Excellent and balanced article. Knowing God better and loving him more. So often, knowledge gets stuck in our heads but never travels to our hearts.
I have known people that could quote chapter and verse, talk about relationship, prayer, and grace; and yet miss the heart of God… Then, others who couldn’t even quote John 3:16, yet had a more profound faith and understanding of mercy, grace, forgiveness and love, than one with a PhD in Theology.
God promised to write his Word on our hearts, not just on the pages we can read.
First, an apology, I have not been posting much for the last couple months nor writing much, for those who are following God’s Word Is Life, I’m sorry. Just really busy with work and family. Second, I promise to get back on the ball sharing encouragement, perspective, and biblical truth regarding life and recovery. Third, a request. Please like, share, follow, and recommend both the Facebook page and the website godswordislife.com Let’s get the message of renewal, hope, joy, and contentment to the world through the mercy and grace offered to us ALL through a relationship with our Creator Father through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus the Christ, and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thank you all for your support!
The Bible was not written to be a complicated book. It is meant to be a basic guidebook written from God to man, to guide man back to God. It is the story of God’s glory. We should address it as such. It is God’s Word, divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and written by men carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). It is not written to confuse us. It is written to help us understand.
There are many methods different people have touted over the years to study the Bible. We want to use the OICA method (Observation, Interpretation, Correlation, Application method) when we are studying the Scriptures. This means in an inductive Bible study, we should be looking into the text to pull out what God wants us to know. To do so, we use a literal, grammatical, historical method of interpreting the Bible.
We want to first Observe the text, what does it actually say? We should always exegete, pull out of the text the meaning; never eisegete, read into the text what we want it to say. As we observe the text, not everyone is going to study the text in the original languages, but there are many good Bible study tools that can be used to help get to the intent of the writer.
When using a literal, grammatical, historical method of observation, we must be diligent in our study. To study the text literally means: we first take the text for what it says. We are not looking for hidden allegorical or symbolic meanings in the words on the page. What does it say? Whether in our language or the original language, what does it say? If it says, one thousand years (Rev. 20:1-6), our first assumption should be that the author meant one thousand years and nothing else.
Grammatical observation means we look at what the text actually says in light of how the grammar is being used.Grammatically, how were the words used in the original language? We must follow the same rules of grammar in our interpretation. So far, this is kind of stating the obvious, as it should be…
Historically, how were the words that the writer used being used in other contexts?
In addition, we may want to dive deeper in our observation of the text. Are there textual variants we can study? Are there specific words we want to study? Why did the authors use the words that they did to express the thoughts they are trying to get across? Remember, the people writing the Bible were being verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit in the text that they were writing and all of what they wrote was God-breathed, the words are important.
After we have thoroughly observed the text, we will then work on our Interpretation of what the text means. I do not care what the text means to you! That is not what we are studying the Bible for… All I care about is, what did the authors mean when they wrote to their audience? What did their audience understand the text to mean? That is the meaning we should be taking out of the text. Again, it is what the Scripture says that should drive how we understand what it means. All the time, it means exactly what it says!
In the Correlation step, we look at what other reliable commentaries and authors say about the text we are studying, we also compare context in this step as well. We read within the grammatical context of the passage. What do the surrounding verses say? What does the chapter say? What about previous and subsequent chapters? What does it say in light of the entire book? Scripture never contradicts Scripture, so how does the passage you are studying mix with the rest of the Bible? Historically, the writers of Scripture lived in a different time, and faced different challenges. So, we must study in the historical context of when the passage was written. Was it a time of war? Peace? Slavery? Conquest? Reform? These things all play into what was written and why. So, when doing an inductive Bible study, we must ask all these questions. If our interpretation says one thing and reliable sources say something different, we need to check our steps and see if we went wrong somewhere. One of my professors once said, “If you think you have discovered something completely new about the Scriptures, check your heresy first.”
Finally, after all the other steps, we can finally look at Application. However, before we can look at how we can apply the principles we find in a passage (secondary application). We must first ask, how would the original audience have applied this to their lives? Not every passage applies to all people in the same way! Some things were written, for instance, specifically to the nation of Israel during a time of exile… It does not apply to you and me, or even to our country at this time in history. It applied to them and only to them. That is the primary application of the passage.
Other things, however, do apply to us today. For example, grace is still grace and sin is still sin. We can still count on our Lord Jesus for salvation and the Holy Spirit to guide us into all the knowledge we need for life and godliness. We are still expected to be holy as He is holy.
I hope this little guide helps you get more out of your study of the Scriptures. More important, I hope it helps you to know God better and love him more.
The Formational Era of the Old Testament is time when God is forming the nation of Israel. The Formation of Israel begins in Genesis chapter 12 with the calling of Abram. The story is carried through in the remainder of the book of Genesis, then on through the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua up until the death of Joshua is Joshua chapter 24, covering a time period of about 715 years. The books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy augment the story and include Israel’s constitution. In the remainder of this paper, I want to explore what the Scriptures have to teach us about this key time in the history of Israel.
In Genesis Chapter 12, in approximately the year 2090 B.C., God called Abram out of the land of Ur for the second time (Acts 7:2-4 record the first call of Abram) and into the land that God would show him. In Genesis 12:2, God promises to make Abram into a great nation. In order to become a nation, three things are required: land, laws, and people. The remainder of the book of Genesis is the story of how God began making Abram’s family into a great nation. The first step for God was to multiply Abram’s descendants.
Throughout Genesis 12-23, the adventures and misadventures of Abram (renamed Abraham in chapter 17:5) are recorded for us. Hebrews 11:8 tells us that Abraham didn’t know exactly where God was leading him, but in faith, Abraham followed after God. The story begins with Abraham leaving Ur with several family members and traveling to Haran. After several years there and after his after died, Abraham traveled to Canaan, where he confirmed his covenant with the Lord. The records of Abraham’s covenant with the Lord are recorded in Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-22; and 22:15-18.
In the Abrahamic Covenant, Abraham was made several everlasting and unconditional promises by God. Abraham was promised personal blessings from the Lord. He would be made into a great nation, have a huge multitude of descendants, and prosper materially. All of these promises have been literally fulfilled. Abraham was also promised blessings to his descendants through the lines of Isaac and Jacob. These descendants were promised greatness as a nation and a land of their own (the Promised Land, see map below). Not all of this promise has been fulfilled, though as with all of God’s promises, we can trust that they will certainly be fulfilled. The last aspect of the covenant was a blessing made to all the families of the earth. This has been fulfilled and will continue to be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16).
After reconfirming his covenant with the Lord, Abraham’s journey continues. He traveled through Canaan and down to Egypt, eventually returning to Canaan. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael (born of the concubine, Hagar), and the child of promise, Isaac, and then other sons with his new wife after his wife, Sarah, passed away. Through Isaac God continued to fulfill his promises to Abraham. Isaac’s story is relatively brief and is contained in chapters 24-26.
Isaac had twin sons, born to his wife, Rebekah, named Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:24). God selected Jacob to be the child through who the covenant promises would be fulfilled. In Genesis 32:28, the Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel and blessed him. Twelve sons and one daughter were born to Jacob, they would become the twelve tribes of Israel. Their names were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin; and the daughter, Dinah.
The grand story of the Old Testament shifts in Genesis chapter 37 to Jacob’s son, Joseph. Joseph, the spoiled second youngest son, was hated by his ten older brothers. They conspired against Joseph and sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:2). Joseph became a slave in Egypt and eventually became the second ruler in Egypt (Genesis 41:46). When a famine struck all the lands of the Middle East, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food. They did not recognize their brother, whether because he was twenty years older now, or because he looked so much like an Egyptian at that point, we don’t know. After messing with his brothers a little bit, Joseph reconciled with them and the entire family of Israel ended up moving down into Egypt.
In Egypt, God continued to work out his plan and fulfill his covenant with Abraham. When the Israelites moved down to Egypt in Genesis 46, there were approximately 75 of them. By Exodus chapter 1, the population of the Israelites had grown into a nation of around 2.5 million people. It was now time for God to continue the fulfillment of his promise to make them into a great nation by moving them out of the land of Egypt and into the Promised Land. He began this process through the man, Moses in the book of Exodus, eventually finishing it through Moses assistant, Joshua in the book of Joshua.
The book of Exodus records how God supernaturally delivered Israel from the bonds of slavery in Egypt and the giving of the law. The story begins with the birth of Moses and his growing up in the palace of Pharaoh. After the murder of an Egyptian, Moses runs away into the wilderness of Midian and lives there for 40 years. Finally, Moses receiveed a call from God (Exodus 3:2-4:23) and instructions to go to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. Moses returned to Egypt and confronts Pharaoh, and eventually after ten supernatural plagues are exacted upon Egypt, the Israelites are allowed to leave. Pharaoh’s heart was then hardened once again against Israel and he pursued them to the Red Sea. There God delivered the people again by parting the sea to allow them to cross and then released the waters upon Pharaoh’s army, killing them.
Exodus 20 begins the record of the giving of the law. God had already fulfilled the first requirement of a nation by multiplying Abraham’s descendants into a nation. Next, the nation needed laws to live by. Through the end of Exodus, the book of Leviticus, and the book of Deuteronomy, God lays out Israel’s 613 commandments, all the laws by which the people were to live.
The book of Numbers carries the story forward as the nation of Israel is forced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. God’s plan had been for them to travel straight into the Promised Land after the giving of the law to begin its conquest. However, the people disobeyed God and grumbled against him after 10 of the 12 spies sent into the land brought back a bad report, claiming that Israel could never defeat the inhabitants of the land (Numbers 13-14). The people conspired against Moses and intended to return to the land of Egypt. God punished them for their unbelief and sent them to wander in the wilderness until all of that generation had perished save Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who had believed God and told the rest that they should obey God and move into the land.
At the end of the wandering, Moses passed the mantel of leadership, with God’s blessing, to his assistant, Joshua. Moses died never having set foot in the Promised Land because of his own disobedience toward God (Deuteronomy 34).
Joshua, then, prepared the people to enter the Promised Land and begin its conquest. The book of Joshua was the record of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land and the dividing up of the land among the twelve tribes. However, it should be noted that because of Israel’s disobedience, they never did conquer all the land (see map below) that God promised to them. To this day, that part of the covenant has remained unfulfilled. However, in the coming Kingdom, Israel will have all God has promised them.
At the end of the book of Joshua, and with the death of Joshua, Israel’s formative years were finished.
God’s covenants with the nation of Israel influence the entire story of the Old Testament and impact all of human history. There are a total of eight covenants that are discussed in the Old Testament. However, the first three, the Edenic Covenant, the Adamic Covenant (though there is debate among theologians as to whether these first two are actually covenants or rather laws or commands), and the Noahic Covenant, though they affect Israel, are not made with Israel and therefore will not be discussed in this paper.
There are four Biblical covenants that Lightner references in regard to national Israel; the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3), and classified under the Abrahamic Covenant, are the Palestinian Covenant (Deuteronomy 30:1-10), the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16) and the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). To this list, I would add the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 20:1-31:18) as a covenant with national Israel, as does Chafer in his work Major Bible Themes. These five covenants were made with various persons or else the nation of Israel as a whole, yet have had an influence on the entire world. The first four covenants mentioned above are the unconditional covenants. This means that God would honor these covenants regardless of human obedience or interference. The last covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, is a conditional covenant, meaning that should the people involved not hold up their end of the bargain, God is under no obligation to fulfill his promises. It is the five covenants with Israel that will remain the focus of the rest of this paper.
The Abrahamic Covenant is the foundation of the other four covenants made with the nation of Israel. Genesis 12:1-3 lays out the primary details of this covenant. It says,
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (NASB)
Within this covenant, there are three major divisions that can be observed. They are the land, the great nation, and the blessings. Various details of this covenant are repeated and expounded upon throughout the book of Genesis (12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-7, 18-21; 17:1-8; 24:34-35).
The promise of land is the first part of the covenant. This area of the covenant is later clarified in the Palestinian Covenant or the Land Covenant, as it is sometimes called (Deuteronomy 30:1-10). The second part of the covenant, that Abraham would become a great nation can be broken into three sub-points, for every nation requires three things: land, laws, and people. The land part is detailed out in the Palestinian Covenant referenced above. The laws are detailed out in the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 20:1-31:18). Finally, the people would be the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 17:16). The promises to national Israel are continued through the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:4-16) where an everlasting kingdom, throne, and heir are promised to Israel through David. Finally, the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33 continues the promises of blessings to the nation of Israel and the whole world.
The Palestinian Covenant affirms that the land of promise (see map below) will ultimately be in the possession of Israel and the nation will receive blessing and safety there. God in his sovereignty and foresight includes provisions for Israel’s penchant for unbelief and disobedience, times of repentance and restoration and the regathering of the nation to the land. It also includes provision for Israel’s spiritual conversion, their ultimate prosperity and divine judgment upon their oppressors. In modern times, it is significant that Israel has been restored as a sovereign nation, because this is necessary for the ultimate fulfillment of God’s prophetic revelation when Christ returns and sets up his kingdom (Ezekiel 39:25-29).
The Mosaic Covenant was given to the children of Israel through Moses and emerges as part of God’s promise to make Israel into a great nation. Every nation needs laws. In this conditional covenant that God made with Israel, he detailed out 613 specific commands that would govern the nation. These laws can be divided into three major divisions: the commandments, the judgments, and the ordinances. The conditions of the covenant were fairly simple. If Israel obeyed, they would be blessed. However, if they were disobedient, God would curse and discipline them. The Mosaic Covenant was broken time and again by the nation of Israel. This may be part of the reason why God intended for the Mosaic Covenant to be a temporary covenant and terminated with the death of Christ and the institution of the New Covenant.
The Davidic Covenant is the unconditional covenant God made with David, the man after God’s own heart. God’s covenant with David promises David an everlasting royal dynasty, an eternal throne on which his heir would sit, and an unending kingdom over which his heir would rule. The Abrahamic Covenant is also perpetuated through the Davidic Covenant because it promises a kingdom to rule over (land and people) and through Christ, as the eternal Son of God and Son of David, an eternal blessing is guaranteed.
The New Covenant is the most important of all to not only the nation of Israel but to the world. Jeremiah 31:31-34 details out the New Covenant for Israel:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (NASB)
This is the covenant prophesied in the Old Testament and will have its ultimate fulfillment in the millennial kingdom. The passage anticipates the ideal circumstances that will exist in the millennial kingdom where Christ will reign on the planet and all will know him.
The New Covenant is also a subset of the Abrahamic Covenant. God promised Abraham that all the families of the Earth would be blessed because of him. The New covenant is the universal blessing that God promised presented in the form of his son, Jesus Christ.
Chafer says, “Actually the New Covenant, whether for Israel or for the church, stems from the death of Christ and His shed blood.” Upon the grounds of his son’s sacrifice, God guarantees to work out his purposes and this can be seen in two aspects. First, that he will save, preserve, and present in heaven conformed to the image of his son, all who have believed in Christ. Second, the future salvation of Israel is promised under this unconditional New Covenant. This salvation of Israel is also based on the shed blood of Christ.
The New Covenant is also the reason the Mosaic Covenant is a temporary covenant. The law was fulfilled with Christ and therefore the covenant is no longer in force. Galatians 3 explains that the law was in place to demonstrate to mankind that they cannot fit the bill alone. It also proves that, since it came after the covenant was made, it really has nothing to do with the former covenant. The redeeming work of Christ at the cross was necessary to save man.
Robert Lightner says this of the New Covenant, “Most important of all, the New Covenant assures those to whom it was given of a new heart. God’s law will be written in the hearts of the people. Their iniquity will be removed, and their sin will be remembered no more. The Holy Spirit of God will teach the people and will find their hearts obedient and responsive.”
Lightner goes on to point out that there is some debate in theological circles just who the New Covenant was made with. Some hold the view that this covenant was made with Israel and is still to be fulfilled in the millennium. Those that hold this view are typically premillennial, dispensationalists. Those who hold to a literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of the Scriptures agree that the covenants of the Old Testament, including the New Covenant, are made with Israel, not the church. On the other side of the coin, are the amillennialists and postmillennialists. They typically believe that this covenant, unlike all the others, is made with “spiritual Israel”, that is the church. They also believe in a replacement theology, where the church has adopted all of Israel’s blessings from the Old Testament. Yet, oddly enough, the church doesn’t adopt any of the curses that go along with those blessings.
The covenants of the Old Testament are a key to understanding the entire story of not only the Old Testament but also the New Testament. God made a covenant with Abraham that has affected all of human history. He promised Abraham land, a nation, and blessings. That land is the area of the Middle East we refer to as Israel and Palestine and at least parts of several neighboring nations today (see map below). That nation is the nation of Israel. And those blessings can be realized by all of us as the person of Jesus Christ.
Benware, Paul N. Survey of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1993.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry Major Bible Themes. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House,
Lightner, Robert P. Handbook of Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
 Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. 1995), 258-264.
 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974), 144.