I love Sunday school! I teach! And I learn more than anyone in the class!
We just started a new unit. We are doing a survey of the Old Testament. We're studying it in chronological order, just the way it happened. While studying we are also observing what was going on in world history at the same time. My kids learn all that stuff in school and it would be neat to know that during the time of Jonah the first Olympics began or that the Apostle John lived during the time of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Thirdly we are looking for the scarlet thread that runs through it's pages always leading us to Christ.
The Apostles didn't have the New Testament to win people to Christ. They had to preach Christ from the Old Testament. I remember how profoundly that realization hit me the first time I heard it. So I began to look for Christ every time I read the Old Testament and I was shocked at how much of Him, of God the Father, of the Holy Spirit and of the future church I found there.
The whole thing started out as a daunting task. I don't have a curriculum. I'm using Bible maps, study Bibles, a 20 foot timeline and a Chronological Bible. But now that I'm into it, it is absolutely fascinating!!
I realized that I've always studied Bible history and World history separately, each in it's own bubble I have just realized that the two histories happened simultaneously, interacting and affecting each other. To understand world history is to understand Biblical writings and to understand Biblical writings is to understand world history. To understand both is to understand God better and is to see that truly all of world history centers on the year AD1 when Christ entered the world. He is the center of all that has been and all that will be.
The first Sunday I put a world map on the wall and called the kids up. I had them look at the vast expanses of land and water. Then I showed them a tiny sliver of land along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. I told them, "This piece of land is the focus of all world history". They were amazed!
Just in the 3 weeks we have been studying, I am fascinated at how God used the vernacular, the traditions and even the rituals of a pagan nation, incorporating them into the language of Genesis and His dealings with Abraham. In almost every case God used something familiar and meaningful to Abraham to establish His covenant and to reveal Himself, always taking something old and then making it new and better by changing it in some significant way!
The most poignant example is when God instructed Abraham to prepare an offering. Abraham was familiar with this ritual. It was used as a very serious ceremony when two parties were making a covenant. In the covenant relationship there was the one giving something with terms attached and the one receiving the terms and agreeing to uphold them in exchange for receiving what was offered. To seal this, animals were cut in half and the halves were laid opposite each other. They were then set on fire and the lesser part of the covenant relationship walked in between and observed the cut up animals burning as a sign of what would happen to them if they broke the terms of the covenant.
God could have established His own ritual, but He instructed Abraham to do this because He knew Abraham fully understood the seriousness of this ritual. But then God introduced a different way of doing it. Abraham fell asleep and God showed him that the fire itself (symbolic in that day of God or deity) was walking between the animals instead of Abraham. It was as if God was making a covenant with Himself and Christ Himself walked through those burning animals. God will not deny Himself and this sealed the promise that God made to Abraham. It was totally up to God. It was also interesting to me that God had Abraham choose animals that were 3 years old as if to symbolize the three year ministry and death of Jesus Christ.
I'm being careful not to "hyper-type" everything I read in scripture, relying on the wisdom of Bible scholars and teachers. But honestly I am so delighted at what I am seeing for the very first time. The Bible just never gets old. It is not shallow. You can take it at face value, but there is such treasure buried deep in it's words. One thousand lifetimes would not be enough time to unlock all of it's beauty.
I am loving seeing God fitting together the big picture of all the epochs of time for me to see. It just makes Him more real than ever before and makes stand in awe at His wisdom, His plans and His purpose. I don't know what the kids are getting out of all of this, but I will never be quite the same. He constantly amazes me, delights me, intrigues me, and shows me more of Himself with every chapter of scripture. And I'm still in Genesis!