I was asked how I would summarize the book of Exodus succinctly the other day. I thought about it… it is difficult to summarize any of God’s words succinctly because God’s words are so full of meaning. But I gave it my best effort on the phone. After that brief conversation I thought this would be a fun exercise. I have laid out brief summations of each book. For better summaries check out Mark Dever’s book: The Message of the Old Testament. It’s an easy read. This was not a laborious task but a fun exercise. This is not an academic work that I would turn in for publication, please be gracious. It took me about 30 minutes… if I left something out you think critical to an extremely brief overview of a book, put it in the comments.
The books of history
Genesis through Exodus -God establishes a people
Leviticus- Deut. – God establishes a Law
Joshua- Judges – God establishes a Land
Ruth- 1 Samuel – God establishes a King
2 Samuel – 1 Kings – the people lose the law and the king
2 Kings – 2 Chronicles- the people lose the land
Ezra – Esther – God restores the people, The Law, The Land… they await the King. (who will be prophet and priest as well.)
In Genesis God creates, establishes, and provides for mankind. Mankind rebels, rejects God’s leadership, and attempts to make provision for them. In the midst of rejection, God chooses for himself a weak and small people to display his character and love through to the world. The people of God need the animating power of God within them and the gracious love of God coming out of them.
God sets his people free and then provides them a framework to live in freedom with one another. God teaches us what a free man looks like, that is one who can freely submit to God’s law and love. God’s people prove that they are not righteous on their own and yet God continues to love and lead them into freedom. The people of God need a deliverer who will teach them to live in freedom well.
God teaches his people what worship looks like establishing that the life must be entirely surrendered to Him in worship. Only when we worship in absolute surrender can we truly worship. The people of God need the life of God to be able worship Him in truth.
God organizes his people for the walk into the Promised Land. The people rebel and God remains faithful to provide and protect them from their own failures. People die because of rebellion, God redeems out of rebellion, and the wandering in the wilderness establishes a thirst for the Promised Land in the people of God. The people of God need God’s heart inside them to give them courage to follow and obey.
God explains how the people of God are to relate to the outside world. The Governmental structure of God’s people is established and God’s people are ready to enter the Promised Land under new leadership. God promises a Prophet, Priest, King who will come and redeem the people from their slavery to sin. The people of God need the Word of God written on their hearts.
The people of God enter the Promised Land, take much of it and yet fail to drive out everyone God has commanded. God invites other cultures into Israel and is often spurned by them. The people of Israel learn that they must obey the LORD fully. The people of God need a conqueror who will go before them and guide them to obedience to righteousness.
The cycle of depravity begins in the people of God. They sin, suffer, supplicate, and are saved, then they sin, suffer, supplicated, and are saved, then they sin… etc… (I tried really hard to make those all start with ‘S’… impressed?) The judges that are ruling over the people constantly break God’s law until the final one (Samson) who breaks every law imaginable. The book ends in civil war. God’s people need The King (God himself) to rule them in love and change their hearts.
In Ruth God shows His love and what His love is like for his people. The main relationship is God’s relationship to Naomi, representing Israel. Ruth is the Love of God for Israel and if you’re a careful reader you’ll see that Ruth and Boaz obey the law extremely closely. God’s people have God’s love and God will one day send a King who will change their hearts.
God gives Israel a king because of their rebellious heart and that human king proves to be inadequate. God shows his standards are not like man’s and are in fact better than man’s standards. Israel needs God to rule them as king.
God’s appointed King fails and begins the downfall of Israel. Human kings cannot substitute for God himself and the people of God need The King.
The Kingdom of Israel has a slow downfall and split. They are in desperate need of The King of God who will also serve as the voice of God. The northern Kingdom is overtaken by idolatry and the voice of the LORD is denied even in the face of miraculous power. The people of God need The Prophet who is going to lead them to repentance.
The prophet’s obedience in the northern Kingdom is contrasted with the bloody disobedience of the kings. The southern kingdom (Judah) soon follows suit and both are exiled from the Promised Land in an effort to restore their love for The LORD. The people of God need The Prophet who will bring them out of exile into Sabbath rest with God through the free life of worship.
The books of 1 and 2 Kings focus on the Northern Kingdom, 1 and 2 Chronicles focuses on the Southern Kingdom.
Saul was a tragic failure, David was a great king, and yet neither one could accomplish the completion of the temple of God. David leads people to worship the Lord; however worship is left incomplete because the temple of God is not there. The people of God need a temple to aid them in proper worship of God.
Solomon builds the temple and amasses wealth for the nation of Judah. Good and bad kings follow and yet the people of God always fall back to a lifestyle of wickedness and rejection of God. The people of God need to become so intertwined with the worship of God that they become the temple of God. The people of God need The Priest who will lead them to become the temple of God.
Ezra-Nehemiah (originally one book)
The people return from exile. Ezra restores the worship of God and restores the Word to its rightful place at the center of God’s worship. Nehemiah restores the governmental defenses and holy purity of the city of God. The people repent. The temple is rebuilt and the walls of Jerusalem are restored. The people of God need The Prophet, Priest, King to return to live among them.
Even in exile God is faithful to protect and defend His chosen people. Esther rises to be the queen of Persia and the enemies of the people of God are cast down. God protects His people and will soon restore them in His promised land.
The Books of Poetry
God is just in tragedy because He is God and He is good. God is faithful not because He keeps us out of trouble and tragedy; rather He is faithful in His intimate walk with us through trouble.
God is great, man is weak. Be honest with God, He can handle it. He is here with you.
General truths couched in an understanding that one must obey in order to find delight in the worship of God.
All material gain/worldly pleasure comes to naught. Worship the LORD while you are young. In the end, He is all that remains.
Song of Solomon
God loves His people with a powerful romantic love. This is how a husband loves his wife. This is how Jesus loves His church.
The Books of Prophecy – Judgement comes, rredemption and restoration follow… God is good in both
Idolatry will kill the people of God and false worship is not acceptable. The Lord will redeem His people through a suffering servant who will save His people from death. The Lord will retain form Himself a people who will worship Him in spirit and truth. He will not only retain them, He will establish them.
The message of the Lord is rejected. Jeremiah has only 2 converts in his entire prophetic career and one of those is questionable. The people of God have turned to their own broken cisterns for sustenance and find themselves in need of the life giving water of God. God will restore His people, but not until after they are torn down completely.
Jeremiah explains how awful it feels to be a prophet who is rejected by everyone! God can take your pain and your complaints… He is big enough to handle them. God is good and we need to trust Him even in our complaints.
God is AWESOME and real! God is a personal intimate God who is vast and powerfully holy and transcendent! Judgment is coming but so is restoration and redemption. They will come in God’s time and they will be AWESOME!
Even in the exile, God is faithful to protect His people. He rules all things and peoples, even the things and peoples that are outside of the Promised Land. God will one day make that known to the entire earth!
Israel is a prostitute. God loves her still and redeems her despite her total rejection of His love. The people of God will lose everything but God will keep a remnant for Himself and establish them in His love.
The day of the Lord will come, destroy everything and then God will redeem. God will only redeem after judgment and repentance.
Turn or Burn. No seriously. His message is: repent or die. Israel does not repent and is subsequently put into exile. (Another interesting point is that Amos is primarily disgusted with social injustice.)
Edom is going to be destroyed. Only the people of God (here, “the house of Jacob”) will be saved from the impending doom.
The Lord is the only judge. Jonah disobeys and the Lord uses even Jonah’s disobedience to save. The Lord’s plan is to rescue the dying. Jonah thought it was to exalt the Jews. Jonah and God have a debate. (It might help to think of Jonah as the antagonist vs. God as the protagonist in the story.)
God is going to destroy Zion but will redeem through a coming messiah. Sin is deadly and kills, but God loves and redeems even the sinner. God is complex and personal.
God will only put up with injustice and mockery for so long. Assyria will be destroyed for their rejection of God. (Contrast Nineveh portrayed here, roughly 150 years after Jonah, with the repentance found in Jonah)
A conversation between the Lord and His prophet. Habakkuk asks why injustice persists. God answers, it won’t persist forever. Habakkuk questions God’s methods. God answers that He is the one in control and He shows that in the end He will redeem in total justice.
Those who are hidden in God will be saved. Those who take refuge elsewhere will not. Trust the LORD for your salvation, nothing else will do.
Rebuild the temple! Set forth the worship of God above all else. He has never broken His covenant with you; do not break your faith in Him.
Return to the Lord, for Joy is in Him! God will punish the oppressors and set right the Kingdom. Return to the Lord, for Joy is found in Him.
Malachi (the Italian Prophet- lol)
God is Love and He righteously judges the wicked, but He will shower blessing on His remnant.