(A seminary class assignment originally dated September 24, 2006.)
I saw God’s repeated faithfulness in the face of Israel’s repeated rebellion as He continually provided means for their restoration to fellowship with Him through things like the animal sacrifices and the bronze serpent. Moses’ speeches in Deuteronomy show God’s deep longing for them (and us) to experience the blessings of obedience and fellowship with Him. I also saw His faithfulness in His provision of Moses for the nation. Who but someone reared in Egypt’s royal court would have the skills to write such a detailed legal code, govern a large community, cast vision for the future, administer a judicial system, and even lead the military? I see a big leadership lesson here: God had Moses organize Israel into a nation before taking them to conquer the land, showing the wisdom of planning and creating an infrastructure to sustain future action and growth. There was no attitude of “let’s get moving and leave the picky details for later” or “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” God made sure Israel was spiritually, governmentally and militarily prepared in advance for what He called them to do.
I read large portions aloud in a version new to me (NLT2), which made certain things pop out and caused me to react emotionally in ways I hadn’t before. I felt awed by the beautiful, poetic repetition in Genesis 1; I choked up at the heart wrenching emotion of Joseph at his reunion with his brothers; I laughed at the irony of Pharaoh’s daughter paying Moses’ own mother to nurse him; I got irritated at Moses when he whined and flat-out contradicted God at the burning bush; I “rooted for the good guys” during the ten plagues and the Red Sea crossing like I was reading an action-adventure novel. I also saw a connection I hadn’t seen before: when Jethro encouraged Moses to set up a system of judges, I thought, “How are they going to know how to decide all these cases?” And right after that, my question was answered by God giving the civil laws at Sinai. Overall, I saw in a new way the “humanness” of these two books and how much they focus on relationships, both among people and between people and God. Even the seemingly tedious details of the tabernacle plans and construction emphasize relationship, for as God says in Ex.29:46, “I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them.”
I’ve been taking seminary classes by dribs and drabs at Indy’s extension site for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. One exercise that I found really valuable was an assignment in three of my Old Testament classes. My professor for those classes wanted us to get a sense of the flow of scripture, so he had us read large portions at one sitting and write a short journal entry on our personal reactions to each one. He encouraged us to read the passages aloud, because that’s how the original audiences most often heard them; he also allowed us to listen to audio bibles for the same reason.
This may sound intimidating, but it was actually quite enjoyable. Like most of us, I usually read the Bible in smaller bite-sized pieces that range from a paragraph to a couple of chapters. But in these exercises I looked at scripture from a bird’s eye view, and in the process noticed connections I’d never observed before. I began to see the Bible as one story, with the smaller stories, poems, and discourses all contributing to the whole.
Since my journals were written for public consumption (i.e., my professor), I thought I would share them on my blog. I’ll start with the first of the three classes, Introduction to the Old Testament. Here is a list of the reading assignments/journal entries and when I plan to post them: