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Simple Bible Reading Guide

The Old Testament

Jump to Book: Genesis  Exodus  Leviticus  Numbers  Deuteronomy  Joshua  Judges  Ruth  1 Samuel  2 Samuel  1 Kings  2 Kings  1 Chronicles  2 Chronicles  Ezra  Nehemiah  Tobit  Judith  Esther  1 Maccabees  2 Maccabees  Job  Psalms  Proverbs  Ecclesiastes  Song of Songs  Wisdom  Sirach  Isaiah  Jeremiah  Lamentations  Baruch  Ezekiel  Daniel  Hosea  Joel  Amos  Obadiah  Jonah  Micah  Nahum  Habakkuk  Zephaniah  Haggai  Zechariah  Malachi 

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INTRODUCTION

"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130

God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.

Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).

After an introduction to each Biblical book, we list the key word and a key verse of the book. Then we highlight four special types of verses. We want to be "doers of the word," so we list a "command-verse" (Jas 1:22). In the "promise-verse," we usually receive encouragement. To challenge ourselves with the full Gospel, we choose a verse that is difficult to interpret or obey. To show God's ways are not our ways, we pick out a surprise verse in each book (Is 55:8). We close with a prayer because the Bible is our prayer book, and we must ask for God's grace to read, understand, and obey it.

P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
 

GENESIS

The word "genesis" means "beginning." In this first book of the Bible, the Lord reveals the beginnings of creation, the sabbath, humanity, marriage, sexuality, sin, suffering, murder, and alienation. These beginnings are treated in the first ten chapters. The next forty chapters are concerned with the beginning of the chosen people. After the devastation of the Babylonian exile, the people are going back to their roots to see if they are really the chosen people. If your life has fallen apart, go back to the "genesis" of God's work in your life.

Key word    BEGINNING
 
Key verse    "In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters." —1:1-2
 
Command verse    "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it." —1:28
 
Promise verse    "Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve His present end, the survival of many people." —50:20
 
Difficult verse    "When men began to multiply on earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of heaven saw how beautiful the daughters of man were, and so they took for their wives as many of them as they chose." —6:1-2
 
Surprise verse    "So Sarah laughed to herself and said, 'Now that I am so withered and my husband is so old, am I still to have sexual pleasure?' But the Lord said to Abraham: 'Why did Sarah laugh and say, "Shall I really bear a child, old as I am?" Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?' " —18:12-14
 
Prayer: Father, turn all things to the good, even the greatest catastrophe of my life (Rm 8:28).
 

EXODUS

The book of Exodus is not primarily about the Exodus. The plagues and the departure from Egypt are only an introduction to the book's final sixteen chapters, which deal with the Dwelling of God and its furnishings. This emphasis on the dwelling was an Israelite way of saying that the worship of God is the essence and goal of life. We are freed from Egypt's slavery and freed for worship at God's throne in Spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24).

Key word    DWELLING (tabernacle)
 
Key verse    "The God of the Hebrews has sent us word. Let us go a three days' journey in the desert, that we may offer sacrifice to the Lord, our God." —5:3
 
Command verse    "Then God delivered all these commandments: 'I, the Lord, am your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me.' " —20:1-2
 
Promise verse    "For the Lord will go by, striking down the Egyptians. Seeing the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and not let the destroyer come into your houses to strike you down." —12:23
 
Difficult verse    "The Lord came upon Moses and would have killed him. But Zipporah took a piece of flint and cut off her son's foreskin and, touching his person, she said, 'You are a spouse of blood to me.' Then God let Moses go." —4:24-26
 
Surprise verse    "Let neither man nor woman make any more contributions for the sanctuary.' " —36:6
 
Prayer: Father, may my life-style leave me free to worship You and free to worship you freely.
 

LEVITICUS

This book is the center of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). It reveals the answer to the problem of our fallen human nature: We must make atonement for our sins through a vicarious sacrifice. Instead of sacrificing ourselves, we can substitute the offerings of animals and cereal. Vicarious sacrifice was eventually the way of our atonement, redemption, justification, and salvation. However, animals can not substitute for human beings, "because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take sins away" (Heb 10:4). Only the sacrificial death of a man and the shedding of divinely precious blood can make atonement for all the sins of the world.

Key word    SACRIFICE
 
Key verse    "Laying both hands on its head, he shall confess over it all the sinful faults and transgressions of the Israelites, and so put them on the goat's head. He shall then have it led into the desert by an attendant." —16:21
 
Command verse    "Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy." —19:2
 
Promise verse    "Five of you will put a hundred of your foes to flight, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand of them, till they are cut down by your sword. I will look with favor upon you, and make you fruitful and numerous, as I carry out my covenant with you." —26:8-9
 
Difficult verse    "But the goat determined by lot for Azazel he shall set alive before the Lord, so that with it he may make atonement by sending it off to Azazel in the desert." —16:10
 
Surprise verse    "To purify the house, he shall take two birds, as well as cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop." —14:49
 
Prayer: Jesus, You had to be God to do the impossible; You had to be man to take my place. I thank, praise, and worship You forever.
 

NUMBERS

This book begins and ends with a census (Chapters 1 and 26). The total of the first census was 603,550. In the second census, the final count was 601,730. The book of Numbers draws the conclusion that, after forty years of struggling, the chosen people were worse off than when they started. Numbers is a chronicle of how to endure everything and go nowhere. The final message is that we must worship and obey God or be cursed with frustration, futility, and failure.

Key word    CENSUS
 
Key verse    "Now the people complained in the hearing of the Lord; and when He heard it His wrath flared up so that the fire of the Lord burned among them." —11:1
 
Command verse    "When you use these tassels, let the sight of them remind you to keep all the commandments of the Lord, without going wantonly astray after the desires of your hearts and eyes." —15:39
 
Promise verse    "I see Him, though not now; I behold Him, though not near: A Star shall advance from Jacob." —24:17
 
Difficult verse    "When Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, and taking a lance in hand, followed the Israelite into his retreat where he pierced the pair of them, the Israelite and the woman. Thus the slaughter of the Israelites was checked; but only after twenty-four thousand had died." —25:7-9
 
Surprise verse    "Then he shall adjure the woman, saying to her, 'If no other man has had intercourse with you, and you have not gone astray by impurity while under the authority of your husband, be immune to the curse brought by this bitter water.' " —5:19
 
Prayer: "Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow His Spirit on them all!" (11:29)
 

DEUTERONOMY

Think of collecting excerpts from the greatest sermons of Bishop Sheen, Billy Graham, and Pope John Paul II. What a powerful book that would be! Deuteronomy has collected some of the greatest sermons over hundreds of years so as to motivate God's people to obey Him and thereby enter the promised land. These great exhortations were put in the context of the eve of Moses' death. The great Moses, the liberator of the people from Egypt, was dying at the age of 120. These were his dying words. How dramatic! Yet the people continued to disobey the Lord. Even Moses could only see, but not enter, the promised land (32:52).

Key word    COMMANDMENTS
 
Key verse    "I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life." —30:19
 
Command verse    "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength." —6:4-5
 
Promise verse    "A Prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to Him you shall listen." —18:15
 
Difficult verse    "You may indeed view the land at a distance, but you shall not enter that land which I am giving to the Israelites." —32:52
 
Surprise verse    "Is there anyone who is afraid and weakhearted? Let him return home, lest he make his fellows as fainthearted as himself." —20:8
 
Prayer: Jesus, I need much more than motivation; I need salvation. I need You.
 

JOSHUA

The name "Joshua" is the same name as "Jesus." Jesus is our Way into the promised land and the land of promises. The Lord's promises are true despite adverse circumstances and delays. "For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late" (Hab 2:3). To inherit the promises, "keep this book of the law on your lips. Recite it by day and by night, that you may observe carefully all that is written in it; then you will successfully attain your goal" (1:8). The righteous men and women of old "by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was just, obtained the promises" (Heb 11:33). "Do not, then, surrender your confidence; it will have great reward. You need patience to do God's will and receive what He has promised" (Heb 10:35-36).

Key word    PROMISED LAND
 
Key verse    "As I promised Moses, I will deliver to you every place where you set foot." —1:3
 
Command verse    "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." —24:15
 
Promise verse    "So now acknowledge with your whole heart and soul that not one of all the promises the Lord, your God, made to you has remained unfulfilled. Every promise has been fulfilled for you, with not one single exception." —23:14
 
Difficult verse    "Joshua in turn said to the people, 'You may not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God; He is a jealous God Who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.' " —24:19
 
Surprise verse    "Joshua prayed to the Lord, and said in the presence of Israel: 'Stand still, O sun, at Gibeon, O moon, in the valley of Aijalon!' And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed." —10:12-13
 
Prayer: Lord, may I settle for nothing less than the fulfillment of all Your promises and purposes for my life.
 

JUDGES

The judges were twelve military leaders whom the Lord raised up in times of crisis. The Israelites were repeatedly in crisis because of their disobedience. They were blessed or cursed in direct relationship to their obedience or disobedience.

Therefore, repent. The Lord has called us to attack the gates of hell (Mt 16:18) and not merely endure a series of crises. You are a conqueror and not just a survivor. Repent! "Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of Hime Who has loved us" (Rm 8:37).

Key word    OBEDIENCE
 
Key verse    "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best." —21:25; see also 17:6
 
Command verse    "They did not listen to their judges, but abandoned themselves to the worship of other gods. They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken, and did not follow their example of obedience to the commandments of the Lord." —2:17
 
Promise verse    "The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, 'The Lord is with you, O champion!' " —6:12
 
Difficult verse    "Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. 'If You deliver the Ammonites into my power,' he said, 'whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the Lord. I shall offer him up as a holocaust.' " —11:30-31
 
Surprise verse    "The Lord said to Gideon, 'You have too many soldiers with you for Me to deliver Midian into their power, lest Israel vaunt itself against Me and say, "My own power brought me the victory." Now proclaim to all the soldiers, "If anyone is afraid or fearful, let him leave." ' " —7:2-3
 
Prayer: Father, may I not curse myself through disobedience.
 

RUTH

Ruth's husband and father-in-law died. When Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, planned to return to Bethlehem, she told Ruth to remain in Moab. Ruth's best chance of survival was to stay in her country where she could have a better opportunity to marry or receive some help. However, Ruth remained loyal to Naomi, although this could have been social and financial suicide. Ruth's faithfulness resulted in her becoming the great-grandmother of King David, from whose family came Jesus, the Messiah. Ruth prefigures Jesus, Who gave up His life because of His faithful love for us.

Key word    FAITHFULNESS
 
Key verse    "The neighbor women gave him his name, at the news that a grandson had been born to Naomi. They called him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David."—4:17
 
Command verse    "Ruth said, 'Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Wherever you die I will die, and there be buried. May the Lord do so and so to me, and more besides, if aught but death separates me from you!' " —1:16-17
 
Promise verse    "May the Lord reward what you have done! May you receive a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under Whose wings you have come for refuge." —2:12
 
Difficult verse    "He asked, 'Who are you?' And she replied, 'I am your servant Ruth. Spread the corner of your cloak over me, for you are my next of kin.' " —3:9
 
Surprise verse    "In the middle of the night, however, the man gave a start and turned around to find a woman lying at his feet." —3:8
 
Prayer: Jesus, may I die rather than be unfaithful.
 

1 SAMUEL

This book, as do all the Deuteronomic writings, illustrates the absolute necessity of obedience. If we truly believe in the Lord, we will obey Him. If we truly love Him, we will obey Him (Jn 15:10). Obedience is better than sacrifice (15:22). Through perfect obedience, the one Man, Jesus, saved the whole world and made atonement for all the sins that ever have or will be committed (Rm 5:19). The Christian life is simply "a life of obedience to Jesus Christ" (1 Pt 1:2). Because of disobedience, Saul was defeated, demon-possessed, and involved in the occult. In the end, he committed suicide. David was supremely victorious and became the ancestor of Jesus the Messiah because David was obedient.

Key word    OBEDIENCE
 
Key verse    "Does the Lord so delight in holocausts and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the Lord? Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams." —15:22
 
Command verse    "You must fear the Lord and worship Him faithfully with your whole heart; keep in mind the great things He has done among you. If instead you continue to do evil, both you and your king shall perish."—12:24-25
 
Promise verse    "From the day the ark came to rest in Kiriath-jearim a long time — twenty years — elapsed, and the whole Israelite population turned to the Lord." —7:2
 
Difficult verse    "The woman answered Saul, 'I see a preternatural being rising from the earth.' " —28:13
 
Surprise verse    "Then they placed the ark of the Lord on the cart, along with the box containing the golden mice and the images of the hemorrhoids." —6:11
 
Prayer: Father, may I resist temptation to the point of shedding my blood and even beyond (Heb 12:4).
 

2 SAMUEL

We obey Yahweh not only by obeying the letter of the law but also by expressing awe, reverence, and fear before the Lord. David showed this in 1 Samuel when he spared his bitter enemy, Saul, because Saul was the Lord's anointed (12:1 ff; 26:1 ff). Out of respect for the Lord, David executed the man who assisted Saul in suicide (1:14-16), commended the men of Jabesh-gilead for burying Saul (2:4-5), mourned over Abner, Saul's general (3:31), executed the murderers of Saul's son, Ishbaal (4:10-11), and showed kindness to Saul's grandson, Meribbaal (9:1 ff). David respected God's anointed one even to the point of honoring the entire family of his worst enemy.

Key word    FEAR OF THE LORD
 
Key verse    "Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before Me; your throne shall stand firm forever." —7:16
 
Command verse    "Toward the faithful You are faithful; toward the wholehearted You are wholehearted; Toward the sincere You are sincere, but toward the crooked You are astute." —22:26-27
 
Promise verse    "I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for My people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance." —7:9-10
 
Difficult verse    "The Lord on His part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die." —12:13-14
 
Surprise verse    "Thus David chose the pestilence...[The Lord then sent a pestilence over Israel from morning until the time appointed, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beer-sheba died.]" —24:15
 
Prayer: Father, may I tremble before You (Is 66:2) and esteem the person of every human being (1 Pt 2:17).
 

1 KINGS

This book begins with the glory of Solomon and ends with the glorious works of Elijah. In the middle of this glory, there is a civil war, resulting in the split between the Northern and Southern kingdoms, and the beginning of the end for both kingdoms of the Israelite nation.

The destruction of Solomon's great empire was due to sin. Because of sexual lust (see Sir 47:19), Solomon was unfaithful to the Lord. Later, Jeroboam, the king of the Northern kingdom, committed the almost unpardonable sin by setting up two sanctuaries to rival Jerusalem (12:28).

The Israelite people were also unfaithful. Elijah, "the only surviving prophet of the Lord" (18:22), challenged the people: "'How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow Him; if Baal, follow him.' The people, however, did not answer him" (18:21).

Key word    FAITHFULNESS
 
Key verse    "When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of his father David had been." —11:4
 
Command verse    "Take courage and be a man. Keep the mandate of the Lord, your God, following His ways and observing His statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees as they are written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do." —2:2-3
 
Promise verse    "After the earthquake there was fire—but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound." —19:12
 
Difficult verse    "He had seven hundred wives of princely rank and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart." —11:3
 
Surprise verse    "Ahab mounted his chariot and made for Jezreel. But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, who girded up his clothing and ran before Ahab." —18:45-46
 
Prayer: Father, may I never trade Your glory for sin.
 

2 KINGS

1 Kings ends on a happy note with the power of God manifested through Elijah. 2 Kings begins with Elijah and Elisha continuing to work wonders. Then we see the unfaithfulness, sin, and idolatry of king after king from both Israel and Judah. Every Israelite king is condemned, and of the kings of Judah only Hezekiah and Josiah are praised without reservation. Eventually, Israel is destroyed by the Assyrians, and Judah by the Babylonians. 2 Kings illustrates one Scriptural promise in a devastating way: "The wages of sin is death" (Rm 6:23).

Key word    DETERIORATION
 
Key verse    "He did evil in the Lord's sight." —3:2; see also 8:18; 8:27; 13:2; 14:24; etc.
 
Command verse    "He pleased the Lord and conducted himself unswervingly just as his ancestor David had done." —22:2
 
Promise verse    "Once some people were burying a man, when suddenly they spied such a raiding band. So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet." —13:21
 
Difficult verse    "So he took his first-born, his heir apparent, and offered him as a holocaust upon the wall. The wrath against Israel was so great that they gave up the siege and returned to their own land." —3:27
 
Surprise verse    "Some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him. 'Go up, baldhead,' they shouted, 'go up, baldhead!' The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the children to pieces." —2:23-24
 
Prayer: Father, may I repent immediately and go to Confession before it is too late.
 

1 CHRONICLES

In the late 400s B.C., it was very obvious that the chosen people were weak, scattered, and defeated. The Chronicler exhorted the people to praise the Lord by focusing their attention on the promises God made concerning the Davidic kingship and the Temple worship.

Christianity today is also weak, scattered, and often defeated. Like David, we must bow down and worship the Lord in the power of the Spirit. We will praise our way out of bondage and prison (see Acts 16:25-26).

Key word    DAVID
 
Key verse    "David became more and more powerful, for the Lord of hosts was with him." —11:9
 
Command verse    "Therefore, in the presence of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, I exhort you to keep and to carry out all the commandments of the Lord, your God, that you may continue to possess this good land and afterward leave it as an inheritance to your children forever." —28:8
 
Promise verse    "He it is who shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be a Father to him, and he shall be a son to Me, and I will not withdraw My favor from him." —17:12-13
 
Difficult verse    "Then the Lord became angry with Uzzah and struck him; he died there in God's presence, because he had laid his hand on the ark." —13:10
 
Surprise verse    "And from day to day men kept coming to David's help until there was a vast encampment, like an encampment of angels." —12:23
 
Prayer: Father, may I praise You no matter what. Open up the gates of praise (Is 60:18).
 

2 CHRONICLES

This book concludes that the only hope for the chosen people is Temple worship. Therefore, Solomon's construction and dedication of the Temple is emphasized. However, when the Temple worship was defiled by idol-worship, the nation split, deteriorated, and finally the Northern kingdom was destroyed. There was hope through the renewal of Temple worship under Hezekiah and Josiah. However, both of these kings died tragically. Temple worship was the answer, but who could purify the Temple and the people?

Key word    THE TEMPLE
 
Key verse    "When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the holocaust and sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. But the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord." —7:1-2
 
Command verse    "For when you return to the Lord, your brethren and your children will find mercy with their captors and return to this land; for merciful and compassionate is the Lord, your God, and He will not turn away His face from you if you return to Him." —30:9
 
Promise verse    "If My people, upon whom My name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek My presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." —7:14
 
Difficult verse    "Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled." —36:21
 
Surprise verse    "He made a hundred pomegranates which he set on the chains." —3:16
 
Prayer: Jesus, God-Man, eternal High Priest, You alone are a pleasing Sacrifice to the Father. I adore You.
 

EZRA

By His sovereign power, the Lord used King Cyrus of Persia to provide for the restoration of the altar and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Even after opposition halted the work, the Lord used King Darius of Persia to complete the work.

Although exterior restoration of the Temple was eventually completed, the people were not restored interiorly. A symptom of this was mixed marriages with pagans. The Lord again used a Persian king, Artaxerxes, to send Ezra to Jerusalem. Ezra brought the people to repentance and removed the foreign wives and children from the chosen people. The Lord will work in common and mysterious ways to cleanse our temples (see Jn 2:15 ff).

Key word    THE TEMPLE or THE LAW
 
Key verse    "This Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a scribe, well-versed in the law of Moses." —7:6
 
Command verse    "Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let strict judgment be executed upon him, whether death, or corporal punishment, or a fine on his goods, or imprisonment." —7:26
 
Promise verse    "May the God Who causes His name to dwell there overthrow every king or people who may undertake to alter this or to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem." —6:12
 
Difficult verse    "All these had taken foreign wives; but they sent them away, both the women and their children." —10:44
 
Surprise verse    "I also issue this decree concerning your dealing with these elders of the Jews in the rebuilding of that house of God: From the royal revenue, the taxes of West-of-Euphrates, let these men be repaid for their expenses, in full and without delay." —6:8
 
Prayer: Father, may I not be wedded to the world in any way. Divorce me from all sin and compromise with the world.
 

NEHEMIAH

The walls of Jerusalem were in ruins for over 140 years. Nehemiah fasted, prayed, and obeyed, and the Lord used him to accomplish the monumental task of rebuilding the walls despite constant opposition and harassment. This was all done to make it possible for the Jewish people to engage in the Temple worship and live the holy Law. Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Chronicler knew that the chosen people would be restored in power if only they worshipped the Lord in Spirit and truth (Jn 4:23). Only in Jesus was this finally accomplished.

Key word    WALLS
 
Key verse    " 'The wall of Jerusalem lies breached, and its gates have been gutted with fire.' When I heard this report, I began to weep and continued mourning for several days; I fasted and prayed before the God of heaven." —1:3-4
 
Command verse    "I myself, my kinsmen, and my attendants have lent the people money and grain without charge. Let us put an end to this usury!" —5:10
 
Promise verse    "But should you return to Me and carefully keep My commandments, even though your outcasts have been driven to the farthest corner of the world, I will gather them from there, and bring them back to the place which I have chosen as the dwelling place for My name." —1:9
 
Difficult verse    "The load carriers, too, were armed; each did his work with one hand and held a weapon with the other." —4:11
 
Surprise verse    "And though these are our own kinsmen and our children are as good as theirs, we have had to reduce our sons and daughters to slavery, and violence has been done to some of our daughters!" —5:5
 
Prayer: Father, may I restore the Christian community by strengthening Christian families.
 

TOBIT

Tobit was a faithful Jewish believer in exile. He would often make the trip alone to Jerusalem to worship in the only true Temple. In addition to the loneliness of exile, Tobit suffered when he became a fugitive and all his property was confiscated. He later was blinded and impoverished. Nevertheless, Tobit was faithful to the Lord despite the isolation, loneliness, and suffering.

Tobit prayed that the Lord would kill him and put him out of his misery. Sarah, his future daughter-in-law, prayed the same prayer for herself because all seven of her husbands had been killed on their wedding nights. Through the angel Raphael, the Lord cast out the demon Asmodeus, gave Tobit's son Tobiah a happy marriage with Sarah, made Tobiah rich, healed Tobit of blindness, and rescued Tobiah from Nineveh before its destruction. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rm 8:31)

Key word    EXILE
 
Key verse    "In the land of my exile I praise Him, and show His power and majesty to a sinful nation." —13:6
 
Command verse    "Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, and God's face will not be turned away from you." —4:7
 
Promise verse    "It is better to give alms than to store up gold; for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life." —12:8-9
 
Difficult verse    "Before dying he rejoiced over Nineveh's destruction, and he blessed the Lord God forever and ever." —14:15
 
Surprise verse    "Tobiah...took the fish's liver and heart from the bag which he had with him, and placed them on the embers for the incense. The demon, repelled by the odor of the fish, fled into Upper Egypt; Raphael pursued him there and bound him hand and foot."—8:2-3
 
Prayer: Lord, change my sorrow into dancing (Ps 30:12).
 

JUDITH

Because the Israelites did not join the Assyrian alliance, the Assyrians attempted to force them to die of thirst. However, the beautiful widow Judith saved the nation by beheading the drunk Holofernes, the commander of the Assyrian army. This again is the Exodus theme. God's people are victorious even in impossible circumstances for the sole reason that they are God's people.

Key word    VICTORY
 
Key verse    "Not for vengeance did the Lord put them in the crucible to try their hearts, nor has He done so with us. It is by way of admonition that He chastises those who are close to Him." —8:27
 
Command verse    "Judith urged them with a loud voice: 'Praise God, praise Him! Praise God, Who has not withdrawn His mercy from the house of Israel.' " —13:14
 
Promise verse    "Your strength is not in numbers, nor does Your power depend upon stalwart men; but You are the God of the lowly, the Helper of the oppressed, the Supporter of the weak, the Protector of the forsaken, the Savior of those without hope." —9:11
 
Difficult verse    "At daybreak they hung the head of Holofernes on the wall." —14:11
 
Surprise verse    "Soon afterward, she came out and handed over the head of Holofernes to her maid, who put it into her food pouch; and the two went off together as they were accustomed to do for prayer." —13:9-10
 
Prayer: Jesus, by Your power I claim victory over the Goliaths of abortion, pornography, starvation, homosexual acts, and racism.
 

ESTHER

This book gives the origins of the Jewish feast of Purim. The word "pur" means "lot," referring to the lot cast by Haman to determine the time for the extermination of the Jews. Haman's plan was dramatically reversed. The Jews were able to destroy their enemies instead of being destroyed. This reversal was due to the fasting, courage, and wisdom of Queen Esther. This supernatural reversal of a plan for destruction into overwhelming victory is celebrated in the feast of Purim and prefigured the ultimate victory of Jesus.

Key word    IMPOSSIBLE VICTORY
 
Key verse    "The pur, or lot, was cast in Haman's presence to determine the day and the month for the destruction of Mordecai's people on a single day." —3:7
 
Command verse    "Go and assemble all the Jews who are in Susa; fast on my behalf, all of you, not eating or drinking, night or day, for three days. I and my maids will also fast in the same way." —4:16
 
Promise verse    "He ordered them to celebrate every year both the fourteenth and the fifteenth of the month of Adar as the days on which the Jews obtained rest from their enemies and as the month which was turned for them from sorrow into joy, from mourning into festivity. They were to observe these days with feasting and gladness." —9:21-22
 
Difficult verse    "They killed seventy-five thousand of their foes, without engaging in plunder." —9:16
 
Surprise verse    "So they hanged Haman on the gibbet which he had made ready for Mordecai, and the anger of the king abated." —7:10
 
Prayer: "My Lord, our King, You alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but You" (C:14).
 

1 MACCABEES

The Seleucid king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, gradually introduced and then mandated a secular way of life for the Jewish people. He did this by building a gymnasium and instituting anti-religious laws. Throughout history, secular entertainment and politics have often been used to undermine Christianity. The Maccabees resisted to the point of abandoning their possessions, shedding their blood (see Heb 12:4), and giving up their lives.

Key word    SECULAR HUMANISM
 
Key verse    "Some from among the people promptly went to the king, and he authorized them to introduce the way of living of the Gentiles." —1:13
 
Command verse    "Then Mattathias went through the city shouting, 'Let everyone who is zealous for the law and who stands by the covenant follow after me!' Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons, leaving behind in the city all their possessions." —2:27-28
 
Promise verse    "It is easy for many to be overcome by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between deliverance by many or by few; for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven." —3:18-19
 
Difficult verse    "Women who had had their children circumcised were put to death, in keeping with the decree, with the babies hung from their necks." —1:60-61
 
Surprise verse    "He ran right under the elephant and stabbed it in the belly, killing it. The beast fell to the ground on top of him, and he died there." —6:46
 
Prayer: Father, may I never sell out to secular humanism. May I live for You alone.
 

2 MACCABEES

This book recounts many of the same events as 1 Maccabees narrates, but the perspective is different. In 2 Maccabees, there is much greater emphasis on God's intervention than on man's works (see 3:24-30; 10:29-30; 11:8; 15:12-16). Prayer is seen as the major weapon in warfare and not as a supplement to physical force. Because of the resurrection of the dead, the martyrs have a greater victory than the military men. This book is invaluable in helping us understand and practice what Paul taught about spiritual warfare in the New Testament (Eph 6:10-20; 2 Cor 10:4-6).

Key word    SPIRITUAL WARFARE
 
Key verse    "People rushed out of their houses in crowds to make public supplication, because the Place was in danger of being profaned. Women, girded with sackcloth below their breasts, filled the streets; maidens secluded indoors ran together, some to the gates, some to the walls, others peered through the windows, all of them with hands raised toward heaven, making supplication." —3:18-20
 
Command verse    "They were invulnerable for the very reason that they followed the laws laid down by Him." —8:36
 
Promise verse    "It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life by Him." —7:14
 
Difficult verse    "When he was completely maimed but still breathing, the king ordered them to carry him to the fire and fry him." —7:5
 
Surprise verse    "He tore out his entrails and flung them with both hands into the crowd, calling upon the Lord of life and of spirit to give these back to him again. Such was the manner of his death." —14:46
 
Prayer: Jesus, I give my life to You. In the name of Jesus, I bring down the strongholds of the evil one (2 Cor 10:4).
 

JOB

Job suffered several catastrophes in one day. His ten children were killed and his fortune lost. Later, he himself was afflicted with severe boils. Job prayed to die. Job's three friends and later, a young man named Elihu, tried to make sense out of Job's sudden destruction. Finally, the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. God's presence overshadowed even Job's terrible sufferings, and Job was rendered speechless. This book does not explain the meaning of suffering; rather, it points to the overshadowing power of God's presence.

Key word    SUFFERING
 
Key verse    "Then Job answered the Lord and said: 'Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer You? I put my hand over my mouth. Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again; though twice, I will do so no more.' " —40:3-5
 
Command verse    "Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes." —42:6
 
Promise verse    "Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" —1:21
 
Difficult verse    "But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that He will at last stand forth upon the dust; Whom I myself shall see; my own eyes, not another's shall behold Him, and from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing." —19:25-27
 
Surprise verse    "Then his wife said to him, 'Are you still holding to your innocence? Curse God and die.' " —2:9
 
Prayer: Father, may "I consider the sufferings of the present to be as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed" (Rm 8:18).
 

PSALMS

The book of Psalms contains some of the greatest words ever written, sung, and prayed. Unlike other books of the Bible, this book is to be read every day of our lives. It is the prayer book of the Church.

The psalms are often lyrics of songs for worship or outlines of liturgical services. When you read the Psalms, try to imagine the movement of the people at worship in the Temple. Also, remember that the Psalms are poetry. Therefore, they are more to be proclaimed than explained. Finally, pretend that the psalms were not numbered. For example, read five psalms as if they were one psalm. You may discover a spiritual order in which God will give you new insights.

Key word    PRAISE
 
Key verse    "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluia." —150:6
 
Command verse    "Happy the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night." —1:1-2
 
Promise verse    "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves. Many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all the Lord delivers him." —34:19-20
 
Difficult verse    "Happy the man who shall seize and smash your little ones against the rock!" —137:9
 
Surprise verse    "Let them dissolve like a melting snail." —58:9
 
Prayer: Father, by the power of the Spirit, may I bless You with all my soul at all times (103:1; 34:2).
 

PROVERBS

This book is an attempt to benefit from secular wisdom by seeing it in the perspective of the fear of the Lord. This book reveals how to live a life pleasing to the Lord, it does not tell us how to receive the power to do it. Only in Christ are we able to live the Proverbs and thereby live a life pleasing to the Lord (see Rm 7:21-25).

Key word    WISDOM
 
Key verse    "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; wisdom and instruction fools despise." —1:7
 
Command verse    "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not." —3:5
 
Promise verse    "Happy the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding! For her profit is better than profit in silver, and better than gold is her revenue." —3:13-14
 
Difficult verse    "If you remain indifferent in time of adversity, your strength will depart from you. Rescue those who are being dragged to death, and from those tottering to execution withdraw not." —24:10-11
 
Surprise verse    "The door turns on its hinges, the sluggard, on his bed!" —26:14
 
Prayer: Jesus, I know what to do but I can't do it. Thank You for setting me free (see Rm 7:18, 24-25).
 

ECCLESIASTES

Qoheleth, the writer of Ecclesiastes, convincingly argues that all human activity is meaningless. This book is ultra-depressing, but accurate and realistic, considering it was written before Christ. Life is worth living only because of Jesus' love poured out in His death and resurrection.

Key word    VANITY
 
Key verse    "Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!" —1:2
 
Command verse    "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all." —12:13
 
Promise verse    "God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad." —12:14
 
Difficult verse    "And those now dead, I declared more fortunate in death than are the living to be still alive. And better off than both is the yet unborn, who has not seen the wicked work that is done under the sun." —4:2-3
 
Surprise verse    "God is in heaven and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few." —5:1
 
Prayer: Jesus, if not for You....
 

SONG OF SONGS

The Christian life is a relationship with the Lord, a total commitment of unconditional love. It is analogous to marriage but much greater. Our relationship with the Lord is the deepest personal relationship possible for a human being.

Key word    LOVE
 
Key verse    "For stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire. Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away. Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love, he would be roundly mocked." —8:6-7
 
Command verse    "Do not arouse, do not stir up love before its own time." —2:7; 3:5; 8:4
 
Promise verse    "Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land." —2:10-11
 
Difficult verse    "If she is a wall, we will build upon it a silver parapet; if she is a door, we will reinforce it with a cedar plank." —8:9
 
Surprise verse    "Your hair is like a flock of goats streaming down from Gilead." —6:5
 
Prayer: Father, may I "grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ's love, and experience this love" (Eph 3:18-19).
 

WISDOM

The secular humanism of our day is undermining the Christian faith. In the last century before Christ, many Jewish people were also losing their faith because of the influence of secular humanism. The writer of Wisdom answers the secularists' objections against Judaism and Biblical revelation. Secularists are hung up on death and tragedy. Wisdom shows how these things are not contradictory to the idea of a loving God. God created a world of justice and harmony, but Satan, by using our sins, has caused the evil in this world. However, the Lord will have the last word by raising from the dead the spirits of the just.

Key word    MEANING
 
Key verse    "...thinking not aright: 'Brief and troublous is our lifetime; neither is there any remedy for man's dying, nor is anyone known to have come back from the nether world. For haphazard were we born.' " —2:1-2
 
Command verse    "For those who keep the holy precepts hallowed shall be found holy." —6:10
 
Promise verse    "The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace." —3:1-3
 
Difficult verse    "They shook at the passing of insects and the hissing of reptiles." —17:9
 
Surprise verse    "For when peaceful stillness compassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, Your all-powerful word from heaven's royal throne bounded, a fierce warrior, into the doomed land, bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree." —18:14-16
 
Prayer: Father, may my experiences of tragedy and the death of others draw me close to You.
 

SIRACH

This book is the ultimate expression of Wisdom literature. It takes secular wisdom and puts it in the context of the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of true wisdom. When we fear the Lord, we can discern the good and bad of secular wisdom. However, without the fear of the Lord, theology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and other disciplines become mere exercises in futility and confusion. Nothing makes sense or is truly helpful to us, unless we are centered on the Lord.

Key word    FEAR OF THE LORD
 
Key verse    "Fear of the Lord is glory and splendor, gladness and a festive crown. Fear of the Lord warms the heart, giving gladness and joy and length of days. He who fears the Lord will have a happy end; even on the day of his death he will be blessed. The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord." —1:9-12
 
Command verse    "When you are ill, delay not, but pray to God, Who will heal you: flee wickedness; let your hands be just, cleanse your heart of every sin; offer your sweet-smelling oblation and petition, a rich offering according to your means. Then give the doctor his place." —38:9-12
 
Promise verse    "He who fears the Lord is never alarmed, never afraid; for the Lord is his hope." —34:14
 
Difficult verse    "He who builds his house with another's money is collecting stones for his funeral mound." —21:8
 
Surprise verse    "See now all the works of the Most High: they come in pairs, the one the opposite of the other." —33:15
 
Prayer: Father, "give new signs and work new wonders; show forth the splendor of Your right hand and arm; rouse Your anger, pour out wrath, humble the enemy, scatter the foe. Hasten the day, bring on the time" (36:5-7).
 

ISAIAH

The first part of Isaiah (chapters 1-39) is a call to repentance. Only through repentance can we stand in the presence of the all-holy God. This call was not heard, and as a result, the Israelites were destroyed as a nation and sent into exile in Babylon. The second part of the book (40-66) is a prophecy of restoration. Yet how can a dead nation come to life? How can a scattered and defeated nation be restored? How can sin be atoned for? How can God be just without destroying us? The answer to life's questions is: Emmanuel (God with us), the Messiah. Jesus, the Suffering Servant, is the only One Who can save us.

Key word    HOLY
 
Key verse    "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!" —6:3
 
Command verse    "A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!" —40:3
 
Promise verse    "In days to come, the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: 'Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may instruct us in His ways, and we may walk in His paths.' " —2:2-3
 
Difficult verse    "But the Lord was pleased to crush Him in infirmity." —53:10
 
Surprise verse    "Lo, the Lord empties the land and lays it waste; He turns it upside down, scattering its inhabitants." —24:1
 
Prayer: Holy Father, may I repent before I send myself into exile away from Your presence. Jesus, I accept Your salvation.
 

JEREMIAH

Jeremiah prophesied for over forty years. The nation seemed to listen to him at first, but later they refused to repent and therefore died in their sins (see Jn 8:21). Jeremiah's message was primarily "violence and outrage" (20:8). He became extremely unpopular and according to tradition was killed by his own people. By worldly standards, he lived and died a failure. By God's standards, Jeremiah was victorious because he was faithful. The Lord still uses Jeremiah to change the hearts of millions.

Key word    REPENT
 
Key verse    "The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah." —31:31
 
Command verse    "Say not, 'I am too young.' To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak." —1:7
 
Promise verse    "For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope." —29:11
 
Difficult verse    "The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth: the woman must encompass the man with devotion." —31:22
 
Surprise verse    "You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; You were too strong for me, and You triumphed." —20:7
 
Prayer: Father, may I repent before I kill myself and many others.
 

LAMENTATIONS

In five laments the author tries to express the utter horror of the fall of Jerusalem. As painful as it is, it's good to relive suffering, pain, and death. When we face the reality of our sins and their devastating effects, we may also discover the reality of Jesus, the Savior.

Key word    LAMENT
 
Key verse    "Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering, which has been dealt me when the Lord afflicted me on the day of His blazing wrath." —1:12
 
Command verse    "Let us search and examine our ways that we may return to the Lord! Let us reach out our hearts toward God in heaven!" —3:40-41
 
Promise verse    "The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, His mercies are not spent; They are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. Good is the Lord to one who waits for Him, to the soul that seeks Him; it is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord." —3:22-26
 
Difficult verse    "The hands of compassionate women boiled their own children, to serve them as mourners' food in the downfall of the daughter of My people." —4:10
 
Surprise verse    "You wrapped Yourself in a cloud which prayer could not pierce." —3:44
 
Prayer: "Lead us back to You, O Lord, that we may be restored; give us anew such days as we had of old" (5:21).
 

BARUCH

The prophet Baruch wrote hundreds of years after the Babylonian exile. Zerubbabel, Joshua, Ezra, and Nehemiah had attempted to restore the temple, walls, and people of Jerusalem. But the renewal needed renewal. The message is: "Back to the basics"—confessing our sins, living God's word, prophesying to the dry bones (Ez 37), and not compromising with the idols of the world.

Key word    THE BASICS
 
Key verse    "They wept and fasted and prayed before the Lord, and collected such funds as each could furnish." —1:5-6
 
Command verse    "As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God, turn now ten times the more to seek Him: for He Who has brought disaster upon you will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy." —4:28-29
 
Promise verse    "I have trusted in the Eternal God for your welfare, and joy has come to me from the Holy One because of the mercy that will swiftly reach you from your eternal Savior." —4:22
 
Difficult verse    "I will make to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the sounds of joy and the sounds of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; and all the land shall be deserted, without inhabitants." —2:23
 
Surprise verse    "In it were born the giants, renowned at the first, stalwarts, skilled in war." —3:26
 
Prayer: Father, when my world is falling apart, may I not try novelties but get back to the basics of my relationship with You.
 

EZEKIEL

After a dramatic experience of God's glory (chapter 1), Ezekiel prophesied that the Lord would give His people a new heart and a new spirit (chapter 36) in creating a new Jerusalem (chapter 48). Ezekiel's prophecies could make dry bones rattle and rise from the dead (chapter 37). He prophesied about the end of the world (chapters 38-39) and the wonderful heavenly stream (chapter 47). Ezekiel's visions of God and his prophecies are a main source for much of the last book of the Bible, Revelation.

Key word    GLORY
 
Key verse    "Upon it was seated, up above, One Who had the appearance of a man. Upward from what resembled His waist I saw what gleamed like electrum; downward from what resembled His waist I saw what looked like fire; He was surrounded with splendor. Like the bow which appears in the clouds on a rainy day was the splendor that surrounded Him. Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord." —1:27-28
 
Command verse    "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!' " —37:4
 
Promise verse    "I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put My Spirit within you and make you live by My statutes, careful to observe My decrees." —36:26-27
 
Difficult verse    "The glory of the Lord rose from the city and took a stand on the mountain which is to the east." —10:23
 
Surprise verse    " 'Very well,' He replied, 'I allow you cow's dung in place of human excrement; bake your bread on that.' " —4:15
 
Prayer: Father, raise from the dead our Church's dry bones (37:12).
 

DANIEL

The book of Daniel was written during the bitter persecution of the chosen people by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid king. The book assured God's people of victory by the Lord's sovereign power. We are to obey the Lord, not compromise with the world. We are to keep our eyes fixed on God's throne and not man's brutality. "In all this we are more than conquerors because of Him Who has loved us" (Rm 8:37).

Key word    VICTORY
 
Key verse    "As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a Son of Man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when He reached the Ancient One and was presented before Him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve Him." —7:13-14
 
Command verse    "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. I prayed to the Lord, my God, and confessed." —9:3-4
 
Promise verse    "But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever." —12:3
 
Difficult verse    "At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book." —12:1
 
Surprise verse    "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood in my way for twenty-one days, until finally Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me." —10:13
 
Prayer: Father, give me the privilege of being persecuted. Make me confident of victory.
 

HOSEA

The Old Testament concludes with the twelve minor prophets. It's best to read them all together, like twelve chapters of one book.

The book of Hosea compares God's love for His people to marrying a harlot. We commit adultery by compromising with the world. The Lord will take us back, if we only repent.

Key word    MARRIAGE
 
Key verse    "I will heal their defection, I will love them freely; for My wrath is turned away from them." —14:5
 
Command verse    "Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt." —14:2
 
Promise verse    "I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks. Yet, though I stooped to feed My child, they did not know that I was their Healer." —11:4
 
Difficult verse    "Shall I deliver them from the power of the nether world? Shall I redeem them from death? Where are your plagues, O death! Where is your sting, O nether world! My eyes are closed to compassion." —13:14
 
Surprise verse    "He will revive us after two days; on the third day He will raise us up, to live in His presence." —6:2
 
Prayer: Jesus, the Bridegroom (Mk 2:19), may I never lose my first love for You (see Rv 2:4).
 

JOEL

Joel considered the natural disaster of a locust plague to be a call to repentance and a preview of the end of the world. If we repent, the Holy Spirit will be poured out on us to prepare us for victory as the world ends.

Key word    REPENT
 
Key verse    "Yet even now, says the Lord, return to Me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God." —2:12-13
 
Command verse    "Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast." —2:15-16
 
Promise verse    "Then afterward I will pour out My Spirit." —3:1
 
Difficult verse    "I will assemble all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel." —4:2
 
Surprise verse    "Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak man say, 'I am a warrior!' " —4:10
 
Prayer: Father, may I consider natural disasters a call to repentance (see Lk 13:1-5).
 

AMOS

Amos warned the Northern kingdom of its imminent destruction. It was oppressing the poor and defiling its worship due to its pleasure-seeking life-style. Amos prophesied that almost all of the nation would be destroyed for its sins, although a remnant would be spared.

Key word    JUSTICE
 
Key verse    "So now I will deal with you in My own way, O Israel!" —4:12
 
Command verse    "But if you would offer Me holocausts, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream." —5:23-24
 
Promise verse    "Indeed, the Lord God does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants, the prophets." —3:7
 
Difficult verse    "Then the Lord said to me: 'The time is ripe to have done with My people Israel; I will forgive them no longer. The temple songs shall become wailings on that day, says the Lord God. Many shall be the corpses, strewn everywhere. Silence!' " —8:2-3
 
Surprise verse    "Yes, days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land: not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from the north to the east in search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it." —8:11-12
 
Prayer: Father, may I not oppress the poor. I repent of my pleasure-seeking life-style.
 

OBADIAH

Following Amos and preceding Jonah, Obadiah continues the condemnations from Amos and precedes the vengeance of Jonah by putting forth twenty-one verses of venom. He prophesied that Edom would be destroyed for taking advantage of Judah and oppressing it after the Babylonian exile. This vengeful attitude is in stark contrast with the mercy and forgiveness of the crucified Christ.

Key word    VENGEANCE
 
Key verse    "Because of violence to your brother Jacob, disgrace shall cover you and you shall be destroyed forever." —10
 
Command verse    "Up! Let us go to war against him!" —1
 
Promise verse    "But on Mount Zion there shall be a portion saved; the mountain shall be holy." —17
 
Difficult verse    "For near is the day of the Lord for all the nations! As you have done, so shall it be done to you, your deed shall come back upon your own head." —15
 
Surprise verse    "And saviors shall ascend Mount Zion to rule the mount of Esau, and the kingship shall be the Lord's." —21
 
Prayer: Jesus, only in You can I forgive and love my enemies. I decide to embrace those who have hurt me (see Lk 15:20).
 

JONAH

Jonah ran away from God's call because of his unforgiveness toward the Ninevites, who were brutal enemies of the Israelites. The Lord sent a large fish and a little worm to teach Jonah a lesson. The worm may have been more successful than the whale. In the midst of God's jokes, He leaves us with the question: "Is our unwillingness to evangelize rooted in unforgiveness?"

Key word    UNFORGIVENESS
 
Key verse    "This is why I fled at first to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish." —4:2
 
Command verse    "Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day's walk announcing, 'Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,' when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth." —3:4-5
 
Promise verse    "Then the Lord said: 'You are concerned over the plant which cost you no labor and which you did not raise; it came up in one night and in one night it perished. And should I not be concerned over Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons?' " —4:10-11
 
Difficult verse    "But the Lord sent a large fish, that swallowed Jonah; and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." —2:1
 
Surprise verse    "But the next morning at dawn God sent a worm which attacked the plant, so that it withered." —4:7
 
Prayer: Father, may I repent of unforgiveness before I run away from You and refuse to tell others that I love You.
 

MICAH

Micah, a country boy, prophesied especially against the capital cities of the Northern and Southern kingdoms. He recognized the complicity between political and religious leaders who created a system that manipulated and oppressed the poor through real estate and banking. Despite the gross injustices, Micah had hope; he prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and lift up the remnant to restore His people after the nation was destroyed.

Key word    JUSTICE
 
Key verse    "He shall stand firm and shepherd His flock by the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord, His God; and they shall remain, for now His greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; He shall be Peace." —5:3-4
 
Command verse    "You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God." —6:8
 
Promise verse    "But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me One Who is to be Ruler of Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times." —5:1
 
Difficult verse    "For the son dishonors his father, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother- in-law, and a man's enemies are those of his household." —7:6
 
Surprise verse    "O My people, what have I done to you, or how have I wearied you? Answer Me!" —6:3
 
Prayer: Father, "as in the days when You came from the land of Egypt, show us wonderful signs" (7:15).
 

NAHUM

Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was nicknamed "the bloody city." It had slaughtered, enslaved, and mutilated its victims by the thousands. Nahum was happy to prophesy its destruction. Reading this book together with the book of Jonah helps us understand why Jonah did not want the Ninevites to repent and be spared.

Key word    VINDICATION
 
Key verse    "The Lord is slow to anger, yet great in power, and the Lord never leaves the guilty unpunished." —1:3
 
Command verse    "See, upon the mountains there advances the bearer of good news, announcing peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah, fulfill your vows!" —2:1
 
Promise verse    "The Lord is good, a Refuge on the day of distress; He takes care of those who have recourse to Him." —1:7
 
Difficult verse    "There is no healing for your hurt, your wound is mortal. All who hear this news of you clap their hands over you; For who has not been overwhelmed, steadily, by your malice?" —3:19
 
Surprise verse    "I am come against you, and I will strip your skirt from you; I will show your nakedness to the nations, to the kingdoms your shame!" —3:5
 
Prayer: Father, may I want my enemies to repent rather than to be destroyed.
 

HABAKKUK

When Habakkuk saw Judah about to be destroyed, he asked God the perennial question: "Why?" The Lord explained the situation, but Habakkuk had to live by faith. He finally decided to do that and promised God that he would rejoice and exalt in Him no matter what.

Key word    FAITH
 
Key verse    "For though the fig tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines, though the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disappear from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God." —3:17-18
 
Command verse    "If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash man has no integrity; but the just man, because of his faith, shall live." —2:3-4
 
Promise verse    "For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint." —2:3
 
Difficult verse    "How long, O Lord? I cry for help but You do not listen! I cry out to you, 'Violence!' But You do not intervene." —1:2
 
Surprise verse    "But the Lord is in His holy temple; silence before Him, all the earth!" —2:20
 
Prayer: "God, my Lord, is my Strength; He makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go upon the heights" (3:19).
 

ZEPHANIAH

Zephaniah prophesied during the years 640-630 B.C. He was one of the few prophets who was immediately successful. His prophecies were part of the great reform of King Josiah of Judah. Zephaniah prophesied the day of destruction for Judah and the nations because of their idolatry. However, a remnant of Judah would be spared. The Lord will rejoice over this remnant and even sing joyfully because of it. Eventually, even the nations will join the remnant in adoring the Lord.

Key word    THE DAY OF THE LORD
 
Key verse    "Hark, the day of the Lord! bitter, then, the warrior's cry. A day of wrath is that day a day of anguish and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick black clouds, a day of trumpet blasts and battle alarm." —1:14-16
 
Command verse    "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed His law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger." —2:3
 
Promise verse    "For then I will change and purify the lips of the peoples, that they all may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord." —3:9
 
Difficult verse    "For in the fire of My jealousy shall all the earth be consumed." —3:8
 
Surprise verse    "The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty Savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in His love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals." —3:17-18
 
Prayer: Father, may I inspire You to break into song.
 

HAGGAI

Many of the Jews had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem eighteen years before Haggai's prophecies but still had not started to rebuild the temple. Instead, they had remodeled their own homes. Haggai prophesied that the people would be discontent and plagued by tragedies until they made rebuilding the Temple their top priority. So the people began to rebuild the Temple. From the day on which the foundation was laid, God blessed the people. Although the new Temple seemed like nothing compared to the old one, Haggai prophesied that the future glory of the Temple would be greater than its former glory.

Key word    REBUILD
 
Key verse    "Then the Lord stirred up the spirit of the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, and the spirit of the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people, so that they came and set to work on the house of the Lord. —1:14
 
Command verse    "Take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord, and work!" —2:4
 
Promise verse    "Greater will be the future glory of this house than the former, says the Lord of hosts; And in this place I will give you peace, says the Lord of hosts." —2:9
 
Difficult verse    "So is this people, and so is this nation in My sight, says the Lord: And so are all the works of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean." —2:14
 
Surprise verse    "One moment yet, a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will come in, and I will fill this house with glory." —2:6-7
 
Prayer: Father, may I have the zeal of St. Francis of Assisi for rebuilding Your Church.
 

ZECHARIAH

This book announces a series of dramatic, overwhelming visions. It is a basis for the book of Revelation and prophesies aspects of Jesus' Passion. Zechariah leaves us breathless as he leads us into the depths of God's mysterious plan of salvation. To begin to experience the unique prophetic vocation of Zechariah, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you about these five prophecies of Jesus' Passion (see 9:9; 11:12-13; 12:10; 13:7; 14:3-4). You will experience the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom.

Key word    VISIONS
 
Key verse    "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition; and they shall look on Him Whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over Him as one grieves over a first-born." —12:10
 
Command verse    "Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your King shall come to you; a just Savior is He, meek, and riding on an ass." —9:9
 
Promise verse    "Not by an army, nor by might, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." —4:6
 
Difficult verse    "That day His feet shall rest upon the Mount of Olives, which is opposite Jerusalem to the east. The Mount of Olives shall be cleft in two from east to west by a very deep valley, and half of the mountain shall move to the north and half of it to the south." —14:4
 
Surprise verse    "Then I raised my eyes and saw two women coming forth with a wind ruffling their wings, for they had wings like the wings of a stork." —5:9
 
Prayer: Father, send Your Spirit to take me to the cross.
 

MALACHI

The Lord concludes the Old Testament with a special message from the prophet "Malachi," a name which means "My messenger." Malachi warns us to prepare for the Messiah's coming by faithfulness in worship, priesthood, marriage, tithing, and family. If we are serving the Lord in these basic areas of life, we are ready for His final coming. Amen.

Key word    COMINGS
 
Key verse    "Lo, I am sending My messenger to prepare the way before Me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord Whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts." —3:1
 
Command verse    "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me in this, says the Lord of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?" —3:10
 
Promise verse    "For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, My name is great among the nations; and everywhere they bring sacrifice to My name, and a pure offering." —1:11
 
Difficult verse    "Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with doom." —3:23-24
 
Surprise verse    "Dare a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! And you say: 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and in offerings!" —3:8
 
Prayer: Father, as I finish reading the Old Testament, I totally give myself to Your Son, Jesus.
 

CONCLUSION

When you finish reading this booklet, give it to someone else. Pray for that person to be motivated to read God's word and make a total commitment to the Lord. Use this book as a tool for evangelization. Right now pray to know the person with whom you are to share this book.

 

Nihil obstat: Reverend Ralph J. Lawrence, Ocotber 3, 1995
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ocotber 10, 1995

The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.

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Copyright © 2017 Presentation Ministries
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Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com

 

 

 
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