Organizing the Biblical Narrative for Easy Memorization

The following is an exercise that I have utilized several times to gauge my students present an understanding of the Biblical narrative.  According to Barna’s report on spiritual growth in 2017, millennials reported Bible reading as the most important spiritual discipline, but less than 30% noted any reading in a previous month.  I would put forth that in my experience, there is a high level of Biblical illiteracy in every generation.  This issue is something our Church leaders need to address with a more intentional approach.

The tool I use is a simple ten-name framework – five Old Testament individuals and five New Testament individuals.  From each of these names, different narratives and doctrines are attached for more natural referencing and deeper dives into the work of God across history.  To begin, I have my audience try to name five individuals from each group, so that signify the crucial changes in the story.  We then go through them and my suggestions.  So, here are the following names I use to tell the Bible story and some of the doctrines and other narratives attached to them.

Old Testament

Adam

Creation, Marriage, The Fall

Noah

The flood, Covenant, Righteousness

Abraham

Covenant, Faith, Patriarchs and Israel, Salvation by Faith

Moses

Slavery in Egypt, Exodus, The Law, The Promise Land, Judges

David

History of the Kingdoms, the Messiah and David’s throne, the devils attempt to destroy the seed of David on the throne through exile and corruption.

New Testament

John the Baptist

The last Old Testament prophet who reminded the people of the promises of God and provided the final connection to the coming Messiah.

Jesus Christ

Everything the Scripture points toward.  The Gospel and all that includes.  Need I say more?

Peter

Represents the early church and its growth and struggles.  The day of Pentecost and living under the Holy Spirit.  Begins the transition from grace centered on the Jewish population toward the inclusion to the Gentiles.

Paul

The apostle to the larger Gentile world.  Furthered the expansion of the church, its organization, and practical theology.

John the Beloved

Brings closure to the New Testament by pointing forward to life under the victorious Christ in uncertain times for an undetermined period.  Demonstrates that God is still on the throne, and Christ will make all things right.

The Lord is my Shepherd – Psalm 23:6

As we come to the final verse of the twenty-third Psalm, we find a beautiful conclusion.  The psalmist declares the continuing goodness and mercy of God toward His people.  However, we may wonder what brings about these blessings.  What are the purposes and benefits?

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” – Psalm 145:9

God’s goodness comes from His nature, not our worthiness.  Another psalm reads, “The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:9).  The Gospel writer recorded these words from Jesus, “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45).  Like the previous, God’s loving mercy comes from His character, not our virtue.  Micah 7:18 is a reminder to us, “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.”  The greatest demonstration of God’s goodness and mercy was the self-giving sacrifice of Jesus for us.  Through His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, we are the recipients of an “unspeakable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15).

God further demonstrates goodness and mercy by drawing us to His home.  The word house could mean the family or household or flock of the Good Shepherd.   However, it carries with it the continuing theme of this psalm, to be in God’s presence.  John wrote about the encouragement we should receive about going to be with God:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1-3

Soon, and very soon, our faith will become a reality.  We shall dwell in unbroken fellowship with the Lord forever.  I am looking forward to that endless day.  It is a promise that every person has been given and will receive if they receive it by faith.

The Lord is my shepherd – Psalm 23:1

The following series of blog post will explore each verse of the beloved twenty-third Psalm.  These posts are based on a set of sermons I preached through in the summer of 2017.  I pray for your soul to find encouragement, comfort, and challenge through this psalm.

Why Psalm 23?  Out of the 150 Psalms, which are short lyrical pieces for singing, Psalm 23 is well-beloved Psalm and is one of the most well known.  This psalm is attributed to David.  He wrote about the care and comfort God gives to his people.  Psalm 23 has provided a source of inspiration to people throughout time and continues today.

Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

The Lord is my Shepherd – Yahweh Rohi

Shepherd language is all through Scripture.  It seems as if the shepherd metaphor is one of the Lord’s favorite descriptions of Himself.  Look at the sample of the Old and New Testament passages.

Isa. 40:11, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”

Jer. 31:10, “Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.”

Ez. 34:12, “As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

Ez. 34:23, “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.”

John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”

Heb. 13:20, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.”

1 Pet. 5:4, “And when the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

The truth David shares essential to notice is “the Lord is my shepherd.”  The Lord is not distant and unmoved by our condition.  David noted a personal relationship with the Lord and the remainder of the psalm details the benefits of this close proximity to the Shepherd of our souls.  We are his sheep.  We are ignorant and straightforward because of the limitations of our nature.  Our nature is one that requires outside care and substance to sustain us.  The Lord is my Shepherd, and He provides the care I need.  All of us who are a part of the Lord’s flock can rejoice and be at rest because of our Shepherd.

I shall not want.

David does not mean we will receive all our desires.  It does not mean we won’t face difficulties.  The exclamation “I shall not want” means, I will not lack care from my Shepherd.  I shall not want for salvation, acceptance, or hope.  There is no other that can provide these blessings.  We will not find our salvation insufficient on the day of judgment.  God’s grace alone is sufficient for all my need in this present life (2 Cor. 12:9).  Only through our relationship with Jesus will we find peace in this world and hope for the world to come.  May we rest in this statement, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

Follow this link to the next series post on Psalm 23:2

Scripture Reading Challenge (#37)

King David’s dying request to Solomon was that he would be a wise king, fear God, and cleanse his house from those who shed innocent blood.  We read about how Solomon tried to do this wisely to ensure that no mischief befell his kingdom.  As you read this passage, it is vital to understand the cleansing we need from deeply seated sin in our hearts will not come through our attempts.  Instead, we need the intervention of the Holy Spirit to bring about this cleansing of our soul.

Read 1 Kings 2:1-3:28

Solomon’s life is typically summarized as a life pursuit after wisdom.  We see that Solomon asked for wisdom and God blessed him with this and promised a blessed life if he used this wisdom to follow after the Lord.  What is wisdom and why is it far more precious than any material substance (Proverbs 2:4-5; 3:13; 4:5, 7; 8:11)?

As the preacher king (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2), Solomon taught, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Pro. 1:7) and “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Pro. 9:10).  We are told that “The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens” (Pro. 3:19).  We are also told by James to seek the “wisdom that is from above” (James 3:13-18).

Wisdom by translation means “skill” or “prudence.”  In short, wisdom is the ability to use knowledge.  How many people do you know that have much in the categories technical skill (knowledge and finely tuned capabilities) but continue to make poor decisions?  This happens because they lack true wisdom or only have worldly wisdom.  A deficiency of Wisdom from above impacts moral and ethical decision making and behaviors.   In the book of James, wisdom from above is described as, “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:17-18).  With God as our standard, acts of wisdom reflect all that is called good.

May we seek wisdom from above and not of the earth.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#36)

There are situations that are beyond our control and happen without our permission.  However, there are many other situations that occur as a result of the choices we make.  David was a man after God’s heart.  He was a wise and efficient leader.  However, there was one choice that he made that would impact the rest of his life.  This decision was to have a man killed after choosing to commit adultery.

Read 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25

I preached a message once and called it the giants of David’s life.  We know that David only faced one giant, Goliath in the Bible.  But, metaphorically, there were more encounters with impossible odds and extreme situations.  David’s battle with Goliath was a fantastic display of faith.  However, if it teaches us that faith can take us through the daily spiritual fights that rise and go down fast, then we can allow King Saul to be a giant that David had to endure.  David didn’t cause Saul to seek his life.  He only lived after God and kept doing the right thing.  However, he had to endure for a long time the bloodthirst that possessed Saul.  Still, these giants were not caused by David.  They were just parts of living life in a broken world.

The third giant, however, was David’s only doing.  It was the most dangerous to his soul because it was his sin.  David’s withdraw from the battlefield only illustrates he had let down the defenses of his soul.  Temptation caught him off guard and became entangled to lust for Bathsheba.  David impregnated her and then tried to cover it up, only to have Bathsheba’s husband killed.  David was caught up in sin and couldn’t get out on his own.  In fact, the effects of sin would still be felt by David after he repented.  The sword of conflict would never leave his home.  Sin can be forgiven, but we will reap what we sow until Christ takes us from this broken world.

In conclusion, remember the warning my parents consistently gave me, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).  This isn’t a warning to live your life in fear.  It is a reminder to live your life in holiness and the personal hurt and regret that accompanies sin won’t harm you.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#35)

Shortly after Saul died, David was anointed as the new king of Israel.  Under his rule, Israel would be truly united as a nation.  God would bless David and David would turn those blessings back to God in praise.  David would have trials and make mistakes like any other person, but his faith in the One True God of Israel never seem to be diminished during his 40 years as the king.

Read 2 Samuel 5:1-7:29

During the leadership of Eli, the Ark of the Covenant, also known as the Ark of God, was lost.  Eli’s children thought it would be a good luck charm to take in battle and were killed and the ark was lost to the Philistines.  Saul never thought to recover it.  However, David did.  He made two attempts.  During the first attempt, he tried to bring it home to Israel in the wrong manner, on a cart.  This method caused them problems and an untimely death.  Three months later, they attempted again, doing it God’s way and they were successful.  David was so happy that he worshipped like the common people, to the disdain of his wife.  However, David knew that God was worthy of joyful worship, not grudging rituals.

David wanted to build a temple for God.  Up to this point, worship was in a place called the tabernacle.  It was a mobile tent that God gave the design for and could be quickly set up and taken down during Israel’s travels in the wilderness.  David was ashamed that he lived in a palace and God had a tent.  However, God’s message to David resembled Stephens sermon in Acts chapter seven.  God is not confined to one place.  Instead, He is mobile and to infinite to be put into something designed and made by man.  God would allow David’s son, Solomon, build a temple later on, but for this point, God was still showing the people that He was on the move.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#34)

Have you counted your blessings recently?  It’s the beginning of November, and I have already seen several people posting what they are thankful for each day.  Sometimes it is hard to see God’s blessings because the fog of doubt and despair hamper our vision to God’s movement.  So, we may ask the question, “How can I know God is working on my behalf when it seems God is distant and short?”  David asked God for direction, and God gave him two short answers chapter 23.  Sometimes, we don’t even have that much to go on.  So, where do we know God is helping us and how can we continue to place our faith in Him?

Read 1 Samuel 23:7-24:22

Most of the time, we can barely see past the end of our nose.  If something doesn’t grab our attention from being out in the open, we miss it altogether.  God works behind the scenes so much, that even when He blesses openly, there are so many other blessings we miss because they were given in secret.  One of my favorite illustrations of this is with travel.  We don’t know how many detours and the “scenic routes” may have been God’s providence to keep us out of a wreck.  David continually escaped Sauls clutches.  We may experience harm and difficulty, but we may never know all the pain that God has kept us from in our life.

David feared for his life because of Saul.  He had been running from him for quite some time, and no doubt was tired.  Thankfully, David had 600 men loyal to him.  However, God would give David another friend.  Jonathan was David’s best friend and Saul’s son.  The same Saul that was trying to kill David.  Jonathan knew this but still made a covenant with David to watch over him.  God knows exactly when we need encouragement.  Saul could not find David because God wouldn’t let him.  Jonathan found David because God wanted David to be encouraged.  God will send us support through others.  Sometimes His goodness is felt strongest that way.

David continued to place faith in God.  He trusted God to avenge him.  David had an opportunity to kill Saul and end this chase.  However, he knew Saul personally and that at one time was God’s anointed person for a particular time.  David would not avenge himself.  He knew that God would do that.  The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).  God would go on to avenge David.  Saul and Jonathan would die in battle against another army.  David grieved for the loss of both men.  However, he knew that God judge righteously.  That is something almost impossible for us to do.  The best thing then is to trust God and let Him fight our battles.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#33)

One of the most familiar stories of the Bible is that of David and Goliath.  This is a story of a young teen facing impossible odds and through the grace of God was victorious.  The stance that David made is admirable.  The faith that he displayed is inspirational.  The commitment he had to God is challenging us to us.

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-18:16

The Spirit can leave a person. Saul is a testimony to this. Scripture reminds us,“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:30‬). The Holy Spirit is the testimony to our soul that we are a child of God (Rom. 8:16). Saul grieved God so deeply and for so long that the Holy Spirit moved away from Saul.  This is the sad condition of many people, and like Saul, they do not repent of their secret or open sins and errant thinking.  Instead, the chasm between them and God widens.

God will raise up leaders after his heart.  The Scriptures substantiates our hopes at this point.  These leaders may not always replace toxic leaders, as in the example of David and Saul.  They may challenge leaders in the wrong, they may only offer a new direction to follow, or they may inspire and bring hope to those while enduring a difficult situation.  God would remove Saul from leadership and David would step up into the position of king.  However, David was leading the people long before he was king.  You lead from proximity and manage from a position.  David spent time with the people while Saul became separated.  Leaders today must guard their relationships if they hope to remain a good leader.