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  • Now for the first two talks on this video we're going to tackle things in a rather different

  • way. Instead of taking a book of the Bible, I want first of all to give you an overview

  • of the whole Old Testament. Here we have a collection of books covering about 1000 years

  • written by many different authors and many different types of books. There are history

  • books, law books, song books. How do they all relate together, all 39 of them? I think

  • it's so important to have an overall picture of how these books fit together. God has not

  • given us a topical Bible. Wouldn't it be nice if he had? You know, if the book of Genesis

  • was all about God, and the book of Exodus all about Jesus, and the book of Leviticus

  • all about the Holy Spirit, and if he'd put all the text together under one topic it would

  • save us buying concordances and looking things up from all over. He deliberately didn't give

  • us a Bible like that. He didn't want us to have a Bible like that and so the teaching

  • on any one topic is scattered over the whole Bible. And he didn't want to give us a box

  • full of texts though since chapter and verse numbers have been added to the Bible that's

  • how we treat it, and we pick a text out from here and a text out from there, and just ignore

  • the context so often. Well now, God has given us actually a library

  • of books. The word Bible is a plural word; it comes from the Latin biblia and it means

  • books, not book, so the Bible is not a book it's a library of books and each book is a

  • separate entity. And God wants you to learn his word book by book because that's how he

  • chose to give it to us. If he just wanted to give us a lot of texts, he'd have done

  • that; if he wanted to give us a lot of topics, he'd have done that, but what he did do was

  • give us these books and every text - as we call each verse - is in a context of that

  • book and that book is in a context of history. God gave us his Word in time and space and

  • it's very important to get both dimensions, so that we understand at what time he said

  • this, and in what place he said this, and the time and place give it its meaning because

  • his word was given in life situations. He was always saying something to a particular

  • situation in time and space and those are the two contexts we need. So I thought in

  • this talk I'd give you something of that context. Let's begin with space, and to do that of

  • course we need maps. There is a geography of the Bible as well as a history of the Bible

  • that we need to hold in our minds when we're reading it. And there are really only two

  • maps that we need, a map of the whole Middle East and a map of the Promised Land in the

  • Middle East, and we need to hold these if we can as a picture in our minds. Now the

  • familiar name that is given to the overall map of the Middle East is The Fertile Crescent

  • and that's a phrase you'll read in many books on Bible background. If you can see I've drawn

  • the Crescent, a sort of new moon shape - I've drawn it on this map and what it does is it

  • links two very large rivers at each end - the River Nile and the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates,

  • and those two major river basins produce fertility. So these are very fertile valleys, the Nile

  • Delta and the Nile Valley and then the Tigris and the Euphrates, what used to be called

  • Mesopotamia which means the middle of the rivers: 'Meso' - middle and 'Potamia'

  • - rivers, so between the two rivers - a very fertile plain, very flat. Now then these two

  • fertile areas were the centres of power in the ancient world; these were the east and

  • west world powers. So the whole Old Testament is a struggle between these two world powers

  • - between Egypt and the different empires that arose here notably Assyria and Babylon.

  • That's where Saddam Hussein is now, that's where Iraq and Iran are now. Iran is here,

  • Iraq is over here but they are divided by this river.

  • So we have two world powers in the ancient Middle East and in between, the Promised Land.

  • Now you notice that the Arabian Desert covers all of this and the Sahara there, so when

  • these two big powers attacked each other or tried to overcome each other they had to travel

  • through this narrow bit of land here. I don't know if you can see a rather purply patch

  • here, that is actually black basalt rock which is very sharp and very hard, even camels can't

  • cross it. Which means that all the traffic was directed down this narrow coastal strip.

  • If you didn't want to cross the desert which most didn't, but if you wanted to keep feeding

  • your troops you had to go through the Fertile Crescent, you had to go round that Crescent

  • to the other end to attack your enemy. Which means that this was the crossroads of the

  • world actually. And somebody has said about Israel if you will live in the middle of a

  • crossroads you're bound to get run over - which is exactly what happened. They were constantly

  • being run over. In Jesus' day they were run over by the Romans but before that they'd

  • been run over by the Greeks and the Syrians and the Egyptians and so it goes on. And so

  • here we have two world powers at either end of this Crescent with a narrow corridor down

  • the coast in between and that is the narrow corridor. And God gave them a land at the

  • crossroads of the world. Actually, the road from Europe to Arabia comes down through that

  • corridor and the road from Africa to Asia goes through that corridor. On this map the

  • road from Europe comes down the coast, it crosses the Plain of Esdraelon, goes down

  • into the Jordan Valley and up on to the other side and down to Arabia. The road from Africa

  • comes up the coastal plain and it crosses over the same Vale of Esdraelon or the Valley

  • of Jezreel and goes up through Capernaum and up through Damascus and on to India and China.

  • So that the actual crossroads of the world is precisely there at a little hill called

  • Megiddo and the Hill of Megiddo in Hebrew is Hamageddon; and that's why most of the

  • big battles in history took place there at the crossroads of the world. Overlooking that

  • crossroads is a little village called Nazareth and a boy of Nazareth could watch the world

  • go by. Literally he could lie on the hill as a boy could Jesus and it was like being

  • in an airport lounge where you see all the nationalities coming and going. That's why

  • they call this northern part Galilee of the Nations because it was an international crossroads.

  • Whereas further south up in the hills it was very isolated and very Jewish, and Jerusalem

  • is right up in 'them there hills' just about here. So you had two parts of the Promised

  • Land, the international part where all the nations came and went, and this very Jewish

  • isolated part up in the hills with Jerusalem. So you can see the importance of this land.

  • God was going to plant his people at the crossroads of the world where everybody could see them,

  • where they could be a model of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. So the whole world could

  • see what blessing comes to people living under God's rule, but they would also see what curse

  • comes of disobeying God's rule. So you can see why God chose this land. Now

  • it's a very fertile strip. Here's that black basalt. If you've ever been to Capernaum you've

  • seen the black basalt rock, they used it to build the houses of Capernaum, terribly hard,

  • sharp stuff. And so it was impassable so there was this barrier of sand and basalt rock on

  • the east and the barrier of the sea on the west. All the traffic went down the coast

  • here and through this little break in the hills which we call the Vale of Esdraelon

  • or Hamageddon. Then we have this huge crack right down the earth's surface, right through

  • to Africa, and here is its deepest point. The white bit is below sea level and the Dead

  • Sea is way below. You have the Jordan coming in to this valley and going nowhere, just

  • evaporating from the intense heat. So in this little area the size of Wales you

  • have the entire world in miniature. You've got every kind of climate and every kind of

  • scenery. You will find somewhere in Israel a place like home. In fact the place most

  • like England is just south of Tel Aviv down here, it's just like England. But they call

  • Carmel Little Switzerland and you can always go skiing at any time of year on the snow-capped

  • Mount Hermon up here, and yet 10 minutes later you can be down among palm trees here. All

  • the fauna and flora of Europe is to be found here, all the fauna and flora of Africa is

  • to be found here, all the fauna and flora of Asia is to be found here. So you can have

  • Scottish pine trees growing next to palm trees from the Sahara and in the Bible days all

  • the wild animals were here - lions, bears, crocodiles, camels - you've got the whole

  • world squeezed in to this little point where they all join. Fascinating! I could go on

  • for hours but I must stop. Once you've got a feel of the geography

  • and especially a feel for the shape of the landNow, this is a relief map of the Promised

  • Land. Can you see that deep valley running north-south with a little bit of green on

  • that side and a little bit of green on that side and then the desert? If you master that

  • map and hold it in your mind, you will be able to read every Bible story that takes

  • place in the Promised Land very easily, and you'll know why things happened as they

  • did. And why Samaria was in the middle and why Jesus' main ministry was up in Galilee.

  • Why he was put to death by the Jews - that doesn't mean by all Israelis, it means the

  • people of Judah. And when you read in the Gospel of John that the Jews killed Jesus

  • that doesn't mean all Israel it means the Southerners up in the hills. The Galileans

  • were all for Jesus. It was the Jews, the Judeans, who were against him in the south. So that's

  • the geographical background for the Bible. In the Old Testament we're moving around that

  • Fertile Crescent from one end to the other. Sometimes the people of God are slaves in

  • Egypt, other times they're taken away into Assyria or Babylon at this end, but there

  • they were right in the middle of it all, at the crossroads of the world.

  • Now the other dimension that you need to master is the dimension of time and I've tried to

  • reduce this dimension of time to a very simple pattern that's easily held in your mind. And

  • at first sight that chart must look horrific to you, but as we go through it I think you'll

  • find it's actually very simple. Basically, the Old Testament covers 2000 years of history

  • - BC Before Christ, but there is in Genesis 1 to 11 what we might call the pre-historic

  • part, that means pre-historic to Israel and so in Genesis 1 to 11 we have the creation

  • of the universe, the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, the flood and the tower of Babel.

  • It's all about man generally. It's not about God's chosen people yet; it's about man - the

  • human race - and that's the pre-historic history of Israel - before their history really began.

  • But their history begins around the year 2000 BC, so just as far as we are after Christ,

  • the history of Israel starts before Christ - 2000 years either side, alright?

  • That's our opening date for the history of Israel and I divide it into four equal parts

  • of 500 years each, and we take those four quarters as distinct periods. We mark each

  • of the four dates - 2000, 1500, 1000 and 500 BC with events and people, and I like to give

  • names of people and events to these dates so I fix them in my mind. And so the first

  • four words I've written down are events - Election, Exodus, Empire, Exile - and you've got the

  • four events that mark the four quarters of their history. That's when God chose Abraham

  • and Elected Abraham and his descendants to be his people; that's when Moses led them

  • out of Egypt; that's when they had all the land God promised to them and had a time of

  • unparalleled prosperity and peace, and I've called it the Empire because they not only

  • had their own land but many other nations were now under their control. And then the

  • lowest point of their historyExile. And roughly speaking those four events fit those

  • four dates. Then I attach a prominent person to each of those dates. Abraham is the man

  • to attach to 2000, Moses to 1500 or thereabouts, David to 1000 - he was reigning in the year

  • 1000 BC - and Isaiah is the most prominent man associated with the exile. So, you've

  • got four events and four people. But also, the leadership of Israel changed and the leadership

  • in each of these four periods was different. In the first period they were led by Patriarchs,

  • that's a word for forefathers really - patriarchs from Abraham to Joseph. In the second period

  • they were led by Prophets from Moses to Samuel; in the third 500 years they were led by Princes

  • from Saul to Zedekiah, and in the fourth period they were led by Priests from Joshua who came

  • with Zerubbabel back from the exile right through to Caiaphas in our Lord's day.

  • So you can see that the leadership changed from Patriarchs to Prophets to Princes and

  • then to Priests. Now it doesn't mean there weren't prophets at other times or priests

  • at other times, but the leadership of the nation passed from one group to the other

  • - until Jesus came who was prophet, priest and king all rolled into one. So they tried

  • three different kinds of leadership in their history but they were really looking for someone

  • who could combine all these things in one, and all the leadership failed in the Old Testament.

  • So have you got those four basic periods in your mind? Now once you've got that, the next

  • thing is to put in two gaps - each of them 400 years. The first gap is here, the second

  • gap is here, and during those 400 years, on both occasions God said nothing and he did

  • nothing so there is nothing in your Bible from those two periods. Now of course there

  • are books written in those two periods but they're not in our Bible because they do not

  • cover the time when God was saying and doing things. You see when we read this phrase in

  • the Bible the living God, do you realise what that means? Well did you realise a few years

  • ago what it meant when some theologians started saying God is dead - you heard that phrase?

  • Well, do you realise what they meant? They did not mean that God has ceased to exist

  • - that was a popular misunderstanding. What they meant was God is no longer active in

  • this world; he still exists but he's somewhere else now. As you know my wife and I lost our

  • daughter last July, she was 36. She's dead; that doesn't mean she's ceased to exist.

  • She's alive, she's conscious, she's communicating though she can't communicate with us now.

  • But she's not living now, by that we mean she's not speaking and acting in this world

  • as she was, but she's fully conscious and communicating elsewhere and she's with the

  • Lord, you see? So she's alive but she's not living in this world; as far as this world

  • goes she's dead. Now that's what the living God means and during these two periods God

  • was dead if you like. You see he was not acting in this world he was out of touch and so the

  • books written in these periodswell, the books written in this gap were the Apocrypha

  • and you won't find them in our Bibles. The Catholics put them in their Bibles because

  • they find prayers to the saints, and purgatory in the Apocrypha; that's why they put it in.

  • But in fact it doesn't belong to the Bible because those books were written in a day

  • when God was not living but in these periods he was the living God - he was speaking and

  • acting in our world. Now once you've got those two gaps - that

  • gap occurred in the first quarter, and this gap occurred in the last quarter, and that's

  • why Malachi is the last book in your Bible though there's a 400-year gap before Matthew

  • comes along - because God wasn't saying anything, he wasn't doing anything so we're not interested

  • in the history. It's just like any other history then and similarly here we've got nothing

  • between Genesis and Exodus though there's a 400-year gap there, and we often miss that

  • when we read straight on but Exodus makes it clear there's a 400-year gap. It's interesting

  • what happened during the gapin the gaps when God was silent and inactive. The Egyptian,

  • the Indian and the Chinese culture developed in that gap, and in this gap, you had people

  • like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and the Greek philosophy that's influenced the western

  • world so much; you had Buddha, Confucius and then you had people like Alexander the Great

  • and Julius Caesar. You see, when God isn't busy, man is. And then that's when so much

  • has happened in man's history that's really not of relevance to God because it's what

  • God's history contains that is of importance to us.

  • Now then let's look at some details. Genesis 12 to 50 picks up the first period of Israel's

  • history when they were led by patriarchs, and it's possible that the book of Job comes

  • in there as well. Everything in Job is very much the sort of life that Abraham and Isaac

  • and Jacob lived, the life of the travelling people of those days. Then we come to the

  • next quarter and again we only have a few books from that quarter - Exodus, Leviticus,

  • Numbers, Deuteronomy all from Moses' lifetime, and then Joshua, Judges and Ruth continuing

  • the history of that period. Then we have the Empire days and we have more books: we have

  • the history of the third quarter of their history in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles but

  • we also have some poetic books. David and the book of Psalms, Solomon and Song of Solomon,

  • Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. But after Solomon there was civil war and the 12 tribes divided

  • into two - 10 in the north called themselves Israel, 2 in the south called themselves Judah,

  • and from then on, they didn't have a united nation. There were Prophets during that time,

  • Elijah and Elisha, but they didn't write down for subsequent generations what they prophesied

  • so we don't have books called by them. Then suddenly, we have a flood of books - all prophets

  • and all associated with the Exile and that's when the main books of prophecy are written

  • and some of them prophesied before the exile, some of them during the exile, and some after

  • the exile which tells us how important this event was in their history, the loss of the

  • land God had promised them. These prophets warned them they were going to lose the land.

  • These prophets comforted them when they did lose the land, and these prophets were concerned

  • with rebuilding the land when they came back after 70 years away. We have one or two history

  • books from this period - Daniel and Esther were both about the Jews away from the land

  • when they were in Babylon. Ezra and Nehemiah which we're going to discuss later, they were

  • the two men who helped to rebuild Jerusalem and get the people established back in their

  • own land again. Well now, does that give you a feel of the