Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sunday Project

When I was working on my first doctorate, I wrote part of a three-year-curriculum designed to teach theology to middle schoolers. I did the first section, but I really need to complete it because my husband needs it for his classes . . .

But as I was thinking about it, I realized that it explains and contains some very basic truths that may not be taught in many people's churches. So I've decided to make these lessons my Sunday blogging project. :-)

Some of these topics may seem very elementary, but I trust that some concepts may be new to you. I am not teaching from any particular denominational point of view, but simply presenting what the Bible says as objectively as possible.

So here's the first lesson:

Week One: What is the Word of God?

Do you have a good friend? Does he or she sometimes send you an instant message on the computer or a text message on the phone? It’s nice to hear from a friend, isn’t it? Before computers and cell phones were invented, though, people sent messages to each other in other ways. Sometimes they spoke directly (“Hey, Adam! It’s me, God. Why are you hiding?”). Sometimes they spoke through the prophets. (Nathan: “Yes, King David, the Lord sent me to tell you that you’re guilty of murdering Uriah and stealing his wife.”)

And sometimes God spoke had his prophets write his words down. The written word, you see, lasts a long time. Properly preserved, a hand-written document can last for ages. The apostle Peter wrote, “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

When we say that the Bible is “inspired,” we mean that it comes from God’s Holy Spirit, not from men alone. Therefore it is God’s Word to man, and we must respect it. For the next few weeks we’ll be looking at the Bible to see how it came to be and how we know it is worthy of our trust.

The Bible is one complete book composed of sixty-six smaller books. Many different men wrote these books over a period of fifteen hundred years, and we can see their different styles in the way they write. But God was the moving force behind all their writing. In fact, the first words intended for the Bible were written by the finger of God! Do you know what they are? No, not the first words in the Bible, but the first words intended for the Bible. They are the Ten Commandments, literally written by God to man. “When the Lord finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant [the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments], written by the finger of God” (Ex. 31:18).

Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy—and these are often called the Pentateuch (pronounced PEN-ta-too-k). Look at Deuteronomy 32:24-25: “When Moses had finished writing this entire body of instruction in a book, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant . . .”

Wait a minute—if Moses wasn’t even born in Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”), how’d he know what to write? Simple—God told him. Every word came from the Spirit of God. Moses knew what happened before his birth because God told him about the creation, how sin came into the world, and about the worldwide flood. God told Moses everything he needed to know.

The Bible itself tells us how it came to be written:

· Ex. 24:4: “Then Moses carefully wrote down all the Lord’s instructions . . .”

· Jeremiah 26:2: “This is what the Lord says: stand in the courtyard in the front of the Temple of the Lord, and make an announcement to the people who have come there to worship from all over Judah. Give them my entire message; include every word.”

· Matthew 4:4: “But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

· Deuteronomy 18:18: “I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him.”

· Matthew 5:18: “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.”

· Joshua 24:26: “Joshua recorded these things in the Book of God’s Instructions.”

So—does that mean that the men who wrote the Bible were like secretaries? They sat with a parchment before them and wrote the words they heard the Spirit whisper in their ear? Not exactly, because a person who simply writes what he hears is little better than a machine that transcribes sound into the written word. The men who wrote the Bible revealed their personalities and writing styles in their books even as they recorded every word God wanted them to write.

A good way to illustrate might be to think of an orchestra. Let’s say we have two excellent trumpet players who are playing the exact same part. The first player might play the part with confidence and an air of showmanship. The second player might play the same notes, but be a little more reserved in his playing. Or his “legato” (it means smooth) might be a little smoother than the first player’s version of the tune. Or maybe he’s feeling sad, and his sadness comes out through the music. Though we can hear their different styles, they are both playing music written by someone else—the composer.

In the same way, the Holy Spirit of God told the Bible writers what to say, and they said it exactly as God meant it to be said . . . while they displayed their gifts, emotions, and personalities.

What is the Bible? It is the Word of God, and “all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16).

God’s Word is his message to all people—those who lived yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God never changes, and neither does the truth of his word. The Bible is completely trustworthy—and next week, you’ll find out why.

Memory verse: “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions” (Psalm 119:18).

Discussion questions

1. Read a couple of passages of Scripture—for instance, Psalm 23 and Ecclesiastes 10:1-4—and talk about the writers’ difference voices. David wrote the psalm and Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, so how do they sound different?

2. In Joshua 1:8 we read, “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” Joshua was talking about the five books of Moses, the only scriptures in existence at the time. But how does his advice apply to us today?

3. If the Bible is God’s word . . . why don’t more people read it?

4. Read the story about Satan’s temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:11). What “weapon” did Jesus use against the devil? Since he used the truth and power of the Scriptures to defeat Satan, what does this tell us about the Bible?

5. Look at Hebrews 6:18: “So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie.” Since 1.) It is impossible for God to lie and 2.) the Bible is the Word of God, what does this tell us about the truthfulness of the Bible? Can it lie?

We’ll discuss this question in greater detail next week.

(C) Copyright Angela E. Hunt, 2008.


Mocha with Linda said...

Wow. That's good.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful introduction to Holy Scripture, Angie. I expect it's the start of a great set of lessons for us, and I look forward to the coming Sundays. When I reflect upon the various Bible studies I have experienced,I can see how this instruction prior to the study would have enhanced the experience immensely. Through your words, it is easier to understand the different styles of The Word. I particularly enjoyed your comparison of the two trumpet players. Many thanks for sharing it with us. May we share it? Will you put it into print some day? Clyde

Angela said...

Thanks, Clyde and Linda. Actually, I do hope to see it in print one day, but I have two more years of the project to write up. I'm considering asking my Th.D. prof if he'll let me do/finish this as my dissertation, but they may want something more topical. In any case, it is something I'd like to finish, as soon as I can find a few hours scattered here and there.

The amazing thing about theology is that I am always discovering something new--and I've been a believer for 46 years! :-)

Lisa said...

This is AWESOME! I teach Pre-K in a Christian school, and I always love to read things that are age-appropriate, yet speak the truth without "dumbing it down". I realize this is for middle schoolers, but I can definitely use some of those thoughts and ideas when teaching my students.
I love that you're sharing this with us. I'm going to be looking forward to each week's lesson!