I noticed the different sections of Proverbs more clearly than in the past because of listening to whole book at one sitting. I found the book to be positive and very motivating: I’m encouraged to follow God because of practical benefits that result. Ecclesiastes in contrast is very dark; it sounds like the voice of depression, recording the kind of thoughts I (and loved ones) have had while depressed. I guess, in a way, it’s the flip side of Proverbs, showing the darkness that results when God is not the center of your world. Song of Songs struck me as going back to the positive, but in a completely different way than Proverbs. It’s cool that the Bible has such a passionate expression of married love, but to be honest, as a single I didn’t want to think too hard about some of the imagery I was listening to!
I could feel the emotional intensity building throughout the book of Job; the tension builds, and the speeches become increasingly emotional and increasingly angry. And how interesting that Psalm 1 comes immediately after Job! It almost sounds like the argument of Job’s friends – but with a significant difference. The psalm says God blesses those who walk intimately with Him; it never affirms the unwarranted conclusion of Job’s friends that suffering means you must not be walking with God.
I must admit that in listening to the whole book of Psalms in a couple of sittings, my mind wandered, partially because of the repetition; but I still got a feel for the book as a whole. I heard brutal honesty, intimacy with God, transparency, doctrine, praise, complaint, imagery. Both questioning and trust – usually in the same psalm! Artistry and emotion mixed with truth – no wonder I’m attracted to them as a musician & communicator!
I-II Chronicles has a lot of information about the kings of Judah (especially the righteous ones) that is not in Kings, and I wonder if the author included it to support what I saw as the primary storyline in all five of these books, which is that God used godly leaders to preserve a faithful remnant of His people. These leaders took active steps to disseminate God’s word, call the people to repentance, organize God-honoring worship, provide for the needs of those called into full-time ministry, and literally protect the lives of God’s people. Most of all, they modeled what they encouraged in the people: repentance, obedience and trust in God. A personal application for me is that when God gives me leadership or influence (even if it’s unexpected, as it surely was for Esther), I must actively promote and model faith and obedience. A second thing I noticed in all the books except Esther was the abundance of genealogies, with a couple of them repeated. Even though I find them boring, I can see how they would be incredibly important to the Jewish remnant as a means of establishing their identity as the people of God.
I enjoyed listening to some of my favorite OT stories: David & Goliath, Jonathan & David’s friendship, Elijah at Mt.Carmel, God’s defeat of the Assyrians after Hezekiah’s prayer. Overall, I could see the rise and slow fall of the nation politically and how it was tied to the spiritual leadership (good or bad) of the kings. I noticed for the first time that I-II Kings seem to spend a lot more time describing the apostate northern kingdom, with its assassinations and coups, than the southern kingdom, which actually had a few godly kings. I also noticed that the opposition of Israel’s kings to God’s prophets is a recurring theme. It’s as if the point of Kings is to show why God was justified in judging both nations.
I listened to the audio of these books and was struck by the repeated contrast between obedience and disobedience and their results. The Israelites must have thought Joshua’s instructions were insane at Jericho, yet they obeyed and experienced victory; then one seemingly small instance of disobedience by one man brought the entire community to defeat at Ai. In Judges, Israel went through repeated cycles of idolatry resulting in defeat and foreign oppression, followed by repentance bringing victory and freedom. The disgusting behavior of the Levite giving his concubine to the rapists resulted in a war that practically annihilated one of the tribes; in contrast, the kindness, loyalty and love shown by Ruth (a Moabitess, no less!) resulted in her receiving the same from Boaz and ultimately becoming an ancestor of both David and Christ. These all show me that both sin and godliness have a snowball effect; if I lose a small battle with sin, I will open myself up to “foreign oppression” from Satan resulting in further defeat, but if I faithfully follow God He will bring blessing and provision beyond my expectation.