When I was either in seventh or eighth grade (could have been freshman year in high school) I picked up the Bible I’d gotten at the Methodist church my family attended, and I read it from cover to cover. It was an RSV. I still have it, though the red dye on the edges of the pages got damp in the trunk of my car (accidentally left it there) and bled onto some of the pages. That was careless and I regret that it happened. I treasured that little book. But did I understand what I read all those years ago? Nope. Not most of it. But I was convinced that someday somehow I would find a way to understand it.
And one day I did. (Links at the end of this post.)
I should qualify that. I understand it better than I did and it’s made a tremendous difference in my life. And I continue to grow in understanding of the Scriptures, of the Church, of the spiritual life, and of what it means to be part of the Family of God (which apparently is a better translation than the People of God that we so often hear about, or so I’ve read).
Here is one of the things that have helped me understand the Bible over the years. This was when my studies began to take off. What a ride it’s been!
The first real progress I made in understanding the Bible came when I read Scott Hahn’s A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love In Scripture. This book takes you through salvation history, from Genesis to Jesus. It doesn’t give you a snapshot of every book; it reveals the narrative of the overarching story. I hadn’t even known there was one.
Dr. Hahn looks at the different covenants that God made with humanity beginning in the Garden of Eden and ending with the covenant that Jesus inaugurated when He instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper. All along the way God is preparing His human family “to share in the infinite love of the Trinity” and to share in His “own divine life.”
Briefly, God made covenants with:
- Adam (marriage with Eve),
- Noah (household),
- Abram (tribe),
- Moses (twelve tribes and then a nation);
- David (worldwide kingdom with an everlasting throne), and
- Jesus (the New Covenant that “permanently binds us all together in one universal divine family: the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”).
I was fascinated to learn about oaths and covenants and that we can’t break covenants, we can only trigger blessings by keeping the covenant, or we can trigger curses by not keeping the covenant. We can’t break a covenant but we can violate it. Violating the covenant means we wound or even sever our relationship with the Lord. And if we do this terrible thing, then the Lord has provided means for us to mend the wound we have caused. In His mercy He has shown us how to keep the covenant, and what to do if we violate it, so that we can enter into relationship with Him anew.
“With each succeeding covenant, God broadened the focus of his dealings with the human family.”Hahn, S. (1998). A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture (p. 32).
The Lord tries over and over and over again, He is always willing to accept His repentant children back into His loving arms, but the key word there is “repentant.” No repentance, no relationship, no friendship, no covenant blessings.
I’d like to mention at this point that the “rules” that many people think of when they think of the Catholic Church (or “organized religion” in general) are the means by which we remain in covenant with the Lord. Baptism is the way in which we enter into the covenant, but keeping the covenant—obeying the commandments, living the Christian life as a disciple—are the ways we remain in the covenant. They aren’t there to ruin your fun, to oppress you (for those who have imbibed the marxist brew), or to steal your joy, but to make it possible for you to have joy, real joy, and life, and to have it abundantly.
Dr. Hahn shows not only the covenants and with whom the Lord made them, but also the signs under which He made the various covenants.
The Covenants, Forms and Signs
- Adam, form of the marital bond, under the sign of the Sabbath;
- Noah, form of the familyh, under the sign of the Bow in the heavens;
- Abram, form of the tribe, under the sign of circumcision;
- Moses, form of the national family, Israel, under the sign of the Ten Commandments and other statutes;
- David, form of the kingdom, under the sign of the everlasting throne;
- Jesus, form of the universal family, the Catholic Church, under the sign of the Eucharist.
I’ve only covered the barest bones of the book here, there is much more. But maybe this brief look at the story of salvation history as revealed by the Bible is worth looking into. I’ve enjoyed this book so much over the years that I have it in print, in Kindle format, and in my Verbum (Catholic Scripture, Magisterium, and Tradition study software and resources) library. LINK
If you want a book that helps you understand the Bible without talking over your head or down to you, either, or if you’ve ever enjoyed hearing Dr. Hahn speak, I think you’ll learn a lot from this book and painlessly, too. Except for those puns. He just can’t help himself with those awful puns. But that’s okay with me, I’m a big fan of truly awful puns.
I watched part of this series on EWTN, Genesis to Jesus, which is based on the book we’ve been looking at here in this post. I haven’t seen it in a while, I may have to watch it tonight with Miss Lucy Dawg. I told her just now, she look absolutely thrilled. ;)
Thanks for visiting and reading. I hope you’ll join me again as we continue to explore the Church, the Catholic faith, and whatever I think of to write on any given day. ;) God bless you and may His peace be always with you.
This has been the first post in the What is all this stuff? series.
- A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love In Scripture, by Scott Hahn. Paperback. Kindle.
- Scott Hahn, Genesis to Jesus, Part 1 of 2 and Part 2 of 2.
- Also consider Verbum. This thing is awesome! Take your study to the next level with Verbum. It’s got a learning curve but it’s worth it. I have preferred all of my books to be in Verbum format since I started using it back in 2014. I still buy books in other formats but I much prefer Verbum because of the way things are connected to each other. I won’t try to explain it here, go visit the site or watch some videos about it. Amazing.
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