Ministry Resources

Tents, Temples, and Palaces

In this course you will study the Old Testament, the first part of the most important book in the world- the Holy Bible. The Old Testament tells about the Creator of the heavens and the earth. It is the account of His dealings with the people he chose to use as an instrument through whom to bless the world. Series written by Rick C. Howard.

Writings of a Kingdom Age

The Old Testament includes five books known as poetry or wisdom literature. These are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. In contrast to the books we have already studied in this course, these books do not deal primarily with historical events. They deal, rather, with the experiences of life that were familiar to the Israelites. The problems, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions that are expressed in this literature give us insight into their lives.

While most of these writings were produced during the kingdom age, some of them were written earlier. Nevertheless, the experiences they deal with are common to people everywhere at every time of history. These writings speak to us today! The Holy Spirit has caused them to be preserved for our consideration, enjoyment, and growth.

As you study this lesson you will understand why these writings are beautiful in every language. You will discover the main theme and value of each one and learn why many Christians find them to be so meaningful and inspirational. Your spiritual and devotional life will be enriched as a result.

The Writings and Their Form

The Writings

The books of the Bible which we will study in this lesson include those which many people regard as their favorites. Among the authors of these books were kings, prophets, poets, and common people. But though we are living in a time and culture different from theirs, the basic teachings of their writings are still valuable to us. These books show us that God relates to our lives in practical ways. He is concerned with our suffering, our business, our family life, and our desire to worship Him.

Their Form

The books of wisdom and poetry are written in a poetic style called parallelism. This style is the main feature of Hebrew poetry. Parallelism means that the thoughts which are expressed are similar or balanced in some way (parallel). This style is in contrast to rhyme, in which the sounds of the words (usually the last word in each line) are similar. Notice this contrast below.

Rhyme: Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Parallelism: You make springs flow in the valleys, And rivers run between the hills (Psalm 104:10).

Thus Hebrew poetry has great beauty, but this beauty comes primarily from the thoughts expressed. The wonderful thing about this style is that the beauty of the poetry is not lost when the poem is translated.

Writings for Wisdom

Job—Dealing With Suffering

It is likely that Job lived during the times of the patriarchs between Abraham and Moses. He is referred to in the book of Ezekiel along with Noah and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). The book which bears his name is probably the oldest of the Bible books; it is also a poetic masterpiece. Its theme is human suffering—one of humanity’s universal, unsolved problems.

The key word of the book is test or trial. Job spoke of God, “‘When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold’” (Job 23:10). A simple outline of the book is as follows:

  1. Job 1:1–3:26. Job and his three friends are introduced; Job has been reduced to poverty and misery.
  2. Job 4:1–31:40. Job and his three friends discuss his suffering.
  3. Job 32:1–37:24. Elihu speaks; he says that suffering is a means of purifying and chastening.
  4. Job 38:1–41:34. God speaks; man cannot understand all the ways of the Creator, for His ways are above man’s ways. 5. Job 42:1–7. Job worships God; his fortunes are restored to him in double measure.

In the book four basic views or ideas about suffering can be seen. We may call these views that of Satan, of the saint, of the sufferer, and of the Savior.

  1. Satan’s view: People serve God only for the riches and honor it brings (Job 1:1–2:8). He used this philosophy later when he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1–11).
  2. Friends’ view: (the view of Job’s friends Eliphar, Bildad, and Zophar, who agree for the most part): The righteous are always rewarded and the sinner always suffers. Thus, they concluded, Job as a great sufferer must have been a great sinner (Job 4:7).
  3. Sufferer’s view: (the view of Elihu): Suffering is always the Father’s discipline to bring us back to His purpose. Elihu’s speeches are a far more just defense of God.
  4. Savior’s view: God revealed himself to Job. He teaches that the godly are allowed to suffer so that they might see themselves. Job, although a good man, was self-righteous

The book of Job shows us that trials and suffering are not always for our punishment. Sometimes they are allowed to come into our lives so that we may be trained and educated. An athlete, for example, does not undergo strict discipline for punishment. His discipline prepares him to run the race. In the same way God is always preparing us for the work we each must do. And sometimes He does this through the discipline of trials and suffering. He has a wise purpose in it all. He wants to show us His wisdom.

Proverbs—Dealing With Life

The book of Proverbs is a marvelous collection of wise sayings. The Jews likened it to the outer court of the temple, the place where the Jew met other people. Proverbs is the godly man on his feet, for it seems to show us that godliness is practical. Every relationship is mentioned. In it we find our duty to God, our neighbor, our parents, our children, and even our country all mentioned.

The author of most of the book of Proverbs was Solomon. He was so wise that he was described as actually representing wisdom in himself (1 Kings 3:3–28; 4:29–30; 5:12). Many foreign rulers sought his advice (2 Chronicles 9:1–24). Along with Solomon (Proverbs 1:1, 10:1), the following additional authors are mentioned: a) The words of the wise (22:17); b) The Proverbs of Solomon copied by the men of Hezekiah (25:1); c) Agur (30:1); and d) King Lemuel (31:1). The book of Proverbs may be divided into three main sections:

  1. Counsel for young men: chapters 1–10.
  2. Counsel for all humankind: chapters 11–20.
  3. Counsel for kings and rulers: chapters 21–31.

A notable part of this remarkable book is chapter 8. It is a forceful, beautiful description of wisdom. Many students of the Bible have noticed similarities between this chapter and certain descriptions of Jesus Christ which are found in the New Testament. In Colossians 2:3, for example, Christ is described as the One “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” For a refreshing exercise, as you read verses of Proverbs, try putting the name Christ in place of the word wisdom.

Ecclesiastes—Dealing With Despair

Ecclesiastes is a statement of a human philosophy of life. It is like a record of all that the human mind can think and religion can offer. The arguments in the book are not God’s arguments; they are God’s record of humanity’s arguments. Some of the arguments which are presented by man are in opposition to teaching found elsewhere in the Bible (see 1:15; 3:19; and 8:15).

The author identifies himself as “Solomon son of David, king of Israel” (1:1). Many believe that this book is a dramatic account of Solomon’s own experience. The author asks a question: what is most valuable as a goal for life? He doubts that there really is an answer to this question. His experience shows that everything people seek after for satisfaction brings only despair. They seek satisfaction apart from God (1:1–3). They seek satisfaction in science (1:4–11). Philosophy does not give them an answer (1:12–18). Neither does pleasure (2:1–11) including happiness, drunkenness, work, possessions, wealth, and music. All are empty

The author turns to materialism (2:12–26), an attitude of fatalism (3:1–15), and general but impersonal religion (3:16– 22). These are also vain. It is not easy to please God (5:1–8), and riches bring no joy (5:9–16). Neither does being good (7:1–12). Finally, he comes to an important conclusion: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13).

Writings for Devotion

God created humans for fellowship with Him. As we have learned from the message of Ecclesiastes, humanity finds no meaning for life apart from fellowship with God. One of the main ways in which a believer has fellowship with God is through worship. When we worship God, we recognize His worth. We may be busy working for God, but only our true devotion and personal expression of worship to Him will bring lasting satisfaction. The two books of poetry we study in this section are both examples of and means for this experience.

Psalms—Praise and Prayer

For more than 2,000 years the book of Psalms has been one of the most popular and best-loved books in the Old Testament. Beginning from the time of David, the Israelites used these songs in their worship of God. Christians today of every race and nation use them and sing from them. Their great popularity comes from the fact that they deal with the common experiences of the human race.

The title Psalms means “Praise” or the “Book of Praises.” The Psalms magnify and praise the Lord. His names, His word, and His goodness are all honored.

About two-thirds of the Psalms name a specific author; among these are David (who wrote 73), Asaph (12), the sons of Korah (10), Solomon (2), and Moses (1). Ethan and Heman, two men compared for wisdom with Solomon (1 Kings 4:31), wrote one each.

But remember, Asaph was David’s appointed choir master. The sons of Korah seem to have been a special group of singers from the Levites in David’s day. Many of the Psalms that name no author seem to fall naturally to David. The shadow of David is everywhere in the Psalms. He shared his life openly with us, and his writings have given each of us an opportunity to know that God cares for us even in discouraging moments.

In the traditional collection, the 150 Psalms are divided into five units or “books.” Each unit ends with a statement of praise. The five units are as follows: 1) Psalms 1–41; 2) Psalms 42–72; 3) Psalms 73–89; 4) Psalms 90–106; and 5) Psalms 107–150. Of course, each psalm is also a single unit in itself.

The Psalms can also be divided into groups according to their theme or subject. These groups include the following: Prayers of the righteous, songs of repentance and confession, songs of praise, songs about Israel’s history, songs about the Messiah (Jesus), songs in distress, and songs of instruction.

The Psalms also contain many prophecies concerning Christ, the Messiah. Many of these were fulfilled in His first coming; others will be fulfilled when He comes again.

The Psalms show us an important principle we must all learn to follow in our relationship with God: honesty. Fellowship with God, like fellowship with a friend, demands truth. The attitude David showed in the Psalms gives us an example of what God expects from us in worship and prayer. God wants us to express our true feelings. Whether you are— like David was—in the temple of worship, the cave of hiding, the pit of despair, or the dance of joy, there is a psalm to express your feeling. Make the Psalms your personal book.

Do you have a definite time each day of devotion, praise, and prayer? If you do not, will you choose a time and begin now? It is very important!

Song of Songs—Loyalty and Love

This book is one of the 1005 songs written by Solomon (1 Kings 4:32). The title “Song of Songs” suggests that this was the best of all of them (in some Bibles it is called “Song of Solomon”). Because of its subject, many explanations have been given for its inclusion in the Bible. As we study these explanations, we will discover that this book has a special message for us.

In its literal or actual meaning, the song is about the warm emotions of human love and marriage. The main speakers are a country maiden called the girl of Shulam or the Shulammite (6:13), her lover, and a group of Jerusalem women. According to one interpretation, the country maiden has been taken to the royal court (1:1–2:7). Although the king expresses his love for her, she longs for her shepherd lover (2:8–7:9). At the end, she is reunited with him (7:10–8:14). Many other interpretations have also been given.

The Jewish people saw the Song of Songs as a picture of the relationship between God and His people Israel. It was read each year at the Passover celebration. As the Israelites heard it, they were reminded of God’s love for them in their deliverance from Egyptian slavery. The bond between Israel (the Shulammite maiden) and God (her shepherd lover) was so strong that no worldly appeal (the king) could break it. Other passages in the Old Testament also picture the relationship between Israel and God to be like that of a marriage (see Isaiah 50:1; Ezekiel 16, 23; and Jeremiah 3:1–20). This picture is also used in the New Testament, where the relationship between Christ and the church is described as a “marriage” (see Ephesians 5).

Like the Psalms, the Song of Songs is a call for the believer to enter into an intimate love relationship with God.

Next Lesson