Genesis: God the Creator, Sustainer and Covenant Maker
As the first book of the Bible, Genesis reveals significant truths about the person and nature of God. The first two chapters discuss about how God created the entire universe and all the creatures from nothing (ex-nehilo). We further observe that God had a special relationship with mankind (Gen.1:26-30) and therefore He sustained them. However, twice God’s judgement came upon mankind because of their disobedience (Gen.3:16-20, 6: 6-8). Instead of banishing the entire humanity, God preserved mankind and showed His grace through Noah. Moreover, Genesis presents God as a God who makes covenant with people (Gen.12:1-3) and remains faithful. The lives of patriarchs testify to God’s faithfulness. Genesis also accounts how God separated and elected a people for Himself to work out redemption plan (Gen.12:1, 21:12, 25:19-24).
Exodus: God the deliverer and Guide of Israel
Exodus brings to light the compassionate heart of God for His people. He heard the cries of Israelites in oppression and raised Moses to deliver them (Exo.3:7,10). God’s mighty power was displayed against Egyptians while setting His people free from bondage (Exo.4-12). Moreover, God’s guidance and patience in the lives of His chosen people are the two other great themes that adorn the Exodus. God guided His people during their wilderness journey (protection and provision) in miraculous ways (Exo.14,16,17). God’s presence was real to them. In spite of their continuos rebellion during the exodus God remained faithful to His people. Moreover, we see God entering into another covenant through the giving of the Mosaic Law and Ten commandments (Exo.19-40).
Leviticus: The God who is Holy and who Expects His People to be Holy
The profound message of Leviticus is God’s Holiness (Lev.19:2). God’s holiness is expressed in many ways. It is primarily revealed by the sacrificial system God set up to show the cost of sin. Sin separates man from a Holy God. Unholy people can approach God only through means of blood. Whether bulls, grain, goats, or sheep, the sacrificial offerings had to be without defect. Therefore, God unambiguously established the fact that unless sin is dealt with, one cannot truly worship God. God also expected His people to worship Him through their lives and therefore gave instructions to the entire Israelites and in particular to the priests for Holy living (Lev.11-15, 18-25). Chapters 23 and 27 of the book shows how God expects His people to remember Him and His faithful deeds. The Law and the Tabernacle instructions (Exo.26-40) also reveal the Holy and jealous nature of God.
Numbers: The God who Corrects His people
The Book of Numbers presents the concept of God’s correcting wrath upon His own disobedient people. When God wanted them to trust Him and possess the land, they rebelled against Him and His chosen leaders (Num.13:26-30). So, God punished them in such a way that thousands perished in the desert (Num.14:22,23). God Judges sin harshly because He is holy. Even Moses was not exempt from God’s wrath when he disobeyed God. But even in His wrath, God did not give up on His people. While He punished them, He was still determined to bless them and bring them ultimately into a land of their own.
Deuteronomy: God’s Faithfulness towards His Covenant People
One of the great truths stressed by the Book of Deuteronomy is that God is always faithful and loving toward His Covenant people (Deut.7:9). He wanted the Israelites to know about His love and faithfulness. In response, the Lord wanted from His people is their true love (Deut.6,8,11). So, there is again a call to the Israelites to remember who God is and what He has done for them (Deut.1-4). God, again let the Israelites know that if they follow Him, they will be blessed (Deut.4:1,29-30, 5:29-33). The Book of Deuteronomy, moreover, teaches that God’s laws are given for our own good to help us stay close to Him in our attitudes and behaviour (10:13).
Joshua: The God who fulfils His Promises
The major theme of Joshua is the fulfilment of God’s promises (Josh.1:11). The book testifies that God will fulfil His purpose and plans in spite of human rebellion. He is sovereign. The whole book talks about how God established His people and “gave Israel all the land He had sworn to give their forefathers” (Josh.21:43). Further, the book shows that God gave success to the Israelites when they obeyed His mater plan. God did miraculous acts on behalf of His people while crossing Jordan and conquering Jericho. God even made the sun stand still to aid them in their victory (Josh.10). Finally, God’s command to drive out the canaanites also reflects upon His concern for the covenant people. He wanted to remove the Canaanites’ idolatrous worship practices so they would not be a temptation to the Israelites.
Judges: God’s Unrelenting Mercy and Love for His People
The book of Judges reveal God’s mercy and love to His people irrespective of their repeated rebellion. During the period of Judges, the nation of Israel had become so unfaithful that “everyone did as he saw fit” (Jud.17:6). This led to captivity and oppression from time to time, but whenever the Israelites cried to God, He delivered them by raising a judge. A variety of Judges from Otheniel to Samson were used by God to lead his people out of their bondage. Although God acted upon people’s repentance, the continuos favour was the result of His love and mercy.
Ruth: God’s Providential Care for His Children
The book of Ruth is the story of God’s grace and providence in the midst of difficult circumstances. It should be noted that this story happened during the time of judges, the darkest period in the history of Israel. In this story, we see God’s care, guidance and protection for those who remain faithful to Him (Ruth and Noami). This book also shows how God can control circumstances to fulfil His purpose. God brought Ruth to the precise field where she could meet Boaz. Moreover, God is portrayed (though not explicitly) as the model of abiding and redeeming love (Ruth 2:20).
I & II Samuel: God’s Control Over the Earth and His People
The books apparently speaks about God’s control and rulership over His people irrespective of their rejection of Him as their king (I Sam.8:7-9). God intervened in personal lives and overruled their actions. He provided life to a barren woman (I Sam.1), He set aside priests from their offices (I Sam.2-4), He provided the king (I Sam.9-11), He delivered the nation from enemies (I Sam.4:3, 7:9-13, 11:13, 14:6-10, 17:46, 28:19), He rejected Saul as king and set David as king (I Sam 16-31). Therefore, it is evident that God still continued to be the real ruler of Israelites. These books also let us know that God protected, blessed and assessed His children. When Saul and David sinned, He assessed their lives and punished them. When David was chased by Saul, we see God’s protection of His anointed. Moreover, II Samuel proclaims God’s graciousness toward His children (David forgiven) and His Sovereignty (setting up of Davidic throne).
I & II Kings: God’s Word Never Fails
These two books present the surety and fulfilment of God’s word spoken through His prophets. First, we see the fulfilment of God’s promise to David when Solomon is made the king (I Kings 9:4,5). The rest of the book and II Kings shows how God kept his word to David through the kingdom of Judah and its kings (even in captivity). Second, we see the fulfilment of prophesies against nations. One of the important developments of this period was the ministry of God’s powerful prophets (ex. Elijah and Elisha) through whom God warned both Northern Israel and Southern Judah (II Kings 17:13-14). In spite of their warnings they and their kings were rebellious against God. As a result, God according to His word, judged both Israel and Judah. The Assyrians took away the northern Kingdom and Judah is exiled to Babylon. Therefore, God’s word never fails whether it is a promise or a judgement.
I & II Chronicles: God is Trustworthy
The Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles tie the entire sweep of the Old Testament together into one great affirmation of hope – God is Trustworthy. These books which was written after the return of Judah from exile, emphatically acclaims God’s faithfulness to His people across the centuries. By selecting events that show how God has kept His promises, the author presents a beautiful doctrine of hope that begins with Adam (1 Chr.1:1) and stretches to the end of the Captivity of God’s people thousands of years later (2 Chr.36:22-23). The book offers encouragement for the elect. Although God chastens His children, He restores them and heals them (2 Chr.7:14). He can always be trusted.
Ezra – Nehemiah: God Restores the Remnant
Ezra – Nehemiah, written during Judah’s return from exile, talks about God’s restoration of the remnant (Ezra 6:21,22, Neh.6:15,16) in the promised land. We see God’s hand acting in favour of the remnant in various ways. First, Cyrus, the king of Persia issues the decree to let the Israelites go back to their land. Second, God allows the Israelites to find favour from the kings to such an extent that they support all the restoration projects (support for Zerrubabel and Nehemiah in building the temple and wall in Jerusalem). Third, God enabled them to overcome all kinds of opposition that came from enemies of Judah (ex: Sanballat and Tobiah). Thus, God made His people to rejoice by restoring them.
Esther: God Protects His People From Their Enemies
The book of Esther, although does not have the word ‘God’, it reiterates God’s protection for His people amidst dreadful circumstances. God’s sovereignty and power are seen throughout the book. When the very existence of God’s people in Persia was threatened, God took control of the situation. He preserved His people through Esther’s courageous act (ch.5-7). Although the enemies of God’s people seemed to triumph for sometime, God holds the key to ultimate victory.
Job: God is All-Powerful and All-Wise
God is all-powerful, all-wise and His will is perfect. The book of Job shows very clearly that God is not captive to His world, His people, or our views of His nature. God is free; He is subject to no will but His own. He is not bound by our understanding or by our lack of it ( Ch.38,39). God is just even when He allows the righteous to suffer. However, He is good and fair in His dealings. He restored Job’s fortunes and gave him more than He ever had (Job 42:1-17). Although we don’t understand God’s ways and dealings with us, we can still trust Him. The book also shows God’s majesty and power over Satan.
Psalms: God Alone is Praise Worthy
The resounding theme of the Psalms is – God is worthy to be praised because of His marvellous character (Ps.150:6). He is worthy of human praise because He is the creator, Sustainer and Redeemer (Ps.1-40). God is worthy to be praised because He acts at the right time and rescues His people (Ps.42-72). He is worthy to be praised because He is Holy (Ps.73-89). He is praise worthy because He is forgiving and compassionate (Ps.32,51). Moreover, God rules over all the earth (Ps.68:32). A significant truth repeated again and again in Psalms is that God answers our prayers (Ps.34). Psalms reveals several other characteristics of God which make Him praise worthy.
Proverbs: God is the Source of Knowledge and Wisdom
The book of Proverbs declares that God is the source of all knowledge and wisdom (Pro.1:7). The book claims that God gives wisdom to those who fear and seek Him (Pro.2: 5-8). Further, it assures that only God can bring success in our life (Pro.3:5,6, 16:9). Only God’s words are flawless and worthy to be followed (Pro.30:5). The book also contains what the Lord Loves and hates with regard to life on this earth (ex. Pro.11,15).
Ecclesiastes: God Alone Gives Meaning to Life
The single dominant message of the book is that God alone can give meaning to one’s life (Eccl.12:13). God is the giver of Life and to enjoy life is a gift from God (Eccl.3:12,13). The book categorically professes that Life without God is meaningless and empty in spite of all riches and pleasures (Eccl.1:2). According to Solomon, true satisfaction comes from knowing God’s plan and purpose for one’s life. The way to find this purpose in life is to seek God with fear (ch.12). Solomon also reveals that God will make all people accountable for what they do on this earth (Eccl.11:9).
Song of Solomon: God’s Gift to a Married Couple
The book reveals God’s wonderful gift of companionship (intimacy) given to mankind through the institution called marriage (6:3). The message of the book assures that God created sex and it is good when enjoyed within marriage relationship. The mutual love is praised and adored. Although the book primarily talks about love between man and woman, it is worthy to note that God is the author of the virtue called Love.
Isaiah: God is the Author of Salvation
Isaiah presents God as the source and channel of salvation. More than any other book of the Old Testament, Isaiah contains the word “salvation’. First, God is presented as the Holy one (Isa.6) and as judge who punishes His people for their sins (Ch.8-38). Second, God is proclaimed as the deliverer or saviour who is the only hope for salvation of His people (Ch.42-59). God is the sovereign ruler of history and the only one who has the power to save. The Book of Isaiah also reveals that God’s ultimate purpose of salvation will be realised through the coming Messiah, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Isa.53:5). God’s promise of Salvation offered comfort, deliverance and future restoration of kingdom (Ch.40,60).
Jeremiah – Lamentations: God Suffers for His People’s Return
Jeremiah saw that God was ever a God of Mercy calling His people for repentance despite their disobedience to the covenant (Jer.3:6-6,30, 11:1-12:17). The book reveals how much the Lord longed for the return of His people (Jer.2:1,5,13, 3:19,20). Although God proclaimed judgement on His people for their rebellion, He still loved them. He did not give up His people. Through the heart of Jeremiah, God revealed His own heart which suffered along with His people (Lam.1,2). Therefore, He gave them the promise of a new covenant – a covenant of grace and forgiveness written in their hearts, rather than a covenant of law engraved in stone (Jer.31:31-34). God also revealed to them ‘the Lord of righteousness’ who is to come in the future to save them and restore them (Jer.23:5,6).
Ezekiel: God is the Ultimate King and Shepherd of Israel
The book of Ezekiel presents God as the ultimate King and Shepherd of Israel (37:24-25, 43:1-12). Although God punished His people along with other nations, He will eventually deliver them in the end and rule over them. The glory of the Lord which departed because of their rebellion will come back and God’s presence will remain in the new city (Jerusalem) among God’s people forever (Ezek.48:35). This is a clear pointer to the rule of Messiah which will eventually come. Thus, Ezekiel talks about God’s sovereignty which will bring about both judgement and restoration.
Daniel: The God Who Shapes History
The book of Daniel shows how God is in control of heaven and earth (Dan.1:2, 4:24, 6:21, 7:1-12:13). God is declared as ‘the Most High’. God is seen as directing the forces of nature, the destiny of nations and individuals, all towards the fulfilment of His glorious plan. He comes to the rescue of His faithful children in miraculous ways defying the natural phenomenon (Dan 3:19-26, 6:21). The book declares God to be the one who knows the future and has control over it (Dan.2:22). Further, God is revealed as the everlasting sovereign ruler in contrast to the shifting kingdoms of the world (Dan.7:1-14).
Hosea: God’s Steadfast Love for His Covenant People
The book of Hosea emphasises God’s steadfast love for His covenant people (Hos.11). God allowed the prophet Hosea to demonstrate this love through his own life situation (Hos.3:1). The people of God surely deserved punishment for breaking the covenant. But because of His undying love for them, His mercy and loving kindness prevailed. Meanwhile, like a loving Husband or patient father, God yearned for the repentance of His people (Hos.14).
Joel: God is Long Suffering and Patient Toward His People
Joel reveals God’s long suffering and patience towards His people of Judah(2:12,13). The day of the Lord (judgement) was approaching (2:28-3:21) but before that God offered them a chance to repent. God promised salvation to whoever called on the name of the Lord (2:32). This showed that God was ready to forgive and restore all those who would come to Him.
Amos: God Never Tolerates Injustice
The message of Amos declares that God is not partial in His demand for justice (5:24). God required truth, goodness, righteous and justice from all nations including Israel. But the people of Israel (Northern Kingdom) involved in idolatry and oppression of the poor (3:1-6:14), and therefore invited the wrath of God. God will not withstand any form of complacency (6:1-7), pride (6:8-14) or sin (3:3) in the lives of His people.
Obadiah: God’s Vengeance
The theme of Obadiah’s short prophesy is that God will take vengeance on the enemies (in this context, the Edomites) of His people. The Edomites were proud of their high position and constantly harassed the people of Judah (3,4,10,11). Therefore, God proclaimed judgement to them (15) and deliverance for His people (17-21). We see that God is bent on protecting His people as against His tough dealings with other nations.
Jonah: God’s Concern for All the People
The book of Jonah clearly portrays God’s concern for all the people. The Assyrians were a major threat to God’s chosen people but God commanded Jonah to preach to them to turn away from their wickedness. When they repented, God withdrew punishment and showed His concern for them (4:11). Moreover, the story of Jonah once again establishes God’s control over nature and people. God caught hold of the escaping prophet by manipulating nature in His hands.
Micah: God Shows His Mercy in the Midst of His Wrath
Micah presents a God who remembers to show mercy in the midst of His wrath (7:18). The book sets side by side the judgement and restoration of God (1:3-8, 2:12,13, 3:1-4, 4:1-5, 5:5-9, 7:1-14). God was determined to maintain His holiness, and so He acted in judgement on those who had broken His covenant. But He was just as determined to fulfil the promises He had made to Abraham centuries earlier. However, the book clearly establishes that God has the right to make His children accountable for their lives (6:1-8) Moreover, Micah prophesies the coming of the Messiah (5:2).
Nahum: God’s Judgements are Certain
The book distinctly talks about God’s certain judgement upon Assyrians who were known for their cruelty and arrogance (1:11,14 3:1,19). This affirms that God rules over even nations which do not acknowledge Him (like Assyria). God will surely judge a sinful nation and His wrath can not be quenched (1:7). Indirectly, Nahum declares God’s goodness and care for His covenant people. They were assured that they had God on their side to fight for them.
Habakkuk: God will Ultimately Triumph over the Evil
The prophesy of Habakkuk plainly states that God will eventually put an end to the triumph of evil (2:2-3). The prophet was disturbed because the Babylonians were taking over the entire world and they were about to conquer Judah (1:1-4, 12-17). He doubted whether God had let His people down. God gave Habakkuk the assurance that although He will let Babylon take over Judah (because of their rebellion), eventually He would destroy Babylon and deliver His people. This led Habakkuk to delight in God in spite of the coming destruction (3:17-19).
Zephaniah: God’s Wrath Against Sinful Nations
Among all the prophetic books, Zephaniah forcefully brings out God’s wrath (the day of the Lord) against sinful nations (1:1-3:7). God would not show any disparity on that day. He would punish His chosen people as well as all the nations. Only those who seek Him will be sheltered on that dreadful day (2:3). However, after the punishment, God will restore the remnant (3:14-20). Eventually, God will become their ruler (3:15).
Haggai: God Calls His People to Fulfil His Task
Haggai speaks of God’s call (1:5-8) and encouragement (2:4,5). After the return from the exile, the people of God were complacent in fulfilling God’s task (re-building of the Temple). God could not tolerate that. Through the prophet He reminded them of their priority and promised them His blessings for their task (2:19). God again reassures His people His love for them (2:23).
Zechariah: God’s Glory through Messiah’s Advent
Zechariah presents as God as the Messiah who will come in Glory to proclaim peace to all the earth (9:9,10). He comes as a great warrior (14:1-9). The Messiah will come both to rescue people from sin and to reign as King. He will establish His kingdom, conquer all His enemies, and rule over all the earth (ch.8-14). All nations will come to worship Him. This was an obvious reference to Jesus Christ even though the Israel failed to recognise it.
Malachi – The Lord Who Does Not Change (3:6)
The book demonstrates how much the Lord loved His covenantal people in spite of their repeated rebellion (1:1-2:9). Moreover, it shows the patience of the Lord upon His people. This is seen in the recurring call for repentance (1;6, 2:1,16). The reason for this is that He does not change but remains faithful to His promise. Malachi portrays God as the coming judge who will reward the faithful and judge the wicked (3:17-4:3). This clearly establishes the fact that God knows the distinction between the faithful ones and the unfaithful.