The Bible. 39 books in the Old Testament. 27 books in the New Testament. That is a total of 66 different books in our one Bible. How do they all fit together? Is there something that ties them all together? Or are they simply random books tossed together because they are religious literature?
Michael Williams has written How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture to tie all 66 books together. What ties it all together? Jesus.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.
(Jesus in John 5:39 ESV)
Williams likens this to a jigsaw puzzle without a picture on the box to guide us. He presents Jesus as that picture.
Jesus viewed the Bible in this manner, and so should we.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
(Luke 24:27 ESV)
Michael Williams is Professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary. Don’t let that scare you away. This book is written for the normal reader and not just for seminarians and scholars.
Each book of the Bible is presented in four pages using the same format for each book. You will discover the theme of the book, a suggested memory verse, a Jesus focus, implications for today and questions to apply the teaching to your life.
This is very readable. In fact, I would encourage you to have a copy of this book next to your Bible. When you begin reading a new book of the Bible, take a quick look at this book to orient yourself to that particular book. Your Bible reading will become more sharply focused on the central theme and character of Jesus – even in the Old Testament books.
In this review I am highlighting the Old Testament section known as The Writings. In particular, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Job.
Theme: God brings the exiles back to Jerusalem and directs that his temple be rebuilt.
Jesus Lens: Through Christ, God is building a living temple.
Contemporary Implications: Let us join God’s construction crew.
Theme: God moves the returned exiles to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.
Jesus Lens: The true home of Christ and his disciples is not of this world.
Contemporary Implications: Let the world see what it means to be distinctively Christian.
Theme: God providentially provides Esther and Mordecai to bring Israel deliverance from her enemies.
Jesus Lens: The Father provides Christ to deliver his people when the set time had fully come.
Contemporary Implications: We have been providentially provided to proclaim deliverance through him to those who are perishing.
Theme: God is active in area and realms beyond our understanding.
Jesus Lens: Christ is the ultimate righteous sufferer as he accomplishes God’s saving purposes.
Contemporary Implications: We can believe that God is with us even during the hard times.
As you can see from these four books, Jesus is the lens through which we view the ancient text and apply it to our lives today. If one can apply the Jesus lens to these four Old Testament books, Bible reading will become laser focused on the central theme of Jesus. In fact, the book of Esther never mentions God, much less Jesus. Yet God intended for us to see Jesus in this book.
Seldom will you find a book that can provide such detailed wisdom in such succinct and readable form. We have found one in Williams’ book.