The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament are organized into five sections. The first five books are the books of Law, also called the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). Moses is traditionally accepted as the author of all five books, and the Pentateuch has an essential role in how we understand the rest of Scripture. This week, we will explore the content of these books, looking first at their backgrounds and context and then at how to interpret and apply them to our lives.
A Beginning Worth Reading
Sometimes we can skip over the beginning pages of a story, dismissing them as boring bits of exposition. However, as the story progresses, we realize that the introductory details are key to understanding the rest of the story. The books of the Law introduce us to key figures, events, and themes that are referenced throughout both the Old and New Testaments. What distinguished Israel from all of the other nations was their relationship to God. Not the size of their population. Not the skills of their musicians or architects. God chose this small nation to model what it looks like to be the people of God. He established a covenant, or promise, with them and entrusted to them his laws and instructions so the nation would reflect his holy character and proclaim his glory. No wonder David, the most well-known king in Israel’s history, extolled the beauty, truth, and goodness of God’s laws, statutes, and judgments contained in these first five books. Their value far outweighs gold, and God promised his presence to the ones who delighted in his words (Deuteronomy 26:16-19).
The plot of Genesis through Deuteronomy revolves around one group of people, Israel, but it lays the foundation for the broader narrative of God’s plan to provide salvation for all people from every nation. Through Jesus, we are children of Abraham by faith (Romans 4:16). The true people of God are those that accept his gift of salvation, whether we’re part of Israel or not. We are family, not because of bloodline, but because of Jesus. That means that our story doesn’t begin in Matthew: it starts in Genesis! The timeless truths captured in these books transcend culture and traverse time.
An Ending Worth the Wait
As we study the Pentateuch, we see a God who wants to be near his people and known among them. As he revealed himself in different ways to Israel, he reveals his Word to us in fresh and exciting ways today. In spite of their failures, God promised Israel a future in which nothing will separate them from him. Not sin, not enemies, not death. We are included in that promise.
Our story will get a new chapter, in which we receive new, glorified bodies to enjoy God’s presence forever. Until then, we pray for the light of his Word to shine in the dark and broken places of our lives.
Before this study, how have you interacted with the books that make up the Pentateuch, especially Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy? As we start exploring these books this week, what expectations do you have?
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