To get to know someone, one of the foundational questions you ask is, 'Where did you grow up?' This is going to give you a good understanding of that person’s likes, dislikes and possibly their worldview. Think about yourself, where did you grow up? Do you think where you grew up influenced you at all? For me the answer is yes. I grew up in a great community of families and friends in Sydney, Australia, where you could walk the streets selling popcorn to your neighbours for money to buy lollies, without concern or thought of safety. Where you stayed outside all day building ‘cubby houses’ in the bush and going inside was a punishment. This freedom and security is foundational to my worldview.
Understanding the historical context of the Bible gives us a window into what the different books are about and takes us to a deeper level in journeying through the Bible. Imagine this: God, standing at the beginning of time, trying to work out the best time to send His Son. His coming is going to change the world, it is going to be the pinnacle to which all time will be set. He closes His eyes, spins around a couple of times and sticks His finger on the timeline of history. Opening His eyes, He looks at the time that was chosen and says ‘That’ll do!' No!!! God chose a specific time, place and culture to send His Son and as followers of Christ, it is really important to know where and what that was. It gives us a better understanding of Jesus, the Bible as a whole and stops us from assuming our culture into the Bible.
Each week, I’m going to give you a five minute Video Snapshot of the historical context of the book we are reading, just to make it easier to navigate and to help you get to know the people in the book.
The other thing we are going to look at in this Snapshot is the type of book we are reading. Why is it important to know what you are reading? Imagine this: I start a lecture and I say, 'Knock Knock' – everyone in the room knows that I am about to tell a joke, so the statements that I make after those two words are not going to be true, right? What about ‘Once upon a time’? We know that I am starting a fairy-tale. We are prepared for what is to come. It is the same with the Bible – it's great to know what sort of book you're reading so you are prepared for what the it contains, and know how to read it properly.
Within the Bible, we have poetry, prose, letters, gospels, parables, historical books, apocalyptic literature, prophetic books etc, and it is important for you to know what you are reading. Have a look through your Bible; if you open your Old Testament you can see some parts are poetry, line upon line building upon each other, some are Biblical narrative, telling the incredible story of the Hebrews. Go to the New Testament; the first four books are Gospels, different accounts of the story of Jesus written by four very different men with very different intentions. Then come the letters, written to a community of people from their church leader. These are like reading private messages to people; some loving and caring, some instructive and intentional. Our Bible is a library of sixty-six different books, and all are different, great adventures to be discovered. All scripture is God-breathed and able to transform our lives in a moment.