I am taking a class called Old Testament Survey on Thursday evenings at my church. I wanted to know more about the chronological order of the Old Testament and how it all fits together and points to Christ's birth. Something wonderful occurred during that class. I was struck by lightning.
Each week, Corey (the teacher) draws the same timeline (from memory, mind you) on the board and then adds new information for us to copy. But every week he starts from scratch (and we do, too) repeating the sequences of dates, books written, who lived then, etc. (By the time this class is over, I should be a genius regarding time lines. Except no, probably not.)
We meet in the library at a conference table and I sit on the very end with all my books and notebooks sprawled out before me. It is a very casual, laid back atmosphere and we talk and share openly until Corey cracks his imaginary whip to press on.
Our homework for that night was to have pre-read (large) portions of Kings, Chronicles, Daniel, Ezra, Esther, and Nehemiah. I was ready. As he drew the time line to Nehemiah, he said the most profound thing.
He said, "Okay, that's where the Old Testament ends."
Everyone else in class looked perfectly normal while I just sat staring at him like he was speaking Russian. I was processing and scrambling through the pages in my bible. He was right. Every book of the Old Testament after Nehemiah was written during the period from Genesis to Nehemiah.
I finally found some words to say and responded. "Are you telling me it ends with Nehemiah?"
Me (totally UNembarrassed to make my lack of knowledge public): "How come I don't know this? Why is this not taught?"
Corey: "It is hard. If you put all the writings and inject them into their proper times, then all of the History books get all broken up and mixed together. They overrun each other."
I was just speechless with this new information and I was not sure why. I have taught Old Testament stories to children for decades. Decades. This made everything so much clearer and more beautiful and God's plan became more real and meaningful and tangible to me. I just did not know it ended with Nehemiah. That's what I did not know. I did not know God finished there. It meant that His prophets going out to the Jews with the message to repent was His last ditch effort. That was it. The value of these faithless, but much loved Jews increased immensely in my mind. God's endeavors to reach them became more significant to me than it had ever been before. You would think I could add all this together and see it before now, but no, not me. I need things s-p-e-l-l-e-d- out.
If you were writing a story, wouldn't you leave the most important message for the last chapter? That's what God did. His most important message for the Jews was repent and obey. He shouted it through so many men. He did it out of His magnificent love for them.
The bottom line is: (in my feeble words)
The Old Testament actually runs from Genesis to Nehemiah (chronologically Esther comes after Ezra) - and lots of guys wrote stuff and their writings got tagged on after that (not even in sequence, mind you) so that we might know how much they looked forward to the coming of Christ and how much God loved His people and how He pursued them with His love and called them to obey...again and again and again. (I could write 'again' about fifty more times, but I'm not going to.) Prophet after prophet preached and pleaded with the people of God while His chosen people, chose other gods time after time.
They sinned - troubles came - cries of repentance - God's forgiveness - restoration, and then they sinned again... The never ending cyle...and then: NOTHING.
It was as if after those events happened. God sat down....for 400 years.
Four hundred years of silence. God ruled in silence - not idle, just silent. He was orchestrating the governments and setting kings in place until time was pregnant for a miraculous Birth.
God's relationship with man has always been personal. He loved/loves His people. He delivered them from bondage. He provided for them in their exodus. He gave them the Law. He protected them over and over again. All He asked for was obedience.
What a picture of patience, love, and grace! He did all that was possible in using mere man to deliver them and meet their needs. He worked in the hearts of the wicked for His own glory time and again in order to bless His own. But His own forsook Him.
Then it was as if He closed the book for a while. And when He opened it again, centuries later, He wrote a new chapter and gave Himself/ His Son to His people, in the form of a Baby. This Baby, this God/man became a 'once for all' sacrifice and conquered death for His people. And all who believe become His people. All. Not just Israelites/Jews, but all. That means me and that means you.
So allow me to be the first to say it: MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Love always had a plan.
Love loved, and still loves.