Identity is born from story. The narratives of our lives shape who we are, how we view the world, and how we interact with those around us. The first five books of the Old Testament contain the formational stories of the nation of Israel that formed its self-identity. The story of Israel then becomes the framework for the story of Jesus and the foundation for the church. Simply put, you can’t understand Jesus if you don’t know these stories.
The word means “beginnings.” In this epic tale we find the stories that describe the beginning of everything. In ch.1-11 the universal, cosmic questions are answered. Where did we come from? Why is there pain and suffering in the world? What is the meaning of life? In ch. 12-50 we find the beginning of the specific group of people called Israel. In these chapters we track through the lives of the “patriarchs” or founding fathers of the nation of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
This book tells the story of how Moses led the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and to Mt. Sinai where God gave them the Law. This Law would serve to create order out of the chaos of their existence and give a clear picture of how God wanted them to behave as a society.
This book is the law itself. It gives specific laws regarding the place of worship called the Tabernacle, the priests who officiated the worship of God, and the societal laws that kept the people clean and healthy.
In this book we see a snapshot of how God handles disobedient children. During this part of the story the nation rebels against God and is forced to wander through the wilderness for 40 years until a new generation can enter into the land that God had promised to Abraham.
In this book Moses preaches his final sermon to the new generation of Israelites, preparing them to enter into the Promised Land. Here we revisit the Law and hear the final plea of Moses urging the people to love God and obey His commandments in order to prosper in life.