The Scenes of Life — Lesson 1
A Prefatory Note
That the Bible should be our chief source book in this Bible study course goes without saying. But inasmuch as the Bibles that are currently in use differ from one another in contents and in the number and arrangement of the books they contain, a word of clarification is in order.
The Hebrew Bible contains only the Old Testament books, which number 39. The so-called Protestant Bible has both the Old and the New Testament books, which together number 66 — 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. The Catholic Bible also has both the Old and New Testament books, but together numbers 74 books - 47 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. In addition to the same 39 books as the others, it has 8 so-called Apocryphal books, recognized as forming part of the Old Testament only by the Roman Catholic church.
The 39 books listed in these Bibles have in common that they are all translated from a single source; namely, the Hebrew Bible. In content, therefore, the differences are minimal. So, any edition of the Bible which has an accepted translation of the Hebrew text can serve as a source book in this course. However, for the sake of uniformity and your convenience, we recommend that you use a Bible which has the Old and New Testaments in one volume. Even better would be a Bible which also has a reference-text system, which would lend itself to further study of the Scripture references to be mentioned.
This introductory lesson does not present the Bible material in historical sequence, as the lessons which follow, for you are to be introduced to a miscellanea of somewhat unrelated Bible passages. The first references are to the Book of Psalms (Tehillim in Hebrew), projecting a twofold picture of man upon the screen of life. The following references note that the Bible itself gives unmistakable evidence that it is what it claims to be, the inspired Word of God.
Belief In God
The first scene is that of a man who in wonder exclaims, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge" (Psalm 19:1-3). As the picture changes we see man raising his eyes heavenward and hear him meditatively say, "When I consider thy heavens...the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:3-4). And, facing the vicissitudes of life, these words come over his lips, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).
Disbelief In God
The second scene is that of a man who scoffs at the very idea that there should be knowledge with God (Psalm 73:11). In his heart he says that there is no God (Psalm 14:1). He is prosperous, carefree, and has more than the heart could wish (Psalm 73:3, 5, 7). More than heart could wish, that is, of things material, but what of his soul? Obscured to view here are the lasting truths of life. Of this man Psalm 52:7 says, "Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches."
Prosperity, carefree life, more than heart could wish — are these the fruits of a godless life? When the Psalmist thought upon these things he was troubled, and said, "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end." (Psalm 73:16, 17). The Psalmist did not understand until he came to view the matter in the light of God's Word. "Slippery Places!" "Desolation!" "Terror!" Indeed! for, as the New Testament says, "...it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Or, as Longfellow said in his poem of life,
Life is real, life is earnest,
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Antidote For Skepticism
Apologists and theologians long ago devised a series of so-called proofs and arguments to meet those who refuse to accept the internal evidence of the Bible for what it is — the Word of God. These proofs and arguments are generally presented in the following order: ontological, cosmological, teleological, ethnological, moral. These, and similar proofs and arguments, are logical and proper, but not necessarily conclusive. In the book of Job (Ieyou in Hebrew) the question is posed, "Canst thou by searching find out God?" (Job 11:7). The implied answer is NO. A New Testament book has this statement, "...the world by wisdom knew not God..." (I Corinthians 1:21).
While the foregoing proof and arguments may be said to be dated, the following reflective thoughts on Genesis 1:1 are timely.
Indeed the more one understands the complexity of the simplest phenomena of either the animated or inanimate world, the more sensible does this statement seem (the statement made in Genesis 1:1). So many conditions are necessary before life as we know it can exist on this earth that it is a mathematical absurdity to say that it just happened. The distance of the earth to the sun, the speed of its rotation on its axis, the amount of heat reaching us from the sun, the tilt of the earth on its axis, the size and relationship of the moon to the earth, the thickness of the earth's crust, the proportion of sea to land, the density of the atmosphere, and so on — all these are in exactly the right relationship to each other. Science is constantly discovering the basic laws apparent in the physical realm and many of these laws are of the most complex nature. To say that our orderly universe with its well defined laws, its amazing complexity and its abundant evidence of design just happened is like saying that Webster's Unabridged Dictionary resulted from an explosion in a printing plant.
A Page From History
A tale of two cities, cities frequently mentioned in the Bible, will serve to introduce the trustworthiness of Bible prophecy. This is the tale of Tyre and Sidon, both one-time prosperous maritime centers. Tyre, we are told, became the most celebrated maritime city of the ancient world. But today the site where it once stood is desolated, while Sidon has retained much of her former status to this day. And, note well, this is as foretold centuries before by the word of the prophet Ezekiel.
Both of these cities are spoken of several times in the Bible in connection with Israel, sometimes as having been friendly, more often as having been hostile. The 27th chapter of the prophecy of Ezekiel (Y'chezkal in Hebrew) tells us to what great prominence Tyre had risen. Hailed as "a merchant of the people of many isles," this chapter recounts her greatness verse by verse. However, before the 27th chapter was ever written, the prophet had already spelled out the city's doom. This judgment is described with considerable detail in Ezekiel 26:1-5. Note especially that the second verse of this chapter tells us this would befall Tyre because it held Jerusalem in contempt, and in this instance Jerusalem was representative of all Israel.
While the 26th chapter of Ezekiel gives a summary of what was to befall Tyre in the course of time, the following is a brief account of how these predictions were fulfilled.
Tyre was totally destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar after a siege of thirteen years (B.C. 573), and the latter city, which rose out of its ruins, recovered its ancient wealth and splendor after seventy years as was foretold in Isaiah 23:15-17 (Y'shaiya in Hebrew). When it was taken and burned by Alexander in 332 B.C., it once more regained its strength, and nineteen years later withstood both the fleets and the armies of Antigonus. But then, after being successively taken by the Saracens, the Mamelukes and the Turks - in whose hands it still remains — it became a place for the spreading of nets." Thus disaster befell Tyre because the Lord God had thus spoken, "And I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more: For I the Lord have spoken it, saith the Lord God" (Ezekiel 26:14). [Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, p. 527.]
The prophet Ezekiel also spoke of Sidon. It too was to be harassed and invaded by its enemies, but in this prophecy no mention was made that it would be destroyed (Ezekiel 28:20-23). Sidon was taken in turn by the Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, Mongols, and the French. Yet, despite all, Sidon is said to have retained much of her prestige as a maritime center to this day.
Why do we single out the tale of these two cities and cite it with so much detail? On one hand, to give credence to what a New Testament reference says, namely, "... prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as the were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21). On the other hand, to accentuate the fact that, "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18), also a New Testament reference.
Furthermore, this page from history gives immutable evidence that the prophet Ezekiel was not usurping authority when he prefaced these prophecies with "Thus saith the Lord." This can be said as well regarding all the Old Testament prophets of the Lord god. But what about preachers and Bible teachers today? Are they too authorized to speak after this manner? We raise the question because the Bible warns against false prophets and teachers. How can one tell tale false from the true?
Who, scripturally speaking, are false prophets and false teachers but those who supposedly acknowledge that God has spoken, but arbitrarily give deceptive and misleading interpretations which falsify the truth? That they have existed from of old is written on many pages of the bible, beginning with the great falsifier of which Genesis 3:1-5 speaks. Note the falsification, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? ... Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened." Note also Jeremiah 5:30,31: "A horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely ... and my people love to have it so ..." Again note Jeremiah 29:8,9: "for thus saith the ... God of Israel; Let not your prophets ... deceive you ... for they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them."
But how does one distinguish between the true and the false? Isaiah 8:20 gives a very good clue. The translations of this verse generally reads, "To the law (torah) and to the testimony (teudah): if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Though the Hebrew text lends itself to a somewhat different translation, this gives the sense quite well). It means that if they speak not according to that which God has spoken, the speak not the truth.
How shall one then know who does or does not speak the truth respecting the vital issues of life, if he knows not what the Lord God has spoken or revealed on the matter?
So, with this introductory lesson as background, we posit that the Bible on the one hand gives immutable evidence that it is indeed what it claims to be, the inspired Word of God; and, on the other hand, it is the infallible rule by which to measure the credibility of those who supposedly are its proponents.
|Take Exam 1||Go to Lesson 2|