My seminary class this semester is “The Story of Scripture,” a high-level view of the whole Bible. To make it memorable my prof, who also happens to be the president of the seminary, taught us all a rhythmic chant. He’s very musical and would have been a great cheerleader or yell leader in high school or college!
It’s very simple. We clap our hands and repeat 5-12-5-5-12. 4-1-21-1.
That’s it! Like a children’s song with hand motions that you can’t forget, this pattern of numbers is now lodged in my brain and at random times I find myself subconsciously repeating it over and over.
It means 5 books of Moses, 12 books of history, 5 books of poetry, 5 major prophets, 12 minor prophets … the major sections of the Old Testament. The New Testament is as you might have guessed: 4 gospels, 1 history of the church, 21 letters, 1 prophesy.
Even as we’ve focused on the big picture, we also are seeing, by our prof’s direction, details that are important to the whole.
Here are two up close discoveries that were new to me early in this semester. I’m sure there will be more.
Most of us know the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11. After the flood all the people gathered in a central locale and decided to cooperate in building a tower. Sounds innocuous at first. So why was this a problem God needed to stop?
First, remember how the serpent tempted Eve? He said she could be like God (see Genesis 3:5). It was a comparison trap and she took the bait.
In Babel this same sin lived on. The people wanted to be like God, and “make ourselves a name” (Genesis 11:4).
For the first time I saw how this ancient story about Babel is relevant in our day. Everybody wants to make a name for themselves. Think social media, politics, professional sports, corporate ladder climbing. It’s so easy to get sucked into power, prestige, and finding significance in our own abilities and accomplishments. It’s why donors to colleges put their names on buildings. And on it goes.
Recently I told God I too have been sucked into this comparison/making a name temptation via social media. Even if your struggle isn’t social media, we all have this desire to be known, to be strong, to not have needs or limitations. We want to be independent and not need God. But the bottom line of the Christian life is our absolute bankruptcy and need of God. Period.
My new prayer has been, “God help me remember every day to make Your name great, not my own.”
A pivotal chapter in the book of beginnings (Genesis) is chapter 12 and the story of God giving Abram three unconditional promises: descendants (which would create a nation), land, and blessing. And very interestingly He also promises Abram that He will make his name great. As Abram obeyed God and followed Him, God would make him a great nation of people and give him a great name. Greatness comes from obedience to God not from our own achievements apart from Him.
But what I’d never seen before in this story is the command God gave to Abram in verse 1: “Go forth from your country,” which Abram did; “and from your relatives.” Wait … didn’t Abram take someone with him when he left? Genesis 12:4 tells us, “Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken; and Lot (his nephew) went with him.”
So Abram didn’t follow God’s instructions precisely. So interesting.
As the story of Genesis unfolds it becomes clear that Lot created some problems for Abram. It makes me wonder what would have happened had Abram left Lot behind as God instructed?
But most interesting of all is God’s character. God’s promises to Abram in Genesis 12 were unconditional. God’s plan was to create a nation through whom He would bless the entire world. We know today that included the Messiah, Jesus, who came from Abram’s line of descendants.
Here’s the startling truth for us today: God’s unconditional promise was NOT changed by Abram’s partial obedience.
God has determined to redeem a people for Himself even a people who rebel and don’t keep their promises as He does. And that includes me and you. I find this truly head-shaking amazing!!!
Part of the final assignment for this class is a creative project of our choosing to tell our version of God’s story. It can be a song, a painting, or any other creative idea. I decided very early on to write God’s story in a poem form that I hope will be memorable. I’m going to have it designed too, because I have to make things beautiful if I can.
The rest of this post is the first section of my poem which covers the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. I read a poem last winter during Lent that inspired me with its simple four-line cadence. It’s been a fun project playing with words, focusing on the richness of theology, and finding conclusions about God’s character and how I see God in every page of His inspired Word.
I haven’t totally finished this poem, but I think it’s good enough to share with you. I hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt.
Chaos, Creation, Contest, Covenant, Commands
God. Spirit hovered. Word spoke
Light. Life. Kinds. Multiplied
Adam. Then Eve awoke
How the Triune God made me.
With beauty pure and God they dwelt
Harmony, freedom, no shame. See
sly enemy stalk. They listened, we knelt
How I too rebelled against Thee.
Eden lost. Sin and death aggregated
One upright imperfect man found
in the whole world deteriorated.
How God promised: a multi-colored vow.
Sin remained. Abram called. Leave.
Land, offspring, blessings: God’s oath
made by Covenant. By faith believe;
How I see He calls you and me both.
Isaac. A miracle. A type,
Foretelling the looked-for Savior.
Abraham obeyed, raised the knife
How God will one day deliver.
Jacob’s twelve sons, Joseph betrayed
enslaved in Egypt, with God, who’s ahead
Evil turned good, Israel is saved.
How I see my God has never misled.
400 years later a deliverer sent
Free the indentured generation
Ten plagues. Hard hearts. Pharaoh bent.
How God forged His promised new nation.
A sign. one year old, gentle and pure
To be saved by blood, keep Passover
A memorial. A lamb to prefigure,
How I too, by faith, am passed over.
Red Sea, supernatural escape,
The people feared. Then grumbled.
Writ with His finger two tablets of stone,
How God spoke to Moses who shone.
Offerings, laws, Moses did write,
Seven feasts and Sabbaths for rest
Order established to make hearts unite
How I see God’s pure holiness.
From Sinai to the land. Israel squandered
God’s promise. Stubbornly refused to believe.
For faithless grumbling, sentenced to wander
How God’s heart was so very grieved.
A sad story this faithless generation.
Still God’s grace provided manna and meat
With patience God waited till time-out was served.
How I too am parented by His pure grace.
40 years late, yet beginning anew
Repeat the Law. Teach children to be true.
Remember, relearn, and treasure
How God’s mercy will always pursue.
“Yahweh is God,” the new generation hears,
“He loves you and wants your life to be blessed!
if you obey.” You’re God’s covenant heirs.”
How I see God’s clear lines. It’s we who digress.
Moses, the one “God knew face to face,”
His last words were: “Fear God, love and obey
remember your God, full of power and grace.”
How tender is God. In the grave, Moses He laid.
Hope you enjoyed this! The Bible is alive. It’s eternal and endlessly rich in discoveries. I hope this only makes you want to know Him more! I’d love to hear from you!