There’s a disturbing trend blowing among the pews of today’s Christian churches. On a large scale we have either forgotten that we are to operate from the foundation of the revelation so carefully reproduced for us in the Bible, or we’ve never known that before. What can reverse this trend? For starters, a basic understanding of the Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation, paradigm would be a helpful place to begin building a sturdy foundation.
How do we reverse this trend?
Enter the Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, a compilation of articles containing faithful exegesis of the entire OT, put together by some of the finest biblical scholars. In seeking those expounding texts from the pulpit, faculty from Reformed Theological Seminary have brought together a volume that is both great to look at and easily digestible. This volume is not unlike other commentaries as it walks through the pages of the Old Testament seeking a thematic framework to being working from. Ultimately this volume is pointing to Christ as the “sum and substance of the biblical message. He is God’s gospel and the theological center for the whole of the Christian Bible.” There are some key differences here which set this work apart, and in my opinion, above the myriad of others.
The ordering of Old Testament books
In an attempt to be as faithful as they could to the original text the authors have considered the arrangement of the books which have come down to us from the Latin translation of the Bible called the Vulgate. “This Latin translation was used in the church prior to the emergence of English Bible translations during the Reformation. The arrangement of the books in the Vulgate may have been adopted from an older Greek translation called the Septuagint, but this is difficult to determine with certainty.” The material is composed of Covenant Prologue (containing Genesis), Law (containing the rest of the Pentateuch), Prophets, and Writings (ending the OT with the book of Chronicles). This layout is logically explained in the volume and will make sense to the reader once the explanation is read as to why that order.
Uncovering Old Testament Hidden Gems
How often do you hear the books of Song of Solomon or Lamentations expounded from the pulpit on Sunday? Chances are you’re more likely to hear a message on how to eat better than you are on these oft overlooked books. In one of my favorite sections of the volume Miles V. Van Pelt does some of his best work. The “Rock Solid and White Hot” message of Song of Solomon uncovers the biblical view of marriage in that “the goodness and joy of marriage and sexuality anticipate the satisfaction, fulfillment, and wholeness of life in the coming kingdom (Song 8:10b). In this way, the wisdom of the Song is not limited to the realities of this fallen world, nor does its instruction apply only to those who are engaged or married. As wisdom literature, even the Song of Songs can make us ‘wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2Tim. 3:15b ESV).
In the other gem I found a newfound love for Lamentations, well, because it hits home like few other books. It documents the spread of transgression in many peoples lives, which is why it’s so needed today. “To study Lamentations is to remind us of that which we fight to avoid; the harsh reality, however, is that many in the church suffer a life ravaged and decimated by transgressions-all of which produces only agony and pain…Those who have experienced the loss of loved ones, or the severing of sincere and meaningful relationships, those who have endured a losing battle against physical illnesses and ailments, those who have attempted to live in godly obedience only to face rejection and scorn-in short, anyone who lives on planet earth knows of what I speak: a pain so painful that it cannot be expressed in human words.”
The authors go on to express that the very reasons for our pain and grief are the very reasons to not overlook the book of Lamentations. It touches our deepest hurts and reveals to us the hope of Christ in this world-that he will wipe every tear and restore every heart which has been broken. We will stand before the throne in unending communion with the Triune God and our momentary pain here on earth will be but a fading memory in comparison to His eternal glory.
This volume is incredibly readable. The authors spend more time on the “message and theology” of each book than they do on things like the structure, outline, authorship, etc. Each thread the authors draw from the text are weaved together as one draws a line from Genesis to Revelation. All threads point to Christ as the proclaimed Messiah. Even in books like Ezekiel this thread is drawn together with the rest of the volume. When one gets to the NT side of things it’s as though the commentators are in stride with what came before and the torch is passed in a seamless transition. If you’re passionate about the word of God and the proclamation of His gospel, namely Christ himself, these volumes are essential.
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