The Bible Explained

Introduction

I think there are two possible audiences for this piece.  The first knows next to nothing about the Bible and is looking for a Cliffs Notes version.  They will perhaps be satisfied that they’ve found one.  The second knows quite a few of the Bible’s stories but hasn’t yet seen them in the context of an overarching narrative.  For these, too, there might be some revelation – that there is a fair bit more in its pages than that Christ died so that you can go to His heaven.

I’ve spent enough time studying the Bible over the past many years to know its stories.  Yet, for me, there always seemed to be discontinuities whose resolutions were needed to link those narratives into God’s whole.  Though I remain humble and open to additional insights, I think I now, at long last, understand the answers to most of those questions.  For now, at least, I feel relatively confident that the story of God with His people that I now understand is accurate and reliable, and why God purposed to leave it for us in His text.

I also understand that even just summarizing this story requires a significant amount of explanation.  But, please take the time to follow the collection to its end.  For my part, I have found no comparable explanations of the Christian narrative laid out as a single whole.  So, for that reason, if nothing else, it is worth your time to read through to the end.

Premise

Biblical scholars tend to be specialists in one or more specific aspects of the book; perhaps Hebrew poetry or other literary forms it uses; ancient Jewish culture and thought; the semantics of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek, and the etymology of its languages’ words, and so on.  And then, of course, there are the theological scholars who attempt to abstract and bring out its truths that may be obscured to modern, western readers by translation, historical misunderstandings, etc., in an attempt to reveal God’s nature underlying the stories.  Looking at the text either in finite detail or reading into it abstractions of God’s nature, can become an exercise in missing the forest for the trees.

To understand the Bible, I believe we have to approach it as a single, grand meta-narrative.  True, it is a compilation of hundreds of smaller narratives, with each presenting its own bit of insight into the overarching reality of God interacting with His humanity.  But maintaining the perspective of the grand meta-narrative during its study, to me, helps the individual, discreet stories be integrated more intelligibly with one another, and speak more powerfully, than simply considering them in isolation.

The Bible’s Big Questions

Perhaps the biggest question related to the Bible posed by secularists is whether or not God exists.  Since that question can’t be objectively answered, we’re simply going to assume here, along with the Bible, that He does.

Other questions on the secularist’s list include a series of what can only be called “curiosities” that are introduced by the texts:

  • Where is/was the Garden of Eden?
  • Why are there two Creation stories?
  • Who were the “Sons of God” in Gen 6?
  • Where is Noah’s Ark?
  • Where is the Ark of the Covenant?
  • What happened to the Lost Tribes of Israel?
  • …and other similar unexplained situations broached in the Bible

But curiosities like these aren’t our focus here.  We’ve got more cosmic issues in mind, issues like:

  • What is our nature?
  • Why do we – why does anything – exist?
  • Why was Israel chosen by God for salvation from Egyptian bondage?
  • What does Israel’s history teach us about our faithfulness to God, and His to us?
  • What did God say His answer to our rebellious nature would be?
  • Why was Jesus, and His death and resurrection, necessary?
  • How are we adopted into God’s (eternal) family?

The History of Humanity’s Inhumanity

The failure of humanity to trust and follow God started immediately.  Even before eating of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Eve made the judgment that it was “good” (Gen 3:6), in contradiction to God’s instruction.  (Notice, the sin here is not eating the fruit.  It’s ignorning God’s instruction and boldly contradicting His insight that if you eat of it “you will surely die”, instead judging it “good”.)

The next failure we see is in Adam and Eve’s progeny – Cain – murdering his brother Abel (Gen 4:8). Adam’s descendant Lamech (9 generations later) murders a man (Gen 4:23-24), and his son Noah, though righteous compared to the general population, celebrates his redemption from the flood (what has been called the “de-creation”) by getting drunk (Gen 9:20-25) and falling into some debauched state[i] via his son Ham.

Five generations after Noah we have Peleg and the construction of the city of Babylon (the preeminent symbol of evil in the Hebrew Bible) and its people’s avowed desire to build a tower into heaven, encroaching into the place of God’s habitation.

Five generations after Peleg and the dispersion of the Babel builders throughout the world we arrive at Abram.

Figure 1[ii] presents an outline of the Creation-Cosmic Rebellion narratives of Genesis 1-11.  It helps allow us to step back from the text to see the overall pattern of themes presented in these first chapters.

And what we find (unsurprisingly in ancient Jewish literature) is a repetition of a pattern of God’s creating and blessing of humanity; humanity’s failure to obey God; criminal sin (“Failure”) of the next generation following the disobedience, resulting in a splitting of the family; several subsequent generations whom God does not choose for blessing; a subsequent generation that is chosen for blessing; a “Cosmic” rebellion against God (i.e. angels, all humanity) leading to judgment (i.e. de-creation) by God; the establishment of a “new” Creation/”new” humanity by God through the blessed generation; and repeat.

Figure 1: Outline of Genesis 1-11

What the author of Genesis wants us to get out of this repetitive pattern (of (re-)creation of a new humanity, sin/failure, the next generation fails/sins, ensuing generations not chosen of God, God chooses one faithful, cosmic rebellion) is a fundamental understanding of the tension between the nature of humanity, and God’s intention for it.  The first five chapters establish the pattern; the sixth through eleventh expand on and underscore that pattern by repeating its application but to an entirely different set of people and circumstances, for emphasis. 

And this pattern sets the stage for the entirety of the Hebrew Bible.  Virtually all of its heroes and heroines, even those chosen ultimately for blessing, rebel against the obedience sought by God (e.g. Cain, Lamech, Noah, Ham, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Rachel, Joseph’s brothers, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Saul, David and virtually all the Kings of Israel, etc., etc.)

And the pattern of a judgment of exile (e.g. out of the Garden, dispersed from Babel, from Canaan into Egypt, from Israel into Assyria, from Judah into Babylon) in response to episodes of “cosmic” rebellion is firmly established.

Why, then, Create Humanity?

Surely no behavior of people, from Eve to Judas and Pontius Pilate, surprised their Creator.  So if God knew the rebellious nature of His humanity, why did He create us?

Why does anything, including us, exist?  We have to conclude that God desired for us to exist, and so saw to it.  But why?

Let’s first simply start with the fact that God did create.

We find that having launched the six-day creation process (Gen 1), God found each day’s result “good”.  And when He was done on the seventh day, having created humanity (“120. אָדָם ‘āḏām: A masculine noun meaning a male, any human being, or generically the human race.”), He found the overall result was “very good”.

And we learn something more about His creation of us.  Gen 1:27 says:

[27] So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

So there is something kindred between ourselves and the One who created us.  Whatever is meant by “his own image”, we are in that respect “of a piece” with Him – in some way related.  This is something we need to account for in uncovering God’s biblical meta-narrative.

One conclusion we could draw based only on this information is that God desired the humanity He created to possess some innate basis, some likeness, for relating to Him; something in their design and makeup that enabled them to relate to (i.e. interact with) Him as their author.

Not until we get to the narrative of God’s redemption of the Hebrews from Egypt do we catch another glimpse of His intention and purpose for His people.

Throughout the Exodus narrative, we repeatedly read, especially in the plague narratives, that God wants the Hebrews freed to serve Him[iii] (rather than continuing to serve Pharaoh).  Just one of these declarations is in Ex 4:22-23:

[22] Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, [23] and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

So we see that, at least for the Hebrews that God was claiming as His “firstborn son”, their mission was to serve Him.  But how, exactly?  By offering sacrifices in the desert for three days?  Or did He have something else in mind?

He had something quite different in mind.  In Dt 7:6 He reveals His motivation:

[6] “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. [7] It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, [8] but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. [9] Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

To connect the dots, we have to return to Genesis and see the “oath that he swore to your fathers” – specifically Abraham.

Abraham’s Promise/Covenant

Abraham, for the uninitiated, was the man who fathered the nations of Israel (through son Isaac) and the Arab nations (through son Ishmael).  He was specifically called by God out of his homeland (Gen 12:1-3):

 [12:1] Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. [2] And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. [3] I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

We have a similar declaration in Gen 22:17-18:

[17] I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, [18] and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Here we need to put a stake in the ground. This is a key guidepost in marking out God’s overarching plan.  God says that “in/through you, all the families (4940. מִשְׁפָּחָה mišpāḥāh: A feminine noun meaning an extended family, a tribe, a clan. It is a group in which there is a close blood relationship), and all the nations (1471. גּוֹי gôy, גּוֹיִם gôyim, הַגּוֹיִם hāggôyim: A masculine noun meaning nation, people, Gentiles, country.) of the earth shall be blessed.  That’s pretty comprehensive and unequivocal. 

So Abram/Abraham is a very, very important part of God’s overarching plan for humanity, not just the tiny fragment of it called “Israel”.  God is on His way to blessing everyone.  And somehow, Abram, and his descendants, are intimately involved.

Having called him from his homeland He leads him to Canaan with his nephew Lot.  There He declares (Gen 13:14-18):

[14] The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, [15] for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. [16] I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. [17] Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” [18] So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.

So we learn that Abraham’s descendants will inherit what was then the land of Canaan and that they will become a multitude.  Later (Gen 15:7-15) we get additional information.  Specifically, we see that Abraham’s offspring (through Isaac) will be afflicted in a foreign land (Gen 15:13);

[13] Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.

So this verse provides the prophetic context for Israel’s eventual subjugation in Egypt some 200 years before it began, and 600 years before Moses finally secures their release.  Unfortunately for Abraham, he won’t live to see his progeny return to and occupy the land promised to him (Gen 15:15).

The Sought Role of Israel

So, returning to Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, what do we find about their intended role with their God (aside from being His “servants”).  Exodus 19:6 says:

[6] and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

Holy (6918. קָדוֹשׁ qāḏôš:) means divinely set apart for God’s purposes.  Unfortunately, this fragment of humanity seemingly wasn’t capable of this commission, just as each of the generations of its ancestors had not been.  In fact, following their rebellion at Mt. Horeb and refusal to enter Canaan after their redemption from Egypt, we get an exile judgment for them from God – that none of that generation (save for Jacob and Caleb) would live to enter the promised land of Canaan (Num 32:11-13).  Instead, they’ll be led through the wilderness for forty years, a kind of de-creation episode, until all in the exodus generation have died off and been replaced by a new generation – a new humanity.  Echos of the Flood story.

Later, the prophet Isaiah records God’s intention for humanity with these words (Is 43:6-7):

[6] I will say to the north, Give up,

and to the south, Do not withhold;

bring my sons from afar

and my daughters from the end of the earth,

[7] everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.”

So God’s purpose for His humanity is quite clear.  We see His desire for a kingdom of priests, those who would mediate between God and the rest of humanity.  Theoretically, their role would be as any priest: organizing and overseeing the worship activities of the people for their God, teaching about God, and preserving their holy, set-apart condition.

And we see that those who are “called by my name” (ostensibly, the same group of people; the holy nation we assume is Israel) God created “for my glory”.  He doesn’t tell us how, exactly, He intends to be glorified by this nation.  Only that that’s His motivation. 

I find it very interesting that these are God’s words given to Isaiah, who lived and wrote about the time of the Assyrian conquest of the northern tribes – perhaps 700 BC.  By this time God had a couple of millennia of experience with His willful, rebellious humanity, and specifically with Israel’s repeated violation of the covenant God had established with them through Moses seven or eight hundred years earlier.

So God was not naive about expecting some miraculous change in their nature.  He knew who He was dealing with.  Yet, He still says that by them (Israel) He’s going to be glorified.  This is another important marker to drive into the landscape of the Bible.  Something big is going to happen.

God’s Faithfulness

Another major underlying theme in the Bible is the intense premium God places on faithfulness: His own, and His people’s (e.g. see Dt 7:9, Ps 36:5, 89:8, 119:90, La 3:22-23, Rom 3:3, 1 Cor 1:9, 10:9, 10:13, 2 Thes 3:3, Heb 10:23). 

As we saw with God’s promise to Abraham of the land for his descendants, God did what He had to do to remain faithful to His promise; by enlisting Moses, by demonstrating His power to Pharaoh, by saving the Hebrews out of Egypt and through the sea, and leading them to the promised land.  God’s fidelity to Abraham’s land promise was unimpeachable.

We should pause to note, however, that His promise that Abraham/Abraham’s ‘offspring’ would become a blessing to all the families/nations of the earth, remained elusive throughout the Israelite period. 

There are at least two ways to interpret this promise: 1) that Jesus Christ was its fulfillment, through whom God’s grace was extended to the Gentiles – the nations, or; 2) that those of the nations that blessed Israel (Gen 12:3) were in turn blessed by being exposed to Israel’s God, YHWH.

The problem with this latter interpretation is that, while Judaism always accommodated proselytes, it was designed physically and culturally to maintain a separation between the Israelites and the Gentiles.  Contact with Gentiles caused the faithful Israelite to be judged defiled, not ritually, per se, but socially. Maintaining separation from the nations (goyim) doesn’t seem like a strategy God would use to demonstrate his faithfulness to Abraham.

Not seeing evidence of the fulfillment of Abraham’s “blessing to the nations” prophecy, Biblical writers continued to look for it in the future.  For example, Ezekiel, around the time of the Babylonian exile (a near-bottom in the experience of the Israelite people) saw this: Eze 36

[26] And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. [27] And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. [28] You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Around the same time, Jeremiah saw this prophetic outcome: Jer 31:31-34

[31] “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, [32] not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. [33] For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [34] And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Here we see the redemption of Israel being prophesied, assumedly following the Babylonian exile experience.  But where is their (Abraham’s) blessing to “the nations”?

It’s quite easy to think that if all Israel was to be transformed by God into “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” as He originally sought, they would, indeed, become a blessing to their surrounding “nations”. And we can’t forget Joel, chapter 2:

[28] “And it shall come to pass afterward,

that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,

and your young men shall see visions.

[29] Even on the male and female servants

in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

Joel says God’s spirit will be poured out on “all flesh”.  While the prophecies of Ezekiel and Jeremiah seem targeted at Israel, Joel’s is not.  Could they all have been seeing the same thing and interpreting it in their unique contexts?  That seems plausible. 

The political context of the time was Babylon’s invasion of Judah, its conquest, and the Israelites’ subsequent exile out of their land.  If you were a Jew, it was cataclysmic.  For him, all of God’s eternal promises to the nation seemed to have been torn up and forgotten.  For him, it was akin to his ancestors’ expulsion from the Garden, the Flood, dispersion from Babel, expulsion from Canaan to Egypt, or exile to the wilderness.

But the prophets say, “No.  This judgment is the precursor to a seminal redemptive action by a faithful God.  Expect it.”  If this exile theme is seen in the context of the Genesis pattern we saw earlier, then we should expect a future event leading to another “New Humanity”.

People’s Unfaithfulness

Meanwhile, what of the people’s faithfulness – to God?

As we saw in the first few chapters of Genesis, above, a pattern of rebellious or just disobedient behavior was established by humanity from the very beginning.  And it persisted through all the subsequent generations down through the apostate Israelites, leading to their division, conquest by foreigners, and exile out of their land.

However, the Bible reveals something else to us besides wholesale apostasy which is crucially important for us to recognize in order to uncover its meta-narrative.

Beginning at least with the book of Ruth, we are introduced to, lo and behold, faithful, guileless, sincere people who trust God.

By the time we get to Isaiah’s book, we start to see God’s differentiation in His proclamations concerning these faithful (“my servants”, “my people”, “the righteous”, etc.) and unfaithful Israel (“Jerusalem”, “Judah”, “the wicked”, etc.)  One has to be careful with Isaiah, as often God’s original affection for the ethnic nation bursts through, confusing the reader’s understanding of God condemning the same “Israel” a few verses later.  (This paper offers an approach to discerning which is which.)  The bottom line for us in understanding the big picture is that there remained some of Israel who were consistently faithful to their LORD.

We can also see evidence of God’s preservation of these faithful, for example in 1 Kings 19:18:

[18] Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

God speaks of His “faithful remnant” of the people, those who will return from their exile to Israel in Is 10:20-23:

[20] In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. [21] A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. [22] For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. [23] For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.

So what seems to have been the case from the beginning is that while there were a majority of people who had no interest whatsoever in obeying a remote, moral God, there were always some who were faithful to Him, or at least desirous of being faithful to Him, despite their indiscretions.  In other words, their heart’s desire was to be faithful, despite sometimes succumbing to their humanity – e.g. Noah, Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, etc. 

It was these (and others who never made it into the Bible’s narrative) that God called “my chosen”, “my servants” and, occasionally, even “Israel” itself (Je 31:7, Mi 2:12, Zep 3:13).  And apparently, He had a direct hand in seeing to the preservation of their faithfulness throughout the generations of Israel.

Another Prophecy

There is another nagging prophecy in the Hebrew Bible that remained, for the Israelites, unfulfilled (and that they believe remains unfulfilled today).  Zec 8:3:

Thus says the LORD: I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain.

Zechariah made this prophecy of God’s future return to Zion about the time of Israel’s release from exile in Babylon (around 520 BC).  God’s presence had abandoned Israel with His exit from their Temple in the time of Ezekiel just before or during the Babylonian invasion, who recounts the event here: Eze 11:

[22] Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. [23] And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city. [24] And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me in the vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to the exiles. Then the vision that I had seen went up from me. [25] And I told the exiles all the things that the LORD had shown me.

So the future return of God to Zion (in Zec 8:3) following the de-creation of the exiles, becomes hugely significant in the Bible’s story of God and His people.  Let’s put a stake in the Biblical ground here, too.

Prophecy of The Advent of the Redeeming Messiah

As I have noted elsewhere, the Bible knows of many Messiahs.  Everyone who was anointed for service to God in the Hebrew Bible was, technically, a messiah (4899. מָשִׁיחַ māšiyaḥ).  And the designation, to the casual reader, may seem quite indiscriminate: from Aaron and his sons, to Samuel, to Jesse and his sons including David, Saul, etc. Even Cyrus the Persian was anointed into God’s service (Is 45:1).

But there is a prophesied Davidic Messiah that is the focus of our attention.  What was this messiah to do?  Let’s look at a few prophetic passages referring to Him. Is 9:6-7

[6] For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

[7] Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Is 11:1-5

 [11:1] There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

[2] And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

[3] And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

[4] but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

[5] Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,

and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

Je 23:5-6

[5] “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. [6] In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

And, finally (for now), Mi 2:5

[2] But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me

one who is to be ruler in Israel,

whose coming forth is from of old,

from ancient days.

Now, of course, these passages are debated as to who they refer to.  For example, some argue that the Micah verse is a reference either to God Himself, or to Hezekiah (a descendant of David, though Hezekiah’s birthplace is not known).

These verses paint a picture that established the expectations of the Isralites (meaning the ethnic nation in total) for this future King/ruler.  If “Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely” then, they reasoned, this King will defeat our oppressive rulers, whether Assyria or Babylon or the Persians or the Romans.

There are literally dozens of other “prophetic” verses that Christians use to stake their claim that these announcements of Israel’s Messiah are in fact predictions of Jesus of Nazareth.  But they tend to be a bit more pedestrian that these ‘high’ prophecies (e.g. bought for 30 pieces of silver, etc.)

There is another ‘high’ prophecy that contains some additional information concerning the advent of this Messiah.  Ps 2:

[2:1] Why do the nations rage

and the peoples plot in vain?

[2] The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,

[3] “Let us burst their bonds apart

and cast away their cords from us.”

[4] He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the Lord holds them in derision.

[5] Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

and terrify them in his fury, saying,

[6] “As for me, I have set my King

on Zion, my holy hill.

[7] I will tell of the decree:

The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have begotten you.

[8] Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

and the ends of the earth your possession.

[9] You shall break them with a rod of iron

and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

[10] Now therefore, O kings, be wise;

be warned, O rulers of the earth.

[11] Serve the LORD with fear,

and rejoice with trembling.

[12] Kiss the Son,

lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Here God refers to this Messiah as “the/my Son”; says “today I have begotten you”; says that He has set Him as “King on Zion, my holy hill.”  So He will be called God’s Son – the Son of God; He will be not “born” but “begotten” (3205. יָלַד yālaḏ, לֵדָה lēḏāh).  Now, this word has several connections to the physical birth of humans, but it also can have the sense of being inserted into the geneaology of another, in this case God Himself.  Christ is God’s Son; His family.

There are other prophecies to pay attention to having to do with this Messiah.  First and foremost we have a statement as to when He would come. Dan 9:26 says that 490 years after the Jews return to Judah (in three waves from 538 BC to 444 BC, during which the Temple was rebuilt in 516 BC.) He would be “cut off” (i.e. killed).  And this was before the “city and the sanctuary” were once again destroyed, which occurred at the hands of Titus in 70 AD.  So this Messiah had to have lived before 70 AD which Jesus did.

In addition, we have Isaiah’s compelling “Servant Song” in Is 52:1353:12.  It is nearly impossible to read this “song” now knowing the history of Jesus and not conclude that Isaiah was foretelling Jesus’ life, suffering, and death.

Jesus Inaugurates The New Covenant

We saw that a new covenant was prophesied by Jerimiah, Ezekiel, and Joel (not to mention Moses in Dt. 30:6) in which God would act to place knowledge of Him and a “heart of flesh” with which to love Him within (Joel’s) “all” people.

Jesus announces in Lk 22:20 at His “last supper”:

[20] And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

In other words, He’s announcing that by His death (the shedding of His blood) He would inaugurate God’s New Covenant[iv].  And we have to acknowledge that when He spoke these words, Jesus was sitting in Jerusalem, which was a focal point of His ministry as well as the place of His trial and crucifixion, so fulfilling Zechariah’s (Zec 8:3) prophecy we noted earlier.

The writer of Hebrews similarly concludes that Jesus was the initiation of the New Covenant.  Heb 9:15

[15] Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

And Heb 8:6-9:

[6] But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. [7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

[8] For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,

when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel

and with the house of Judah,

[9] not like the covenant that I made with their fathers

on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

For they did not continue in my covenant,

and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.

So the gist here is that Israel has consistently violated the “first” (meaning the Mosaic) covenant – the one they agreed to obey at Mt. Horeb (Ex 19:8).  And so the New Covenant has been enacted to not only provide a way for chosen Israel to be redeemed but all the nations, as promised to Abraham.  God has been faithful to His promises.  And His Son was His agent in accomplishing His promise, for those who believed His Gospel and trusted Him.

Paul tells us that those who believed the Gospel of Christ, were those who became members of Christ’s body (1 Cor 12:27).  And those “in Christ” through faith, both Paul (Gal 4:5, Rom 8:15) and John (1:12) say become members of God’s family:

[12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

Tying Things Together

Here we’ve tried to show the Bible’s pattern of humanity’s unfaithful interaction with their God; His judgment of them, typically involving some form of exile; His mercy on and reprieve of them via a new “chosen” one or family; their restoration; their subsequent unfaithfulness, and repeat.

God recognized the inability of humanity to be faithful to Him from the beginning.  And so, as early as Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, God (in this case through Moses) stated His intention to change them Himself: Dt 30:6

[6] And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

God’s understanding of the inability of humanity to, by themselves, and of their own resources, live in obedience to Him is the story of the Bible.  A tiny remnant of Israel did remain faithful over the generations, and out of them came the man Jesus, in fulfillment of several ancient prophecies.  And He, through His life, death, and resurrection inaugurated God’s New Covenant.

The revolution of this covenant compared to its predecessors is that God Himself extended to all mankind (not just Israel) the ability to live obediently to Him through His gift – the grace – of His Holy Spirit and so be adopted into His family, only made possible by the life, sacrifice, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This, in brief, is the message of the Bible.  It is the story of God’s desire for, and ultimate achievement of, His goal of establishing a holy family with whom to share His life. 

We’ve only just scratched the surface of this overarching story.  The Bible contains hundreds and hundreds of interrelated narratives that each fit into this larger story and add to its depth. I encourage you to study and reflect on these stories for your own edification.


[i] The bible isn’t explicit as to what the failing was in this narrative.  Some say it was simply one of Noah being in a state of dishonor (within a culture that was highly attuned to honor and shame).  Others claim Ham initiated a sexual act with either Noah, his father, or potentially the rape of his mother.  Either way, it was not Noah’s finest hour of obedience.

[ii] Taken from the notes of the online course “Noah to Abraham” published by The Bible Project and presented by Dr. Tim Mackie.

[iii] The premise of the release of the Hebrews started (in Ex 3:18) as a plea to allow them to go to the desert for three days to worship their God.  Subsequent pleas from Moses continue to have this context up to the final “let my people go”.

[iv] A key stumbling block among Jews for acceptance of Jesus as Messiah is the fact of His death.  I’ve written a bit more on this here: Why Was Jesus A Human?

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