Bible in a Nutshell Part 4: OT history (God leads his people)

My intention in doing this series was to post one segment at least once a month. I’ve let more time lapse since the last segment so I thought it would be good to get back to it. A crucial aspect of this series is seeing how God moved on behalf of his creation starting in Genesis to have a snapshot of what the entirety of the Bible is about. Therefore, in order to consider the cohesive story of the 66 books of Scripture, it is imperative to consider the overview (part 1), foundation in Genesis (part 2), and God’s provision through the law (part 3). Continuing on, this post will cover the period of kings known as Old Testament history.

By way of review, what we’ve seen so far leading up to this period is that from the beginning, God gives life to his creation with specific intentions for it to glorify him. As man is made in the image of God, a theme that undergirds Scripture: God will be a God to his people. From the Fall, God’s desire to rescue his people is seen throughout. From the promise of Abraham, comes a people who God rescued, then he gave them a name and then his requirements in the law. In the law, a system of worship was established and office of priest solidified through through which the mediation of God’s presence would occur. This was the whole point of the tabernacle so that God could meet with his people. So we see, as the narrative of God’s story continues, he reveals more of himself–his character, intent, and will.

What started as one man and one woman, evolved into a family, then a nation. As I noted in the last post, the nation of Israel should be seen as a people of God’s possession.

The historical books (Joshua-2 Chronicles) tell of Israel’s conquest of the promised land, life in the land, loss of the land, and return to the land. But there is a component added to this period of Israel’s history that bears a noteworthy mark of God’s revelation concerning his leadership.

With the provision of the law, Israel acknowledged that God was their king

You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. The Lord reigns forever.  (Ex. 15:17-18)

Israel had begun as a nomadic people but with the events that transpire in Joshua and Judges, leading into 1 Samuel that changes. Recall that God always had designated representatives. As Israel went into a more concentrated location and grew, their structure became more solidified under God’s sovereign rulership as did the shape of his rulership under designated representatives. Joshua takes the reigns of leadership into the conquest of the land. Then God appoints judges as a surrogate for his leadership for Israel.

As Israel enters the promise land and this leadership takes shape, an important dynamic is happening that makes this leadership all the more crucial. Two great threats faced Israel: 1) the enemies that rose against them grew stronger and 2) the temptation to follow after other gods grows stronger and more pervasive. Idolatry was a huge problem for the people, where in disobedience to God’s commandments they placed other gods before them.

As the threats grew stronger so did Israel’s desire for protection leading to the request to the prophet Samuel;

Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations. (1 Sam. 8:5)

Of course, this is what God intended all along. But notice the progression. God was their king. They grew numerous, more solidified, but also more rebellious. Then God appointed judges. So now they’re in the land and solid as a nation but given into syncretism and fighting even bigger enemies. So they ask for a king.

In the ancient world, kings held a god-like status. They weren’t just figureheads like what we see in modern times. A king in this context was a mediator who protected the people and ensured the blessings of the gods. God not only takes this concept (in my opinion originated with him anyway) but turns it into his representation. God’s leadership will involve someone who will serve as that mediator, covenant representative according to the promise he made to Abraham.

This is what makes the kingship of David so significant in relationship to what God ultimately would do through the Son. Though Israel was motivated by their own self-interest (a theme that continues through Old Testament history) and chose Saul, God chose David, a most unlikely candidate. This is a theme also repeated throughout Scripture; God’s ways are higher than our ways.

The battle with Goliath was not a model for us to fight our own Goliaths as far too many have preached. Rather, it demonstrates God’s protection of his people through this unlikely covenant representative. God is demonstrating that he is the defeater of Israel’s fiercest foes, a foreshadow that will come through the Son.

Here’s the connection we can’t miss. With Israel’s greatest enemies now defeated, David indicates his desire to build a house for placement of the ark of the covenant (2 Sam. 7:1-3). But God has bigger plans and gives David a promise  in accordance with this ultimate work fulfilled through Christ found in vv. 9-16. This portion is worth highlighting;

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but by steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, who I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever. (2 Sam. 7:12-16)

God will not let David build him a house. Instead, God is saying he is the one building the house that will have an eternal throne. The house replaces the tabernacle, the meeting of God with his people. The law which he gave to the people encompassing the ceremonial rituals by which God binds his presence, his dwelling with his people, will now have a central location and endure forever.  With this promise, God is providing political leadership over his covenant people through designated representatives, successors of David’s throne.

This kingship was expected to honor God according to his promise and his law. In this manner, kings would lead God’s people. Conversely, this kingship was subject to discipline in the face of disobedience and that’s exactly what we see transpire through the history of Israel’s kings. Unfaithfulness led first to the division of the kingdom under Solomon (10 tribes in the northern kingdom and 2 in the southern kingdom). Because of persistent rebellion, the northern kingdom get conquered by Assyria and the people scattered in 722 BC. About 150 years later, the Southern kingdom gets captured by the Babylonians and people taken into captivity. They get to return but guess what’s missing? Kingship. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther cover this post-exilic period.

In light of this rebellion and loss, God is still faithful to preserve his covenant promises, promises that hark back to Gen. 3:15 and progressively take shape through the pages of the Old Testament.  This sets the stage for what the prophetic books are about, which I’ll cover in Part 5.

A note on wisdom literature

Recall from the Part 1: Overview, that according to 2 Tim. 3:16, God is breathing out his word through the pens of men who are writing in their own style. Therefore, we must consider the genre and how it is to be read. The wisdom literature comprises different types. For instance, Proverbs gives us instruction, Job and Ecclesiates give us a pondering of life. Psalms gives us a songbook. The Psalms serve as a vehicle for the prayers and praises of God’s people, Israel, which means us today as those grafted into the true of Israel of God.

Here’s a quote from my ESV study Bible that I think provides a good way of thinking about wisdom literature;

What the books and outlooks have in common . . . is a keen interest in the way the world works, humanity’s place within it, and how all this operates under God’s creative, sovereign care. Biblical wisdom then might be defined as skill in the art of godly living, or more fully, that the orientation which allows one to live in harmonious accord with God’s ordering of the world. And wisdom literature consists of those writings that reflect on or inform that orientation.

I have found this tendency to detach the wisdom books from the narrative of the Bible and even separate from the gospel itself. But if we understand that God’s revelation is anchored in the redemption of his world, then we must place all of the wisdom literature in context of that ordering. This has everything to do with how we live out life as ambassadors of Christ.

We can also see God’s revelation of Christ particularly in the Psalms that give us glimpses of Messianic promises. For instance,

The Lord says to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies. (Ps. 110:1-2)

Who sits at God’s right hand? Thus, we see a connection of the promises given to David regarding God’s eternal throne and the ultimate fulfiller of that promise.



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