As a final assignment for the School of Biblical Studies, each student wrote a paper summarizing God’s plan for mankind from Genesis to Revelation, in 5-10 pages. This assignment was such a beautiful way of wrapping up nine months of studying the Bible! We’d love to share with you Helen’s final paper as a taste of what she learned on SBS!
It has been such a pleasure to spend the last nine months studying the Bible with fantastic people from around the world. I’m so blessed to have got to know God’s Word, and to have got to know dozens of beautiful people from every corner of the earth. On our graduation night, we sang “In Christ Alone” with “Solid Rock” as an SBS choir, praising God for all He has done in our lives in the last nine months. Below the video of that choir performance, you’ll find pictures from the graduation banquet and ceremonies.
“In Christ alone, my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song. This Cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.”
If you’ve read the Old Testament, there is no way that the Gospel of Matthew can not speak to you. Matthew wrote his gospel for a Jewish audience, so he continually weaves in quotes from the Old Testament, constantly showing his readers that Jesus is the Messiah they have been waiting for. Jesus wasn’t the Messiah the Jews expected; they sought a conquering king who would overthrow the Roman government, who would bring a time of financial prosperity to Jerusalem and God’s people, and who would raise up His people to a place of prominence. Jesus, however, came as a humble king. He came to conquer the judgement we deserve because of sin, not (for now) to overthrow the kingdoms of the world. When Jesus returns, earthly kingdoms will be shattered and the kingdom of God will last forever, but as He began His ministry almost 2000 years ago, it was to put an end to the sacrificial system that was a mere shadow of how He would sacrifice Himself, once and for all, for the sin of all those who turn to Him, confessing their need for a Savior. Because Jesus called out the religious authorities on their self-righteousness, and because His actions continually spoke that He declared Himself to be God, these religious authorities put Him to death. He rose three days later, and by the blood of His sacrifice, we who turn to Jesus are saved.
As you can see, Matthew is a rich book with so many take-home messages. The timeless truth that struck me the most, however, comes out of the parable of the talents. This is a parable that most people are familiar with; a master gives three of his servants varying amounts of “talents” prior to his going on a journey. The first two servants invest their talents, making them multiply; when their master returns, He is pleased with them. The last servant, however, buries his talent in the ground; he does not invest it for his master, and as a result, the master is infuriated, and casts the servant out. I (and I’m sure, you) have heard many interpretations of this parable, but as I studied Matthew, I feel that God really spoke to me directly out of this story of the three servants, their master, and their talents. God has given each one of us “talents” – whether that is a spiritual gift, knowledge of His Word or the opportunity to serve those in need and those in the church. When we don’t invest those talents, we squander what God has given us. The kingdom of God is people; God cared so much for people that He died for them. When He gives us talents, it is for the purpose of investing them in the kingdom – in His people. Yes, we are saved by faith, and no, it is not works that bring about our salvation, but the natural outflow of faith is works, and God wants us to work for other people – for His kingdom.
I’m afraid I haven’t been very good at investing my “talents” in other people – in the kingdom of God. I’ve worked hard these last nine months, sometimes at the expense of investing in others. This time has been a beautiful time of being immersed in the Word of God, but now I have been given a “talent” that I am called to share with the world. While I’m far from knowing everything there is to know about the Bible or God (no one, no matter how much they try to convince you, can know everything about God!), I have been given this tremendous opportunity to inhale the Word of God for the last nine months, and now I MUST invest that talent in the kingdom – I must exhale the Word of God. I will be staffing the School of Biblical Studies at YWAM Turner Valley for the next two years, but I want my investing of this talent to go further than this – I want to invest in the kingdom of God and encourage the church in whatever way the Lord directs me to.
God is calling you to invest your talents in His people – in His kingdom. Whether that is by living out the gospel so that people will be drawn to Jesus, or whether that is encouraging those in the church, invest your talents!
Main Idea: Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews, as was predicted in the Old Testament.
Reason Written: Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience to show Jesus was the Messiah.
Timeless Truth: God’s people are to be about doing the work of the kingdom so that others may come to know the Lord, and so that the church will be built up (Matthew 25:14-30).
The last two weeks have been extremely busy; we’ve had to move from one dorm to another because the staff dorm is going to be renovated this summer (Michael did most of the moving!), I (Helen) had to write a final paper that summarized the redemption story of the Bible in 5-10 pages, studied through the book of Matthew, and just had my final test…which means I am done with SBS! I can not even begin to describe how much work SBS has been, but even more than that, how much God has been teaching me through His Word. I am a few posts behind, so bear with me as I catch you up on the last few books of the Old Testament that I have yet to cover, before I can really write a great deal about what God has been revealing to me over these past few weeks.
If you’re reading the Bible along with me, you may have noticed I have not covered Psalms or Proverbs. This is because we had an alternate assignment for these books, covering them over several weeks. Proverbs takes less than two hours to read through, but I would recommend reading Psalms over a longer period of time, perhaps a few psalms each day for a month. The next book I will cover, however is Matthew; it takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to read through this book. Why did we study Matthew last? It quotes the Old Testament more than any other Gospel, and if you have read the OT, you will really be able to see the way in which Jesus fulfills each and every one of the prophecies about the Messiah through this book.
Main Idea: The Lord will establish His rule over all the earth.
Reason Written: Zechariah encourages the readers to renew themselves spiritually so they will be ready to worship God.
Timeless Truth: God promises total restoration (Zechariah 14).
Main Idea: God raises up Esther, through whom He rescues His people from the plot of Haman.
Reason Written: Shows how God rescues His people and explains why Purim is celebrated by the Jews.
Timeless Truth: God works through the every day events of life (Esther 9:23-26).
Main Idea: Haggai encourages the remnant to return to building the temple, predicting that it will one day be of greater glory than the former house of the Lord.
Reason Written: Written to encourage the remnant that the glory of the Lord will come again.
Timeless Truth: God’s people are called to consider their ways, reflecting on whether their ways are in alignment with the Lord’s ways (Haggai 1:5,7; 2:15,18).
Main Idea: The remnant are called to repentance; if they return to God, God will return to them, and will bring them covenant blessings once more.
Reason Written: Written to show that the result of sinning against the Lord is His covenant curses, and to promise that the messenger of a new covenant is coming.
Timeless Truth: Even when the wicked seem to prosper, it is important to follow and fear the Lord (Malachi 3:14-4:3).
If you’ve been reading the Bible along with me, you’ll recall that the next books were meant to be Daniel and Ezra; I’ve added Nehemiah into the mix here; it only takes about 45 minutes to read, and it pairs so nicely with Ezra that these two really shouldn’t be separated. A little background about Ezra and Nehemiah is helpful:
In 539BC, the Persian empire overthrew Babylon, the empire that had destroyed Jerusalem and taken the Jews into exile. The first emperor of Persia, Cyrus, allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, and actually gave them a building allowance for the purpose of rebuilding the temple there. This was par for the course for the Persian empire; they liked the people they conquered to stay in their own land and build up their culture, as this would create a better relationship between those who had been conquered and the empire. Though there were probably at least 2 million Jews in Babylon in exile, only 50,000 returned to Jerusalem. The first wave of exiles returned to Jerusalem in 538BC under the leadership of Zerubbabel. In 458BC, the second wave of exiles returned to Jerusalem with Ezra. Though the first wave of exiles were meant to build the temple upon returning to the land, they met opposition from non-Jewish inhabitants of Judah, and they stopped building for fifteen years. The temple was finally completed in 515BC. Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem in 444BC for the purpose of rebuilding the city’s walls. Unlike the temple, the walls were built quickly, as Nehemiah was committed to doing the task that God had given him. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were committed to making sure that the people of God were living godly lives, especially now that they had returned to the Promised Land.
If you’re reading the Bible along with me, our next post will be on Zechariah, Esther, Haggai and Malachi. All four books will take approximately one hour and forty-five minutes to read.
Main Idea: God is greater than any earthly king; His kingdom is greater than earthly kingdom.
Reason Written: To show how God is sovereign over all rulers and kingdoms.
Timeless Truth: God’s people are to have a devoted prayer life (Daniel 6).
Ezra + Nehemiah
Ezra Main Idea: The remnant returns to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city. Ezra the priest is sent to teach the people; he deals with issue of intermarriage.
Ezra Reason Written: Written to show how the remnant returned to Jerusalem, and to warn against intermarriage.
Ezra Timeless Truth: God provides everything one needs for his/her calling (Ezra 1:2-4; 6:1-15; 7:14-20).
Nehemiah Main Idea: The remnant rebuilds the wall of Jerusalem and reestablishes their covenant with God.
Nehemiah Reason Written: To show how the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt, and how God’s people once again resorted to rebellion, even though they had reestablished their covenant with God.
Nehemiah Timeless Truth: God’s people are to live lives that are pleasing to the Lord (Nehemiah 5:19; 13:14,22,31b).