John 1:1-4, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
What are we most thankful for in life? I would say it is the good things of life. An Old Testament word for what the good things in life are is blessing. We are most thankful for our blessings. And blessings are what make life good. Ok, what are they?
What are our blessings? And what is our biggest blessing? Another way to say it is, what are our best gifts? Or what is our best gift? And that merges the Thanksgiving season and the Christmas season! We are most thankful for Christ, or at least, we should be. And Jesus is God’s greatest gift to us? How do we know this? Because Jesus is the source of life. He is my greatest blessing. There is no comparison. That is what John is getting at in this passage of Scripture that we are going to look at today.
We do not always see things this way, and the reason why is that people do not always desire what will give them life. It’s a very real problem.
Ok, so Jesus is the Word made flesh, what does that mean?
The Greek word for word is Logos. It stands at the heart of the word logic and basically refers to communication. Communication from God means revelation. So, Jesus is the revelation of God. Is God there? What is God like? What does God expect from people? What if I do not submit?
But, God has already revealed Himself, before the Word became flesh. For example, Hebrews 1: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
And that is what I want to talk about this morning, the Word of God, so that when we say that Jesus is the Word of God we will have a greater idea what that means.
- The Divisions of the Bible: Old Testament and New Testament
Context question: To whom is this written?
- Testament means covenant relationship
Covenant is an extremely important term because it indicates how a relationship with God works within an old cultural context. And that indicates the overall theme of the Bible. What is the nature of man’s relationship with the God that he cannot see? How can we live our lives best?
- Divisions of the Old Testament
- The Law, also known as the Torah or Pentateuch: The first five books. Think of them as a unit with one overarching purpose. The making of the nation of Israel and establishment of them as the covenant people of God. The Torah is like the Gospels of the Old Testament! What has God done to bring life and salvation to people? This is found in the Torah.
- The prophets: This is the bulk of the Old Testament books. It would include the books that we would think of as historical as well as the books that we would think of as prophetic. So, beginning with Joshua, the sixth book, all of the books up to but not including Job and then following the Song of Solomon, the remaining books which are called the Major and Minor Prophets. The one overarching purpose of these books is an evaluation of the people of God relative to how they keep their part of the covenant and then God’s response to their covenant responsibilities.
- The writings: Also called “wisdom literature”. This includes Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. These books are very practical in nature and provide a personal and psychological understand of a covenant relationship with God. They are the most accessible and popular books of the Old Testament.
Moses and Elijah appear on the Mount of Transfiguration: The Law and the Prophets.
- What is a Covenant?
Before talking about any book specifically, we should talk about the concept of covenant, because it is the key to understanding the topical framework of the Bible.
Covenant is the metaphorical picture of what all of us accept if we have a relationship with God.
- A covenant is an agreement between two parties. We have covenant agreements in our culture, marriage being the most obvious one.
- The covenant between God and “His people” is unequal (based upon a suzerain vassal covenant).
The suzerain is in the position of power and dictates terms of the covenant. This is why the concept of God as creator is so important. It places God in the position of dictating the terms of a relationship with Him.
- A covenant has specific parts (these can be seen clearly in the book of Deuteronomy) that we can see.
- Covenants are based on the actions of the stronger party.
They initiate the covenant, and all responsibilities of the weaker party are based upon what the suzerain has done. For example: God makes a covenant with Adam based upon what He has done in creation. God makes a covenant with Noah based upon saving him through the flood. God makes a covenant with Abraham, based upon his blessing. God makes a covenant with the nation of Israel based upon His delivering them from Egypt. And God makes a covenant with us based upon what Jesus has done. God’s work “obligates us.” If we were righteous in our behavior, then our work would obligate God.
- Every covenant has stipulations. If the vassal (weaker party) is to be in relationship with the stronger, then they must accept the dictated terms of their relationship. The stronger tells the weaker what their relationship will be. And so every covenant has rules that the weaker party must follow. This is the law. Adam had one law, Noah had laws expressed in Genesis 9. Abraham was told to go to the land, and the nation of Israel was given many laws found in Exodus through Deuteronomy.
Gal 6: 2 “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What is the Law of Christ?
John 13: 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
- Every covenant has promises both negative and positive based upon it being followed by the vassal. Blessings come from the suzerain to those who obey, cursing comes to those who disobey. Complete obedience is the standard. And this ultimately is the issue of quality of life for the follower of the covenant.
- Every covenant has a formal acceptance by the vassal.
- Every covenant has signs that accompany it. Noah’s rainbow, Abraham and Israel circumcision, Christians, baptism and communion.
So, all of the Bible is meant to express how we can relate to a God that we cannot see. And this instruction is given the topical framework of a covenant.
III. Divisions in the Torah
As a metaphor, think of the Torah as being like the Gospels of the Old Testament. They contain the salvation stories and set the foundation for all of the rest of the Old Covenant. They express what God has done in establishing a covenant with people.
- Genesis divisions: The word means beginnings and that is what it refers to. Genesis itself sets the stage for all of the rest of the Old Testament. Now, the setting into which Genesis is directed is important for us to understand it. The Law is given to Moses, and Moses is seen in the rest of the Bible as the writer of the first five books. That would mean that Genesis is written to the Nation of Israel. (For example, the name for God is YHWH, Yahweh. This name is given to Moses in Exodus 3 but is used for God in Genesis 2.) So, read it from the perspective of a Hebrew slave recently delivered from Egypt and so adopting a “new” worldview that is not Egyptian, but Biblical. (Perhaps this is why the sun is described as created on day four in Genesis one, and why light is the more profound idea, not the physical star.)
Genesis 1-11: The Beginnings of Israel before Patriarchs
Genesis can be divided into two main parts, there are actually many natural divisions in the book that begin or end, depending of your perspective with the following phrase: “This is the account of …” first example is Genesis 2:4 Those phrases mark transitions in the book. But I don’t think they are the most important division, that for me is the division between Genesis chapters 1-11 and the rest of the book.
And the reason I make that distinction is that the major themes of the entire Bible are found in Genesis 1-11. It sets the stage for all of the rest of human history in man’s relationship with God. Those 11 chapters are the introduction to Genesis and they are the introduction to the Bible. They are of supreme importance. And they are very old stories. This division is indicated to me based upon the time frame of Genesis. The first 11 chapters cover thousands of years. And in chapter 12 the story of Abraham which takes up fourteen chapters covers a hundred or so years. So, the narrative becomes much more specific to individuals and therefore, historical, and less of what I would call topical based upon a story itself.
A word about stories: Why stories? Stories last. People remember stories. For thousands of year, even multiple tens of thousands if you accept an old earth, people conveyed and remembered information and stories are the vehicle. There is no “written” record. Because there is no writing. This is what is true in human history as a whole. If you have taken a class on Western Civilization, you should know that this is true.
What makes a story true? Or in what sense is a story true? A story has a point to convey. That is its interpretation, its meaning. That is what is either true or false.
Genesis 12-50: The Patriarchs: How Israel Got to Egypt
The stories here give us information that relates to how a relationship with God works. YHWH is the God is Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The book ends with Israel in Egypt, doing well.
“What you meant for evil, God means for good.”
- Exodus: The fact of slavery in Egypt, the deliverance from Egypt, Moses established as God’s leader, the institution of the covenant with Yahweh, and the stipulations of the covenant. All of that and a description of a people who do not do well obeying the covenant.
- Leviticus: All law all the time, no historical narrative. Information to follow if folks want a healthy relationship with God.
Be aware that the law is divided up into three topical areas. There is the moral law, there is the governmental law and there is the priestly or temple law. This can make application of the law from old to new covenant tricky.
- D. Numbers: Historical narrative mixed with more specific laws. The key story deals with the refusal of the people to enter the Promised Land because they would not trust God. The great judgement of Israel in the wilderness results. All but a few die. And even Moses will not enter the Promised Land.
- Deuteronomy The word literally means second law. Deuteronomy is the restatement of the covenant between God and Israel with the folks who have grown up in the wilderness. This book is the more digested picture of what a covenant is, and is to me like the Gospel of John with the other Gospels. It is more topical and theological than the other books of the Law.
Having a correct understanding of the Torah, we can rightly see the rest of the Old Testament as a commentary on the relationship between the Nation of Israel and Yahweh. The law judges the actions of God’s people and produces blessings and curses. And in all of this the great glory of the stories is the revelation of the nature of God Himself so that we might participate in a practical way just as they did.
The Old Testament books are basically historically sequential up through Nehemiah. The rest of the books following Nehemiah are basically inserted into the historical context of the earlier text in one place or another. For example, the Psalms of David would fall into the historical context of I and II Samuel. I and II Kings and I and II Chronicles are overlapping texts.
What is God like? What does God expect from people? What if I do not submit?
God has already revealed Himself, before the Word became flesh. For example, Hebrews 1: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Jesus is the heir of all Old Covenant revelation. It all comes to fruition in Christ. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. (a Moses reference and a transfiguration reference). Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being. Jesus sustains all things by His Word! Jesus has provided purification for sins.