have the stalwarts of the early Church: Peter, James and John, Stephen, Silas and Barnabas, Timothy and Paul. Then with John we are caught up to see that countless host on high awaking the echoes of the everlasting hills with the resounding praises of the Lamb around the majestic throne of God.
Two disciples left the city of Jerusalem, traveling homeward, to the town of Emmaus, across the hills of Judea. What a dream they had - while it lasted. They had known the Christ, thrilled at His words, His works; they had staked everything on Him. They had expected Him to sweep Jerusalem out of its corruption, rid the Promised Land of the Romans, and push His empire all over the earth. It was all over now. Christ had been crucified on a Roman cross and had been buried in a tomb at Jerusalem. The dream was over! It was true that certain women had been circulating stories about a resurrection and an empty tomb. Surely, there could be no substance to such a tale as that! All they had left were just memories, and dreams of what might have been. Then, on that weary road, another one joins them. "Why should not the Christ to have suffered?" He asked. And beginning at Moses and the prophets, He related to them all things concerning Himself. He gave them a survey of the Scriptures about Himself, and this gave back to them a proper perspective. They had thought of Him in terms of a Sovereign Messiah, but He showed them a suffering Messiah. To their view of a Christ coming to reign, He added a view of a Christ coming to redeem.
A certain copy of the Constitution of the United States was once executed with magnificent penmanship by the hand of an artist. In some places the words are cramped together, and in others they are spaced far apart. Looking at it very closely, there seems to be little reason for such a spacing of the words. But, standing back at a distance, and looking, the purpose of the artist became clear. He not only penned out the Constitution but also portrayed the face of George Washington with the light and dark shadows on the page.
The Bible is like that also, with God being the master artist. The creation of the stars is mentioned in Genesis in just five words: "He made the stars also." On the other hand, the story of the Tabernacle is spread over fifty chapters. About the life of Christ, all we know of that life between His birth and His baptism is covered in a single page of Scripture. We also have page after page devoted to seemingly endless genealogies that may appear pointless to us. We might ask, "Why did the writers select such an uneven choice of subject matter?" Woven into all the Scripture is a perfect portrait of Jesus the Christ, God's beloved Son. This is of great value in seeing the Bible as a whole. Not only can the parts of the Bible be held in proper perspective, but also the student can have a proper sense of direction. So then, with that, let us soar like an eagle on wings up to the heights.
May the Lord help each of us to a better understanding of His Word, and to this we say Amen.