Knowing Him through His Story.
Lesson 40 from The HOPE Study Guide
In the Garden of Eden, God promised to send a Deliverer. Through Hebrew prophets, God gave hundreds of promises concerning this Deliverer, who would one day conquer Satan, sin and death forever. In the temple, the smoke from sacrifices ascended day after day, year after year, generation after generation, giving the Hebrew people a constant reminder of humankind’s need for the Deliverer. But when would He come? How would He come? By now, some must have wondered if He would come at all.
– The HOPE, Chapter 7
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
Today’s lesson marks the midway point in the story of The HOPE. Thus far we have considered many Biblical truths and events. Just as God intended, this has set the stage for what is to come. Looking back we have dealt with:
- Why the Bible can be trusted as God’s revelation to man (Lessons 3 and 4)
- What the Bible says about God – Who He is and what He is like (Lesson 6)
- What the Bible says about man – created in image of God but separated from God by sin (Lessons 9 and 10)
- God’s purpose for man – to love God and to be loved by God (Lesson 13)
- The nature of sin and its effect upon man and his relationship to God (Lessons 18 and 19)
- What the Bible says about Satan and the war he wages against God and man (Lesson 14)
- God’s promise to send a Deliverer Who will conquer Satan, sin, and death forever (Lesson 20)
- How the nations of our world came to be (Lesson 25)
- How God called out a man, Abraham, through whom He promised to bless all nations (Lesson 26)
- How God’s promise was kept alive through Abraham’s descendants (Lesson 31)
- How from Abraham’s descendants God formed the Hebrew people, through whom He would send the Deliverer and fulfill His promise to bless all nations (Lesson 32)
All of these events and truths are recorded in the first five books of the Bible. These five books (known by the Hebrew people as the Torah) were carefully compiled and painstakingly preserved prior to the time period covered in our current lesson (approximately 400 B.C. to 1 A.D.). See Lesson 3 to review Hebrew methods of guarding the accuracy of copies of the Bible.
Throughout the Torah there is a central recurring theme regarding the mission and ministry of God’s promised Deliverer, whom the Hebrew people called the Messiah. This central theme is foreshadowed by hundreds of prophecies and numerous stories from the Bible. We have considered some of these in our study of The HOPE:
- The animal skins that God provided as a covering for Adam and Eve (Lesson 20)
- The ark that carried Noah safely through the judgment of the world (Lesson 23)
- The ram that God provided to Abraham as a sacrificial substitute for his son (Lesson 30)
- The blood of the Passover lamb over the doors of Hebrew families to keep away death (Lesson 34)
- The instructions God gave the Hebrew people to make offerings to atone for (cover) sin (Lesson 37)
Each of these stories profoundly illustrated how God would someday do for man what man could not do for himself: He would provide freedom from sin and a way to walk in a right relationship with God forever. One might think that with all the revelation available to the Hebrew people, they would have been diligently watching for the promised Deliverer. But that was not the case.
Historians tell us that during the time period covered by this lesson, formal religion was at an all time high, and spirituality was at a low.1 While some were indeed looking for the One promised in scripture, most were simply looking for a political deliverer who would free them from foreign rule and improve their lives. How could their focus have shifted away from the hopeful expectation of the Deliverer foretold in the sacred texts?
Most historians and Bible students attribute this shift in part to the influence of the Hebrew religious leaders who added hundreds of laws to “the Law” that was given by God. In Deuteronomy 12:32, God said, “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.” It is not difficult to see how, over time, this kind of influence could cause the Hebrew people to change their focus and lose their vision. We should all learn a lesson from their example.
ASK & REFLECT
- Looking back over what you have learned in the first half of our study, ask yourself how it has affected your view of God, and your relationship with Him.
- As we considered in Lesson 5, today’s “post–modern”2 world rejects the idea of a grand story that explains this world and our purpose in it. This post–modern view leads to relativism,3 the idea that we all need to come up with our own story that explains the world and how we fit into it, and that every story is equally valid and true. What would you say to the post–modernist who says there is no grand story that explains the world we live in and our purpose in it?
DECIDE & DO
The lesson we should learn from the Hebrew people during this period of their history is really very simple and straightforward. Do not neglect God’s Word, and do not add to or take away from it! There is a verse in Romans 15:4 that says it as well as it can be said, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” If you want a hope that cannot be shaken in a world of relativism, then be a student of God’s Word. Let His Word shape your view of the world around you and your purpose in it.
1Ernest R. Martin PhD., The Intertestamental Period. (This article was written in 1986; Transcribed and Edited by David Sielaff, June 2002; © Associates for Scriptural Knowledge, 1976–2006). (http://askelm.com/doctrine/d020601.htm). Retrieved October 19, 2006.
2Postmodernism [A Definition]. (Public Broadcasting Service, 1995–2206). (http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/gengloss/postm-body.html). Retrieved October 19, 2006.
3Relativism [Definition, etc.]. (Answers Corporation, 2006). (http://www.answers.com/topic/relativism). Retrieved October 19, 2006. For insights into how relativism can be refuted: Matthew J. Slick, Relativism. (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, 2003). (http://www.carm.org/cut/relativism.htm). Retrieved October 27, 2006.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB