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Why is the Bible held up as so far above every other book? Why is it put in a category all its own? Why have so many people died—or given their whole lifetimes—to ensure its survival, transmission, and translation into virtually every language and even intellectual level? 

 What’s it all about, anyway?

We could sum it up as the Creator’s overt explanation of who He is and what He is up to in this world, as distinguished from what we can learn about Him just from observing His creations. In it, He reveals Himself directly.

For this reason it is a gold mine, a great treasure, a “pearl of great price” for which we could forfeit all the other books ever written, for all of them piled up together could never tip the scale when it is on the other side. Since YHWH, the Author behind the men who wrote it down, is the common denominator behind everything He made, when He unpacks His mind to human beings, what an explosion of new connections can be formed in our brains and what wisdom can result? Understand its content and spirit, and all other disciplines and even current events will make sense, for you will be able to see where they fit in the grand scheme of things, which side they fall out on, and where they are heading.

It utilizes pretty much every literary genre to get its point across to every kind of mind, and because it is indeed both dead-serious and joyous, artistic and mathematical, instructive and celebratory. It is just the right balance of historical documentary with poetry, of “how-to” guidebook with the kind of epic sagas one would tell around a campfire under a starry sky—and using these simple things as object lessons of concepts that might otherwise seem complicated. It includes accounts of the greatest tragedies, but in the end it is a love story of universal proportions, and whether it ends well depends which stance the reader takes toward its vital and indispensable message.

Though every part of it is important and profitable (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17), to get an initial overview of the major themes and history involved, I would recommend beginning by reading these “highlights” (and I will summarize here how they fit into the big picture; most are in chronological order):

-Genesis: YHWH creates the world and establishes humankind as the caretakers of the rest of His creation. Our first ancestors are seduced into breaking fellowship with our Creator, and this starts the process of entropy in the world they can no longer rule over properly, but YHWH takes the initiative for reconciliation and promises He will bring justice on the seducer and a solution to the death that has now entered both the bodies and souls of all of their descendants. Early on we see the new phenomena of shame, hatred, arrogance, irresponsibility, and murder. Eventually it gets so bad that YHWH has to wipe the slate clean and start over with the one remaining righteous family of Noakh (Noah). His three sons propagate all the nations, but YHWH takes one man from among them to start a separate nation through which He will carry out that promise to resolve the alienation between humanity and Himself. Starting with a series of unlikely births, this specially-designed family begins to spread the knowledge of the One true Elohim. Through a series of tragedies and struggles, He gives them a new name and forms them into a people who can bring redemption to many others in the midst of a world that is still going downhill--even when seemingly defeated by it, because YHWH is with them amidst it all.

-Exodus: After growing into a nation within Egypt, where they had gone to escape famine, Israel is enslaved but then dramatically rescued amid cataclysmic conditions, and given a unique set of instructions that are a direct fast track to what works best to govern human relationships, as well as a calling to be a light to the other nations, who are all having to learn by trial and error.

- Numbers: En route back to the land He had promised to their ancestors, Israel has some major setbacks due to the majority out-shouting the few who trust YHWH to do what He promised. But in the next generation their confidence grows and they are given prophecies about their unique calling as separate from other peoples for the sake of being a purer mentor to them all.

-Joshua:  The Canaanites (who, having been cursed, usurped that land promised to Israel yet were given many more years to turn from their evil ways, but did not) are finally conquered and the land is divided up as the inheritance of the twelve tribes as promised centuries before.

-Judges: Early Israel’s loosely-affiliated tribes vacillate between serving YHWH and serving the gods of the remnant of Canaanites that they did not oust. When they do, YHWH lets them be oppressed by other peoples until they turn back to Him, and He sends epic heroes to free them.

Ruth: A family from Judah is displaced by famine and then suffers great loss, but one of the women who married into the family stays loyal to her widowed mother-in-law and chooses to follow her back to Judah and serve her Elohim, despite no prospects for a better life there. A providential encounter with a kinsman-redeemer restores the bloodline that eventually leads to the kings of Israel and ultimately the Messiah. 

-I & II Samuel: After having unique freedoms unknown in other lands, Israel opts to have a king like the other nations rather than being directly ruled by YHWH. But He reserves the right to choose whom they will serve. After the first king fails in his calling, YHWH selects another who is “after His own heart”, resulting in an 80-year golden age marred only by internal intrigues.

-I & II Kings: The kingdom splits into two parts. The northern, which retains the name Israel, goes only downhill and ends up being lost forever—by all appearances, except to YHWH. The southern, Judah, goes back and forth between kings loyal to YHWH (and thus blessed with miraculous protection) and others disloyal, until a 70-year exile brings the needed correction.

-Hosea: A prophet dramatizes YHWH’s broken heart over His wayward people and promises the restoration even of the part of Israel that has lost its identity among nations with whom it mixes. 

-Daniel: A brilliant young man and his friends are exiled but promoted to being high officials of their captor nations, but remain loyal to YHWH despite intense pressure and are rewarded. He then becomes a prophet who is given glimpses into his nation’s near and distant future.

-Nehemiah: A small remnant returns to re-establish the nation of Judah after exile, led by a man who persists despite powerful opposition and accomplishes an amazingly-quick restoration.

-Isaiah: A prophet proclaims YHWH’s grandeur and love to Israel through its vicissitudes, even some miraculous deliverances, but most notably predicting a special servant of His who would accomplish much for the world through his suffering but not for anything he himself did wrong.  

-Matthew (Matithyahu): A biography of the Messiah (Anointed one) promised by Moses and many prophets, emphasizing his roots in David’s kingly line and how his mission—the solution to Israel’s falling-out with YHWH and all mankind’s deepest problem--took YHWH’s instruction to new levels while never abandoning a firm commitment to everything He communicated in previous eras.

-John (Yochanan): A different kind of account of the Messiah’s life, giving glimpses behind the scenes of the spiritual significance of his mission and how it was the seed of a revolution far deeper than any political one he might have fomented, had he tried to force the premature establishment of the physical throne he was promised and entitled to. An intimate account of his teachings and suffering--and an unlikely ending, from the viewpoint of one of those closest to him and structured around how each of the appointments YHWH prescribed for Israel was given new meaning by the fresh life he breathed back into the human race.

-Acts of the Apostles:  How the resurrection of the Messiah motivated and empowered unlikely proponents of his message to accomplish, often through great personal pains, the first stage of restoring the kingdom to Israel: seeking out its lost heirs wherever in the world they may be and turning them (and many others who ride on their coattails) into subjects worthy of such a ruler.

-Romans:  A letter to a congregation far from Israel explaining in great depth the meaning of what the Messiah’s death and resurrection accomplished for both individuals and the nation of Israel as a whole, as well as other nations to which it was meant to be a light but which ended up ironically having to reverse roles for a time and challenge the visible part of Israel to return to its calling through sometimes doing a better job at the special role Israel jealously guarded but did not always fulfill, with a caveat that we latecomers should never imagine we’re any better.

-Revelation (Unveiling) of Yeshua the Messiah:  A prophetic glimpse of the end of the age, the culmination of the work of Messiah’s envoys, the reward for their sacrifices, the final victory of good over evil, and the coming of the kingdom which has been the goal of all of Israel’s work throughout its whole history.

The rest of Scripture fills in the details.
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