Opening your mailbox and finding a letter is better than anything else that could be in there.
a. A direct mail advertisement is
for a specific sale. A bill is for the cost of a specific month or purchase. Even a
greeting card is usually for a specific occasion – birthday, Christmas, anniversary, get well soon.
b. But there’s something about a letter that’s timeless, even if it’s filled with nothing but the latest news and updates.
That’s why people throw the rest of the mail away eventually, but have kept boxes full of letters for their whole lives, passed them down to next generation.
c. I got to thinking that the Bible is like a letter.
There’s something about its message which is timeless, eternal. Maybe why people keep theirs, pass it down.
It’s a letter from our true home, from our heavenly parent, in all its various parts. So for many of us here, the Bible has become completely precious to us.
2. I said it’s like a letter in all its parts. Do you know all the parts of the
Bible? Its major sections and divisions?
a. I thought this message series might be a good time to acquaint you with each part, and we begin with the first one.
It’s the first five books you find in the table of contents, and there have been several names given to it: Torah, Pentateuch, Law of Moses.
1. Some people call the Old Testament the Jewish Bible but really, for the Jews, the Torah is the Bible.
It begins with creation and the first traces of humanity, then abruptly switches to tell the story of just one family in the Middle
East, and how that family eventually became a nation led by Moses from slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land of Canaan.
1. In the midst of this story, it details the laws and commandments God gives this nation, and his own promise to be their special possession.
b. The Torah literally begins with eternity and then gets more and more historical, specific, in the moment.
c. But if you read the Torah carefully, you realize each moment has eternal implications, and reveals God’s ultimate purposes.
3. Let me give you a specific example of this: Genesis 29:20
a. Jacob is the third-generation Patriarch of that family I was telling you about,
following Abraham and Isaac.
He follows his father’s footsteps by going to a relative’s house in a distant land to find a wife. Her name is Rachel and he falls in love with her.
b. He loves her so much that when his prospective father-in-law tricks him into seven-years slave labor for her hand, it feels like only a “few days” to him.
What’s interesting is that the Hebrew translated “few” actually is the cardinal number ONE. It means that those seven years felt, collectively, like one day to Jacob.
He doesn’t dwell on being in a
foreign land, or the injustice done to him, or how Rachel looks that day.
Love has given his life a sense of eternity. Love does that.
c. On the downside, Jacob learns the hard way that what goes around comes around. You can’t ever isolate a moment from its consequences.
But on the upside, his experience of loving Rachel is how God seizes a chance to describe his unfailing, eternal love for him.
d. And that’s what having a relationship with God can do to your life: it takes each moment, every experience, every interaction, and shines the light of timeless love on
4. Let me tell you some ways I have experienced this, and how I’ve heard other people describe it.
a. When I come into worship, I know it’s a specific time in my week’s schedule, a moment of history.
But when I’m singing songs of praise, praying in God’s presence, being with God’s people – I honestly feel transported beyond a time and place.
In a way I can’t fully understand, I’m somehow a part of a strain of song, prayer and community which is timeless.
b. When I think of the cross of Christ, that one moment of time when the Son of God made a sacrifice of love for my healing, I know it’s a point of time.
But when I am in need of forgiveness and restoration, I sense that the cross is NOW for me, just as fully as it was 2000 years ago.
c. And I have learned to see eternity in each every-day action, relationship, decision, and conversation.
Yes, each is a happening. It comes and then goes and I can’t get it back to repeat it or improve it.
But God takes each of these moments and places it within a plan and purpose which far surpasses it.
d. So I’m not only reading God’s letters from home, but he’s inviting me to help write them.
What’s become precious to me now becomes precious to someone else, God working through me.
5. So I’m going to invite you to participate in this: reading the Bible in a new way, seeing God’s work in a new way, seeing yourself in a new way.
a. It begins with signing up to get a personal letter from home each week you come to worship.
b. It’s something to sign up for so that it can be hand-addressed to you, waiting for you to pick up when you arrive, written just for you.
c. Use the clipboards passed around during communion or in the Hunter Building to get your letter each week.