Old Testament Survey – OTS101 Nate Jackson Student # N1838-2219 June 12, 2011 Summary The first 39 books of the larger work called the Bible, is called the Old Testament. The Bible itself is arguably the best selling and most read book of all time, yet it’s well known to be quite challenging to read through and understand. The Old Testament portion of the Bible, notably the most difficult portion of the Bible for most to study and follow, yields 39 books from multiple authors, and spans over 4000 years of crucial world and church history.
If that were not enough to take on, the Old Testament comes our way through multiple styles of authorship and formats, including but not limited to, books of history, law, proverbs, ethics, philosophy, treatises, dramas, songs, epics, biographies, and letters. There have been many books written and published to survey, explain, and/or bring to light the Old Testament, but none more helpful to me than the review subject of this paper, the work of Dr. Elmer L. Towns, entitled “A Journey Through the Old Testament”.
The title gives a clue about the book, but a better glimpse of what the book is really about is found in the book’s subtitle, “The Story of how God Developed His People in the Old Testament”. Unlike most Biblical survey books, that provide the theme, outline, information about the author, and a commentary of the Old Testament content, Dr. Towns’ book focuses on the people who influenced the events of the Old Testament. It does more than pin the events and people to a timeline, it interprets the Old Testament through the sequential influence of those that made and helped form Bible history.
From the first pages of his book, Dr. Towns explains his purpose and reasoning behind his unique approach and style of writing for this work. He states, “God’s people want to know about God’s people… they will love reading about Old Testament people like themselves. …They have the same desires, family problems, and frustrations… average people, in difficult circumstances, with inadequate means, faced insurmountable obstacles and became history makers. Their lives are worth our study. He goes on to say, “I have chosen to interpret the Old Testament through the influence of great individuals as they improved society or destroyed the quality of life in their culture”. Dr. Towns comes at the reader with more than just dates, geography, and commentary from Old Testament history; he actually takes the time to introduce us to the real people who lived real lives, who impacted their generation and the generations that followed. Dr. Towns highlights and walks us through Old Testament history in sequence, through the lives of over 50 key individuals from the Old Testament.
He gives us a close look at the key personalities, their lives, their relationship (or rebellion) to God, and the impact each had. He builds a foundation for us by starting at the beginning; he begins with the first rebellion against God and His love, that being the prideful rebellion of Lucifer the archangel. We see evil in its infancy, as Lucifer risks (and loses) everything good and blessed in his existence to pridefully rebel against God his creator.
We see the consequences of his rebellion, and the huge impact it had on his existence, the angles that followed him, and ultimately all of mankind. In reading the text we are skillfully escorted through the earliest accounts of created man, and we see that like Lucifer, the first man (Adam) chose to risk and lose everything good and blessed from God in his life, to pridefully rebel and sin against God his creator. Towns shows the extent of the influence and impact of Adam’s choices, as we follow the lives and choices of his first son Cain, and the next 7 generations that followed Cain.
We are reminded that the Bible describes the moral status of Cain’s descendants in Genesis, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”. So prevalent was evil in the world of Cain that “the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart”. This state of creation brought God to the decision to “reboot” His creation all together, by way of the flood. In the text, Dr.
Towns makes it clear that while the flood demonstrated the judgment of God against the sin and rebellion of man, a look at the life and decisions of Noah reveal that God’s gracious hand of salvation and deliverance – even when the rest of the world is bent on doing evil – is ever present and extended to all who will choose to love, trust, and follow Him. After the flood, Dr. Towns takes us into and through the life, call, and choices of impact for Abraham, Sarah, their maid Hagar and Abraham’s first born child Ishmael.
We again see the consequences of faithless choices and distrust of God, and the costs that surely follow them. We are introduced to Isaac, Abraham’s miracle and the son God promised, his wife Rebekah, Abraham’s nephew Lot, and Abraham’s grandson Jacob (later called Israel), and Jacob’s very special son Joseph. We see a continual theme through their lives that God desired to have and maintain a close and personal relationship with His people, and so long as they worshipped God alone and looked to Him alone for their substance, they walked in His provision and blessings.
But every time they looked to idols or others for their direction, protection, and hope, they would find themselves in turmoil, loss, and hardship. Dr. Towns brings us into contact with individuals throughout the Old Testament that surely influenced the history of God’s people, and while some were Godly and others evil in their choices, they came from a wide array of backgrounds and roles. These people included priests, judges, prophets, kings, warriors, captives, slaves, people of Israel, and gentiles too.
We looked inside the lives and decisions of Job, Ruth, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, Eli, Samuel, Saul, David, Saul’s son Jonathan, Solomon, Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Asa, Elijah, Elisha, Ahab, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Josiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and more. Behind the scenes of every era and event, regardless of the choices of the people, there was a never-ending call from God to His creation – a call for dependence, trust, allegiance, and worship for their creator God and Lord.
The text highlights that throughout the ages, God has always sought out a people who would listen to His Word, obey it, and love Him for who HE is, and even in light of their obvious tendencies toward sin and disobedience, God remains faithful and willing to provide a way (where there is no way) for salvation and deliverance for His people who will repent and look to Him as their God. Interpretation My reading and review of our text, has moved me personally more than I initially expected, and as a result I have some pretty strong opinions regarding its value and overall significance.
I anticipated that my knowledge of the Old Testament history and events would expand as I read and reviewed the text, but I was caught by surprise when Dr. Towns introduced not only the Old Testament movers, shakers, and history makers, but he brought into the light their steps of influence, and how their impact was directly related to their relationship (or lack of relationship) with the ever present, faithful, loving, holy, righteous creator God.
Like never before, I read stories of real men and women, that God loved and desperately desired a renewed and committed relationship with. I was moved to understand that it was not just “cause and affect” rationale I was reading about, but rather the story of God’s amazing grace and call of hope to His creation. From my reading, I have realized that The Laws of God and His established commands of the Old Testament were not given to restrict or enchain man, but to reveal to man God’s own true and righteous character.
It was a way for God’s people to be identified with Him, and though they were forever falling short, they were identified and forever learning from the holy and righteous glimpse of God their creator through the Law. The entire Old Testament was one continuous story of God faithfully reaching for fallen man, and as man would repent and turn to God as their one and only God, He would deliver beyond mans’ deserves with blessing, victory, and hope for salvation. I learned something wonderful from the text that still resonates in my heart.
I learned that every life can have divine purpose and blessing, if centered and committed to its creator God. Looking through the times and characters covered through the Old Testament, I was amazed at how God’s people, their leadership, their laity, and even their enemies were so often given ample opportunity to obey God and turn from their painful and defeated paths of choice – yet so many of them chose to live their lives in disobedience and dishonor of their creator God.
They knew their history, they knew of the power of God from their recorded history, yet so many listened and learned from their fathers or people of influence before or around them rather than turn and trust God. The significance of this was clear. As the history makers go, so goes many with them. Influence was great then and now, and as these men and women made their choices for or against God, it impacted not only their lives and future – but countless others in their sphere of influence and leadership.
Blessing, victory, and peace were present for those who would seek and follow after God, and pain, hardship, and defeat plagued those that refused to. And repeatedly, these history makers played such a role in their families and for their people, that it tipped the scales for future generations. As a husband, father of five, grandpa to ten, pastor, and friend to many, the lessons repeated throughout the lives of the history makers in the Old Testament must be learned and applied to my life.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is my God, and He still seeks to have and maintain a close relationship with each of us, and to ignore this truth and reject His outstretched hands to us is no different than the wrong and devastating choices made by those history makers throughout the Old Testament that turned from their God. This work is a must read and significant in that Dr. Towns brings a new angle on the old truths brought out in the Old Testament – not a new revelation, but a fresh approach to THE REVELATION of GOD from the Old Testament. Conclusion
The Old Testament characters, events, and accounts, as presented for us in this wonderful book from Dr. Elmer Towns, paint a unique picture for us of not only the genesis of God’s creation and man’s first few centuries, but more importantly he shares the faithful pursuit of our loving creator God for the restoration of the right relationship and communion with man that was lost in the garden. The account of each history maker of the Old Testament reveals a part of the masterpiece. With each life account and story, we see man’s dire need for what he cannot attain outside of a right relationship and standing with his creator God.
We see that man desperately craves and needs the love, protection, strength, peace, power, and hope that only God can provide – and as man seeks to reject God and look elsewhere for these things, his life and the lives of all who would follow will surely be lost and suffer the consequences. For those who would turn from all other pursuits, and surrender their lives to the leadership and Lordship of creator God, the darkness would be lifted as the light and blessings of God would flow through their lives – and not just their lives, but through the many who would follow.
As Dr. Towns brought countless history makers to life for us, I found myself encouraged more than challenged. I felt like the accounts shared in the text revealed an interweaving of man and God. We see a pattern of stumbling, that reveals man’s inability to live by the law and his dire need for forgiveness and a Savior to lift the unavoidable penalty of sin that plagues him. The entire Old Testament pointed to the heart of God, and the coming Messiah, who would soon be the very essence of His character and His gracious “once-and-for –all” answer to man’s sin.
God would love His people enough to one day soon send THE SACRIFICE that would save the people from their sins. In reading the text, and being introduced to each character and their respective responses to God, we can bring the Old Testament into better focus and understanding. As we do, the we see the heart of God and His love and faithfulness above everything else. We see God’s willingness to enter into covenant with His people and delver on His promises beyond the failures and shortfalls of man.
We see the huge arrows throughout the Old Testament timeline that point directly to God’s promised Messiah – His Son Jesus – who would restore the lost communion between God and His cherished creation. Through the pages of this text, we see more than history, we see our need for Christ and our own relationship of dependence and union with our creator God. We learn that from the first man created to our own lives today, God is passionate about His relationship with His people, and He is faithful to pour out His best into the lives of those of us who will live our lives in love and allegiance with our God.
I believe that Dr. Towns has provided us with a very special text in this work. His willingness to part company with the traditional commentary /survey style of authorship has opened up a fresh and inviting way of looking at and learning from the Old Testament, that I believe is relevant and right on time for those willing to read it in the 21st century. We find timeless truths highlighted, such as the influence we each have upon our families, that will surely impact future generations – in a good or bad way, as in seen through the lives and decisions of David and Solomon.
We see the evidence of God’s power and incredible grace for an entire nation of people, as in the life and leadership choices of Joshua. We see God’s providence and protection through any and every ill intended endeavor of the enemy, as seen in the providential protection and provision for Moses as a baby. Countless examples are called out to demonstrate and prove that God has loved and cared for His people from the beginning, and from the first sin till today, man has struggled to remain true and faithful to his God, but through it all God has made a way to offer healing and salvation to man.
This text by Dr. Towns does a marvelous job of connecting us the reader, with the characters of Old Testament history and the very heart of God for them and us. It points out through examples in history, the frailty of man, the hope for man, the fruit of seeking and rejecting God and His commands, and how powerful our choices can be. This work has moved me, and I believe given the opportunity it will surely move others as well. As with any great work, the knowledge and impact of this book does not end with the last page read, as it rests on the heart and mind and continues to unfold over time.