If there was ever a time men needed hope, it is now. So much unrest, turmoil and tragedy seem to have become a regular part of daily life. However, the Bible is a constant reminder that even in the midst of this world’s mess, our lives can be filled with HOPE. In his epistle to the saints in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). Hope is to be found between the covers of your Bible.
This Bible reading plan will help you draw closer to God as you come to better understand the “big picture” of His will revealed by the Holy Spirit. Our goal is to help you understand the Bible’s over-arching theme as it pertains to redemption and hope for an eternal reward. This Bible reading plan is designed to keep the redemption story foremost in the reader’s mind. Our wish is that you will commit yourself to daily Bible study and thus grow closer to God. Let the journey begin!
Week 1 — Genesis 1 thru 6 (Dec 31, 2017-Jan 6, 2018)
In Luke 24:44-47 Jesus indicates the Bible story is about Him. Although He is not mentioned specifically in the beginning of the Bible, John says, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:2,3). The Bible story begins with the creation of our world and it tells us what went wrong. Genesis is often called “the book of beginnings”. Genesis 1 stresses the infinite power of God and the unique nature of man compared with other living creatures. Only man is said to have been created “in His own image” (v. 26). Genesis 2 adds more details pertaining to the creation of humans and tells the story of woman’s creation. Genesis 3 is a chapter worth special attention as it introduces us to the commission of the first sin. Because of their sin, Adam and Eve’s relationship with God is fractured and they are forced to exit the garden of Eden. From their introduction of sin into this world, all men have followed suit and have sinned (Rom. 5:12). Genesis 4 portrays sin spreading in the lives of man. This chapter also traces the lineage of two people: Cain and Abel. We will find that Cain’s people were wicked while Seth’s descendants worshipped God (v. 26). Genesis 5 traces the descendants of Adam to Noah, while Genesis 6 introduces the story of Noah and the flood.
These sections of our reading plan are designed to help us determine ways to make application of the readings. You may find “conversation starters” in the ideas mentioned in these sections. We encourage you to consider them as your family discusses the reading assignment for the week. This week we should focus our conversations on God the Creator and His power and authority over the world (especially over us!). As our Creator, God has given us the duty of serving and worshipping Him and He expects us to do it. Children should be taught about sin, what constitutes sin and what it does to our relationship with God. As you get further into the reading assignment, discussion should focus on how sin grows.
Week 2 — Genesis 7 thru 12 (Jan 7-13)
This week we continue the story of Noah and the great flood (Genesis 7-9). In chapters 6 and 7 we find that Noah was a righteous man who walked with God and did all God com-manded him. Obedience and God’s grace are themes to watch for in your reading assignment. Genesis 10 recounts the genealogy of Noah’s sons who were saved from the flood. In Genesis 11 we learn that even the knowledge of God destroying the earth and almost all mankind did not deter people from defying God and sinning again. Because of their pride and arrogance, God confused the languages of those attempting to build the tower of Babel and dispersed them over the face of the earth. Genesis 12 introduces the steps God took to begin implementing His plan to save mankind. God called on Abram of Ur to leave his homeland to a land He would show him, then promised to make a great nation of his descendants. The blessings promised in verse 3 will someday be fulfilled in Christ (Gal 3:16).
Do you regularly consider God’s grace and mercy in your life? It was God’s grace and mercy that saved Noah and his family. It was God’s grace and mercy that caused Him to call Abram to leave his home and to make promises to save mankind from the penal-ty of sin. If you have children in your home, they will undoubtedly be fascinated by the story of Noah’s ark. It is important to help them rec-ognize that Noah’s obedience saved him from destruction. Finally, it is good to emphasize Abraham was not a perfect man. In spite of this fact, God worked with him. Help your children see God can work with us as well, even though we are imperfect. He can help us develop and grow our faith as He did Abraham!
Week 3 — Genesis 13 thru 17 (Jan 14-20)
While Lot becomes a key figure in our reading, the focus must remain on the promises made to Abraham. God keeps his promises of protecting and caring for Abraham in Genesis 13 and 14. God restates and reaffirms the promises in Genesis 15, empha-sizing their significance. Abraham makes another mistake in Genesis 16, but we find God still working with him in the following chapter.
Don’t get distracted by speculating about Melchizedek. We will learn more about him in Hebrews. The main theme of this sec-tion has to do with the faithfulness of God and Abraham. God repeats the promises which will shape the remaining events of the Old Testament. As we read, we will see these promises fulfilled. Make sure your family understands this is the “map” for the rest of the Old Testament.
Week 4 — Genesis 18 thru 22 (Jan 21-27)
Genesis 18 will reveal the depth of Abraham’s relationship with God. Despite many obstacles, God’s promises will be fulfilled! We are introduced to a discussion of the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and see how Abraham interceded for the people. However, in Genesis 19 we read that Abraham was only successful in helping save his nephew and his daughters. God protects Abraham again in Genesis 20 and the account of the birth of Isaac is recorded in Genesis 21. God gives Abraham’s faith a great test in Genesis 22.
Although we might be in awe of how Abraham passed the testing of his faith, we need not loose sight of the fact that his faith had grown over a long period of time. Look at your own faith development. What temptations can you resist today that you could not in years past or when you first became a Christian? How is God working through His word and providence to strengthen your faith? Children may have difficulty understanding the sacrifice of Isaac. Help them see Abraham believed God would have raised his son from the dead even if he’d killed him (Heb 12:17-19). However, it was not God’s intention to have Isaac killed, but rather to present a means for Abraham to show his faith. Children should learn that sometimes obeying God means we may have to do difficult things.
Week 5 — Genesis 24 thru 28 (Jan 28-Feb 3)
The narrative in this section redirects focus on a new character, Isaac. Genesis 24 shows us the elaborate precautions his father takes to prevent him from marrying a Canaanite woman. Once again, God answers Abraham’s prayers and blesses his family. In Genesis 25 Abraham’s story comes to an end and we are introduced to his twin grandsons, Jacob and Esau. You will note the promises made to Abraham are repeated to Isaac in Genesis 26. Isaac promptly follows in his father’s footsteps by lying, but is also protected by God as was Abraham. As the story continues, it becomes evident that lying and deceit are a regular part of Jacob’s life. In fact, Genesis 27 reveals that he lied to his father in order to steal the blessing. However, in Gen-esis 28 we see the providential working of God as he sends Jacob away to a land where He will give him the promises He had given to Abraham (verses 3,4,13-15).
Already we see distinctions between Abraham’s people and the people of Canaan. Is there a lesson to be learned by us? (see James 1:27). Jacob’s lying and trickery provide good illustration to the idea of “the end justifies the means”. Help your children see the fallacy in this behavior. Children often follow the example of their parents! Another point of emphasis when you discuss this section with your children is the providential working of God in the lives of men.
Week 6 - Genesis 29 there 37 (Feb 4-10)
Genesis 29 tells us how Jacob the Deceiver ends up being tricked into marrying two wives. That story continues in Gen-esis 30, in the “Great Baby Race.” The heartache and strife in Jacob’s home is plain to see. Genesis 31 puts a heavy emphasis on God’s care for Jacob, because he is the recipient of the promises of God (see vv. 5, 7, 13, 24, 29, 42). Genesis 32 has Jacob and Esau preparing to meet again (and they are reconciled in ch. 33), but the dominant note in the chapter is Jacob wrestling with God. We may not understand much about this incident, but the key seems to be Jacob’s name being changed (vv. 27-28). He no longer will be Jacob, which means “tricks” but in-stead “Israel” which may mean “strives with God” or better, “God fights for you.” Chapters 33-36 discuss Esau and his family and the ter-rible defiling of Jacob’s daughter (ch. 34), along with God restating the promises to Jacob (35:11-12) and the deaths of Rachel and Isaac (35:16ff). We resume our reading in chapter 37 where we meet a new and tremendously important character named Joseph.
Chapter 31 really lets us think about our own dependence on God. Do you see all you have as a result of God’s care and bless-ing? Chapter 37 gives us an ironic fulfillment of “you reap what you sow” (Gal 6:7) as the man who deceived his own father is now tricked by his sons. How often are we tempted to try and fudge a little here, or cheat a little there, as if deception won’t ultimately come back to hurt us?
Jacob believed in the promises of God and then gave credit for what had happened to him for being the fulfillment of those promises. What has God promised us today? What do we see as tangible fulfillment of those promises? Later in the week it will be time to start talking about Joseph. He provides numerous opportunities to talk about character. Was he wise in 37:2 and 37:5-7? Ask your children how they would feel about Joseph as a brother. Emphasize that Joseph was not the first born (so important in Bible times) but he is being treated as a first born (the coat of many colors probably signified that, v. 3). Envy and jealousy were running rampant in Jacob’s house! What can be done to keep us from being envious of the good others are getting?
Week 7 — Genesis 39 thru 43 (Feb 11-17)
We are skipping the Judah and Tamar story in chapter 38 this week, even though it figures in the Lord’s lineage (Matt 1:3). Chapter 39 refocuses on Joseph, as he prospers and then suffers even more in Egypt. Chapter 40 gives the reader a glimmer of hope that Joseph may eventually get out of prison. In chapter 41 Jo-seph’s phenomenal faith and determination to always credit God for all things comes to the front. We finally begin to see God’s plan for Joseph take shape! 42:57 reveals why we are learning about Joseph. There is famine everywhere which means the family of promise is threatened with starvation back in Canaan! In Chapter 42 Joseph’s brothers begin traveling to Egypt where he will save his family. Those trips continue in chapter 43 where Joseph tests his brothers. He intends to determine if they are the kind of evil men who will give up a brother to save their own necks. Will they do to Benjamin what they did to him so long ago?
How will you react if your reward for doing the right thing is sever punishment? That is exactly what happened to Joseph in chapter 39. Are you ready for that? These chapters also provide much food for thought on the subject of forgiveness. Could you forgive someone who mistreated you in a similar way Joseph’s brothers wronged him? Do you recognize his schemes are designed to deter-mine if they are genuinely repentant?
Let’s keep the main thing the main thing here. The entire Joseph story is told to help us see how God kept the promises to the house of Abra-ham alive. God insures that Jacob and his family don’t starve in the great famine. God foresaw everything and sent someone ahead to make plans and prepare for the famine. The lesson for us to take home is God wants to use us to accomplish His purposes. Our realization should be this: sometimes life can take very unexpected turns when the Lord is positioning us to serve Him where He needs us.
Week 8 — Genesis 44 thru 46, Exodus 1 and 2 (Feb 18-24)
Joseph’s story wraps up successfully in chapters 44-45. Note his faith in 44:5-9. In chapter 46 the family of promise moves to Egypt, but not without God’s special permission (v. 4). Genesis closes with the family settling in and Jacob blessing Joseph’s children as well as his own. The book concludes with a strong state-ment by Joseph. The family of promise doesn’t belong in Egypt and some day must return to the Promised Land (50:24). Exodus 1 starts the next chapter of God’s story. One of the key ideas in the chapter is the multiplication of Israel’s population (note verses 7, 10, 12, 20). The promise to Abraham to make his descendants a great nation is coming to pass! Yet, in the 400 years that have passed, God’s people have be-come ruthlessly enslaved. How will they get back to where they be-long? Exodus 2 begins answering that question with the birth of Moses.
As we try to understand the “big picture” and especially the hope God offers, remember the Bible is the story of God’s plan of salvation. From Genesis 50 to Exodus 1 more than 400 years of history elapses, yet the Scriptures say virtually nothing about it. Why is God silent? Certainly this period contains historical events involving interesting people! The Bible doesn’t talk about those years because it doesn’t advance the story of redemption. The Bible isn’t a storybook about random happenings. It is the inspired history of God fulfilling His promise to bring the Messiah and salvation to the world. Remember the promise made in Gen. 3:15 of One who would someday come to destroy the power of Satan. That is the theme of the entire Bible! Jesus is coming!
Week 9 — Exodus 3 thru 7 (Feb 25 - Mar 3)
The burning bush of chapter 3 becomes the pivotal point of Moses’ life. Note the connection to the promises in 3:6. Reading Chapter 4 finds Moses to be a reluctant deliverer. Later he will show much faith and determination. Watch to see what changes him. In chapter 5, Pharaoh poses a question (v. 2) which creates a framework for the next section we will read (a discussion of the plagues). God will let Pharaoh know exactly who He is! Underline in your Bible each instance the text says “you shall know that I am the Lord your God” and you will quickly see this emphasis. Chapter 6 connects us to the promises God made to Abraham (verses 4, 8). Chapter 7 is the opening volley in the battle between God and Pharaoh.
One lesson to be learned from this week’s reading is we all need more faith. The Plague stories can build stronger faith as we see God’s great and matchless and power. Remember the plagues are all designed specifically to strike at an Egyptian deity, such as the Nile River. Do a little research to identify which Egyptian gods the plagues proved impotent and powerless. What gods do people turn to today that are just as useless? How can we make sure we stand with the One true God and are not seduced into following false gods?
Moses’ doubts and excuse-making serve to illustrate how God works with people who are hesitant and unsure of themselves. Notice that when we will just obey God He will provide what we need and make a way, even if a mighty empire stands in the Lord’s way! Who would have ever thought an enslaved Israelite nation would be freed and enabled to travel to Canaan? That just can’t happen ... unless God promises it will happen! We need more trust in God Who can and does do whatever it takes to accomplish His will.
Week 10 - Exodus 8-12, 13:17-14:31 (Mar 4-10)
Exodus 8 describes the continuation of God’s war with Pharaoh as He sends more plagues on the Egyptians. Pharaoh begins to offer compromises to God (8:28). Exodus 9 discusses plagues five through seven. Exodus 10 describes the plagues of locusts and darkness. At this point, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened and he will not back down. In Exodus 11 God announces the final plague. Exodus 12 includes God’s institution of the Passover for His people. Although this may seem like a lengthy reading, it is crucial to develop an understand of the Passover feast and its significance. In Exodus 13:17-14:31 we will see how God chose to lead His people out of Egypt, how His presence among them will be evident to them, and how God miraculously delivers the Israelites through the Red Sea to safety. Although it is not part of our reading schedule, you may want to read the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 on your own. You will note his high appraisal of Jehovah.
In the assignments for this week, you will notice God hardening the heart of Pharaoh repeatedly. At times the text says God did the hardening and at others it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. The point is, Pharaoh responded to God by opposing His will. At the same time Pharaoh’s heart was being hardened, the events caused the faith of the Israelites to be strengthened. There is an important “heart lesson” to learn from this section. Every man is given a choice: you will follow your own will or that of God. The response to God’s will reflects what is truly in your heart.
As you read, you may quickly glance past 9:20,21. If you carefully read these two verses you will understand how true faith leads one to action. When the scriptures speak of “fear of the word of the LORD” they are referring to man’s faith in God and how he responds to it. That theme is evident throughout this section, and it is important for us to teach our children this concept! When we develop faith, our hearts are changed along with our behavior. Pay attention to the Passover and how it celebrated deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. When you discuss this section with your children, help them connect that feast to our observance of the Lord’s Supper as our celebration of our freedom from sin.
Week 11 — Exodus 16,17,19,20, 24 (March 11-17)
In Exodus 16 God responds to the complaints of Israel by sending manna. He tells them when they eat it they “shall know that I am the LORD your God” (16:12). Exodus 17 describes more grumbling from the Israelites, another miraculous response by God, and a decisive battle won by God’s power. Exodus 19 recounts the arrival of Israel at Mt. Sinai. In verses 4-6 God announces His reasoning for redeeming the people and His purpose for them. In Exodus 20 God gives His people the Ten Commandments (the basis for the expanded covenant or Law of Moses). More detailed aspects of the Law of Moses are contained in chapters 21-23. In Exodus 24 we find a discussion of the covenant ratification ceremony. In verses 9-11 God invites Moses, Aaron and his two sons, as well as seventy of the elders of the Israelites to commune with Him by eating a special meal. There has been no such fellowship between God and man since Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden!
This section provides us with two important applications. First, Jesus makes use of the story of manna in John 6 when He refers to Himself as the “true manna” (Jn 6:48ff). Think about what Jesus means when He says “I am the living bread...If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever.” What does He mean? What did manna represent and mean to Israel? How does that connect to what Jesus represents and means to us today? The second application refers to the notion that we don’t have to pay attention to the Ten Commandments today because we aren’t “under them” today. Although Gal 3:25 and Col 2:14 indicate we are not under obligation of the Law of Moses, we cannot dismiss this list of God’s top ten concerns for His special people. Consider each of these commandments and understand how they frame God’s will for our conduct and our relationships with Him and other men. What can we learn from these ten laws?
Let’s also remember that grumbling and murmuring did not cease when Israel left the dessert! We need to talk to our families and fellow-Christians about the dangers of complaining. How did God feel about the Israelites’ murmuring? Has He changed His mind since? When we feel compelled to complain, let us replace that urge with the desire to express gratitude and praise to God; then let’s express that to Him!
Week 12 — Exodus 32,33,40, Numbers 13,14 (March 18-24)
This week we pass over material associated with free-will offerings for the Tabernacle (ch 25) as well as the detailed plans for construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings and the crafting of the priestly garments (chs 26-31). Exodus 32 contains the shocking story of flagrant disobedience and idolatry at Sinai. Although God had determined to consume the people over this grievous sin, Moses intercedes and God decides to continue on with His people (Exodus 33). From this point, we skip forward to the initial erecting of the completed Tabernacle and God filling it with His glory (Exodus 40). Now God dwells with His people! Although we will not read the book of Leviticus, we should develop some familiarity with the concept of sacrifice, especially the sin offerings (see Lev 4,5). Leviticus 10 tells of the sins of Nadab and Abihu, teaching us that God will not tolerate worship which doesn't correspond to His will! Much of the work of Christ at the cross is prefigured in the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16. The book of Numbers opens with important details about the size of the Israelite nation. After being at Sinai for ten years, Israel finally departs (Num 10). In Numbers 13-14 we will read of another crisis of faith for the Israelites and their failure to trust God. These chapters explain why they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years.
Think carefully about the Tabernacle, the priesthood and how they point to the sacrifice and priesthood of Jesus Christ. We cannot appreciate what happened at the cross if we do not understand the awfulness of sin and it’s terrible consequence! The story of the Golden Calf gives us opportunity to talk about the importance of worshipping God according to His will. The account of the failure to enter the Promised Land (Num 13,14) should initiate conversations about peer pressure, how faith must be put into action, and how trust in God is essential to obedience.
Week 13 — Numbers 21:4-19; 25,32; Josh 1-3 (March 25-31)
This week we read about the bronze serpent (Num 21:4ff). Jesus told Nicodemus He would be “lifted up” just as Moses lifted up the serpent. Numbers 25 recounts the idolatry at Peor which will be a reminder to the Israelites for years to come (see Josh 22:17; Psa 106:28; Hos 9:10). We read Numbers 32 because the tribes settling on the east side of the Jordan River become important throughout the rest of the Bible story. Numbers concludes with a recounting of the journey as well as descriptions of the Promised Land and cities of refuge. Joshua 1 opens with a new leader and God’s promise to stick with him so he can confidently lead. Joshua 2 describes the exciting story of Rahab and the spies, while Joshua 3 recounts the crossing of the Jordan River.
This section provides a basis for many discussions of sin, Gods’ gracious provisions to save us from sin, and our nature to refuse His grace and mercy. Use these OT stories as reminders of the serious nature of sin. Discuss the faith of Rahab the Gentile. When you speak of Joshua, remind your children the importance of remaining faithful to God throughout one’s lifetime.
As we journey further into Joshua this month, heading to Samuel via Judges and Ruth, it is important to be reminded this is a unique history. It is designed to give God’s verdict on the events in the life of the Israelite nation. Why did what happened here happen? Because God caused it to happen in response to what His people did, either in faithful service to Him or rebellion to Him. Jehovah is the decisive character in Israel’s history. In our readings we see God is at work to bring about His will and especially, bring the promises He made to Abraham to pass.
Week 14 - Joshua 4-8 (April 1-7)
Joshua 4 continues the emphasis on Israel’s entrance into Canaan that is prominent at the book’s beginning. Joshua 5 has a new generation circumcised (the sign of participation in the covenant with God) and the first Passover in Canaan. Joshua 6 begins the theme of holy war: God versus the Canaanites and their wicked ways. Notice God alone fights here, while after Jericho He will be with the Israelites in battle. Joshua 7 finds Israel failing at Ai because one man failed at Jericho. In Joshua 7 Achan’s entire family is executed with him (7:24). Why? They must have been aware of his sin and thus have been partners in it. Who could hide something under a tent floor without the entire family knowing and seeing? We don’t think often of coveting but that is exactly what is behind Achan’s sin (7:21). What is coveting? Does it mean we don’t ever want nice things or something better than what we have? Our world is dominated by materialism and consumerism. How can we avoid Achan’s sin? Joshua 8 finishes the Ai story with success, and then notably closes with a renewal of the covenant. Israel is faithful to God again.
This week’s reading is just begging for a good map. Use Joshua as an occasion to look at the maps in the back of your children’s Bibles and teach them how to use them. Talk about the victory at Jericho and discuss how it would have felt to march in those daily processions. Make a point of how Rahab (a non-Israelite) is saved while Achan (an Israelite) is lost. What does this mean for us today?
Week 15 — Joshua 9, 10, 24; Judges 1, 2 (April 8-14)
What a catastrophe in Joshua 9. The Israelites fail to consult God and are tricked. In Joshua 10 the mess from chapter 9 comes back to haunt them when they have to go to war for the Gibeonites. However, God uses this an occasion to give Israel a great victory. Note the repetitive phrase “the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.” That is clearly the point of this material. From here we skip over the details of the rest of Canaan’s conquest and the dividing up of the land (Joshua 11-23). Joshua 24 closes the book with a stirring call to be loyal to the covenant and the Lord. We will then begin reading in Judges. The main theme of Judges, unfortunately, is 21:25’s sad statement that “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges is a book about failure, specifically the failure of God’s people to do right and honor Him. When we read that Israel didn’t drive out the inhabitants of Canaan, this didn’t reflect on God - but on their faithlessness! Soon, these pagan peoples left in the land soon are drawing the Israelites into idolatry and sin (Joshua 2). Here we encounter the cycle of the Judges - sin (2:11), punishment (2:14-15), crying out in distress (2:15), so the Lord raises up a judge (a military leader) to deliver them (2:16-18). Then the people would start all over again (2:19ff).
Joshua shows God fulfilling this big promise by giving the children of Israel the land of Canaan. The fulfillment of this promise sets the stage for God to move forward with the next phase of the story. We also want to teach the cycle of the Judges and how patient God was with His people. We want our children to grow up knowing that God always longs for His people to repent and return to Him.
Week 16 — Judges 3, 4, 6, 7, 13 (April 15-21)
Judges 3 introduces the first three judges, all remarkable men. Judges 4 tells the story of the only woman judge, and a brave woman who kills the enemy general. We are skipping past Deborah’s song of victory (Judges 5) but you might note her reproving some of the tribes for not coming to help in war (5:15-17). Israel is hardly a united country at this point. Judges 6-7 tells the incredible story of a very reluctant leader, Gideon. We will not read Judges 8-12 that finishes Gideon’s story and tells of some rather unsavory men who led Israel. Judges 13 begins the Samson story with his remarkable birth.
The emphasis in all the judge deliverance stories is God’s hand and God giving the victory. This is made most clear in the Gideon story where God says his army is too large (7:2). God knows that such an army will keep Him from getting the honor for the victory to come. We also want to make sure our children aren’t thinking of long, black robes and court rooms when we use the term “judges.” In this book, the word “judge” meant “deliverer.”
Week 17 — Judges 14, 15, 16; Ruth 1, 2, 3, 4 (April 22-28)
Samson shows himself for the kind of man he will be in Judges 14. He seems ungodly and to be largely lacking in self control, driven by his own carnal desires. Judges 15 shows more of the same. Samson’s story ends badly in Judges 16, when a wicked woman brings him down. He is a true tragic hero. Judges closes with two appendices that illustrate how wild these times were (chs. 17-18, 19-21). Both stories are appalling. After the darkness of Judges reading Ruth is a joy. Ruth is a story of people trying to do right (watch how the main characters all respect God’s law carefully), and God blessing them for it. Ruth becomes an example of the promise that Abraham would be a blessing “to all peoples” coming to pass. Ruth 1 sets the stage with much bitterness and grief, and Ruth’s faithfulness shining in the darkness. Ruth 2 introduces us to the story’s hero, Boaz. His character and nobility are impressive. In Ruth 3 Ruth moves to be married but there is a complication. Ruth 4 works that out, leading to the blessing of marriage and children, grand children and a great-grandchild named David.
Samson’s sad tale gives us a chance to talk about the problem of talent that isn’t harnessed by self-control and a desire to serve God. In the end Samson accomplishes little when he could have done so much. Samson shows us how selfishness and selfish desires can derail our abilities and cause us to fizzle in the service of God. On the other hand, the book of Ruth gives us a good place to reflect on a story about being empty and being made full, about sadness giving way to great joy when God’s people do what is right. It is a story about people doing right when lots of folks were doing wrong (the time of the Judges). And it powerfully reminds us of God’s providence.
Week 18 — 1 Samuel 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (April 29 - May 5)
Samuel is a book that majors in the weak being raised up by God while the proud are humbled. The link to the promises God has made to Abraham here is that God always planned for His people to be ruled by kings (note Gen 49:10; Deut 17:14-15). How could we appreciate Jesus Christ as King of Kings if we never knew what a king was? But God’s people need the right kind of king. 1 Samuel 1 tells the familiar tale of a childless woman praying for a baby. Her child, Samuel, becomes a major player in the Bible story. 1 Samuel 3 has the famous story of Samuel’s call. Many people, however, don’t know what God told Samuel once the young boy said “Speak for your servant hears” (verse 10). Samuel hears a terrible word of judgement on Eli! 1 Samuel 4 brings that judgment to pass, in a battle where God’s people try to use the ark as a lucky charm and end up losing it. In 1 Samuel 5-6 the Philistines decide they don’t want the ark after all, as God shows Himself to be superior to their idols. The ark comes home to Israel, though God’s people don’t seem to know how to treat it .
Children need to be taught the contrast in our readings between godly Samuel and Eli’s ungodly boys. Samuel was able to live right despite the evil influences around him. Our children also need to see that God holds parents responsible for correcting their children. Eli failed to do so, honoring his children above God by not disciplining them (2:29).
Let’s review what we have read thus far. In Genesis 3 we learn how sin entered into the world and how God implemented His plan to deal with it. He determined to restore His relationship with man by bringing the Messiah (Gen 12). Fellowship between God and His people is temporarily restored when He institutes the Mosaic Law (Exo 20). Unfortunately, the Israelites did not keep themselves holy as God had demanded. During the period of the judges, they became like the other nations around them by practicing idolatry. In the next historical period, God will continue His grand plan of redeeming man by raising up kings among His people. His desire is to provide leadership to bring the nation together and purge their land of idolatry. God uses good kings and evil ones to show men how we need our King, Jesus Christ!
Week 19 - 1 Samuel 8-13 (May 6-12)
1 Samuel 8 begins with Israel’s demand, “Give us a king to judge us.” Verse 20 indicates they wanted to be like the other nations, and they said we want a king to “fight our battles.” The Lord tells Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” 1 Samuel 9 introduces us to just the kind of man they wanted. Saul was taller and more handsome than any other man of the people. The problem with Saul is he is not so spiritually minded! Saul is anointed in 1 Samuel 10 and the kingdom is renewed in the next chapter. Samuel’s leadership role comes to an end in 1 Samuel 12 and Saul commits a grievous sin in 1 Samuel 13. The people’s king does not wait upon God!
Sometimes we are like the people of Israel and desire a leader who is “visible.” It seems the Israelites often fall into discontentment, considering God was choosing how and when He would save His people. They had difficulty trusting in a God whom they could not see. Unfortunately, we can fall into this same trap. We are challenged daily to serve God with faith and trust. We must learn God is truly the Leader of righteous men.
As you read this section, think about the different character qualities of Saul. What characteristics did he possess that could potentially have made him a great leader? What characteristics are revealed that ultimately made him a very poor leader for the nation? Consider how leaders not only serve people, but simultaneously they serve God. What good advice given by Samuel to the Israelites should you incorporate into your own life to make yourself a good leader (see 1 Sam 12: 20-22)?
Week 20 — 1 Samuel 15-17, 19, 28 (May 13-19)
The text for this week reminds us of the great need for godly leadership among men. Saul continually failed to provide that type of leadership for the Israelites. In 1 Samuel 15 Saul fails when he disobeys God’s commands, then blames God’s people when Samuel confronts him with his sin. In 1 Samuel 16 we are introduced to the man who would lead Israel in the right way. God looked at the heart of David and determined he was the right kind of leader. David shows his great faith and trust in God when he defeats Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. David’s words indicate just how he viewed the battle. He said to the Philistine, “This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down...all the earth will know that there is a God in Israel...for the battle is the LORD’s” (1 Sam 17:46,47). Not surprisingly, God wins the battle. However, when the women of Israel praised David for striking the Philistine, Saul became jealous. Saul’s plots to kill David begin in 1 Samuel 18 and continue in 1 Samuel 19. Details of Saul’s pursuit of David continue in 1 Samuel 20-27. During this time he foolishly left his kingdom unattended much of the time. Toward the end of Saul’s life, he commits the sin of divination (1 Samuel 28). He has rejected God so God rejects him!
Parts of this section are admittedly difficult. For instance, in 16:14-23 it is unclear whether Saul is afflicted with a spirit of depression or a demonic spirit. Although 16:21 seems to indicate David was already in the service of Saul as his armor-bearer, 17:55 indicates Saul did not even know who David was! Could Saul have forgotten who his own armor-bearer was? Perhaps Saul could have forgotten, but it is also possible that the events are not recorded in chronological order. The woman in chapter 28 is described as a medium who claims to be able to consult the dead. Although her actions were strictly forbidden in the Law (see Deut 18:10-12; also Lev 19:31; 20:6,7), God used this circumstance to give Saul an important message!
As you read this section be watchful for the theme of Saul contending with God. Although God has made it clear He is with David and will make him king, Saul tries desperately to hold onto the throne against God’s will. Do we ever fight against God’s will, even when His will is clearly given? What are the consequences for one who fights against God’s will? Think about Saul’s reactions when he doesn’t get what he wants. His tantrums and sinful examples are good conversation starters when you talk to your children about consequences of one’s actions. Saul is also a good case-study of the progression of sin. He goes from being disobedient, to attempting to murder David and on to consulting with a medium!
Week 21 — 2 Samuel 5-7, 11, 12 (May 20-26)
The first five chapters of 2 Samuel describe civil war in the Israelite nation. The house of Saul attempted to hold onto the throne while David was anointed king over the house of Judah (2 Sam 2:4). In 2 Samuel 5 David is finally anointed king over the re-unified nation. The text gives emphasis to David’s reliance upon God. 2 Samuel 6 describes David’s efforts to make Jerusalem the religious and political capital of the nation. Although a crucial mistake is made in the process (and a man is struck dead by God), David will learn a great lesson. 2 Samuel 7 is one of the most important chapters in the Bible. In verses 11-16 God makes a promise to David to make of him an everlasting house, a ruling dynasty that will never cease. We understand this to be the promise of the Messiah. Once again, we return to the great theme of the Old Testament: Jesus is coming! We need a Savior and we need a King; we will have both in our LORD Jesus Christ! Jesus will come through the seed of David (see Matthew 1:1). As we make our way through the Old Testament, little by little God is revealing his plan to bring the Savior to this world. The promise of 2 Samuel 7 is a significant part of this revelation.
David was a great man, but had flaws. In 2 Samuel 11 we read about David’s sin with Bathsheba. However, 2 Samuel 12 shows us how different he is from Saul. Rather than blaming someone else for his sin, he humbly confesses his sin and repents (see verse 13).
Among the lessons to be learned from this section is the illustration of the power of sexual lust. We need to learn steps to prevent ourselves from succumbing to our lustful desires. We must also be careful not to use the common excuse “Everyone makes mistakes” to brush off the gravity of sin. Yes, even godly men such as David sin. However, we must teach our children that godly men react to their conviction of sin by repenting and accepting whatever consequences may come from those sins!
Week 22 — 2 Samuel 15-19 (May 27 - June 2)
The relationship between David and his son Absalom sours in 2 Samuel 12-14. All that comes to a head in 1 Samuel 15 as Absalom attempts to murder his father and seize the throne. Things get worse for David in 1 Samuel 16 as he is cursed by Shimei, but the tide turns in 1 Samuel 17 where Hushai encourages Absalom to personally attack his father. Sadly, in 1 Samuel 18 Absalom is killed and David’s spirit is crushed. He has paid dearly for the sin he committed with Bathsheba! Finally, in 1 Samuel 19 David receives a rebuke from Joab and gets back to the business of governing the kingdom.
This section should make us reflect on how we deal with adversity. David realizes many of his problems came as a result of poor choices. We also should allow this section to reinforce in our minds the knowledge of the consequences of sin. We should teach our children not to decide it is acceptable to premeditate sin, thinking they can repent later and all will be well. We reap what we sow!