Halley’s Study Bible (book review)

I believe Halley’s Bible Handbook may have been the first Bible study resource I got my hands on when I was a pre-teen. It was a slender book but packed with insights that even this third-generation Pentecostal boy hadn’t heard before. So I was quite intrigued when I heard about Halley’s Study Bible. 

Let me get something out of the way right upfront. I’m a blogger for the BibleGateway Blogger Grid (sometimes called #bgbg2 on Twitter), so I’m occasionally offered a free book in exchange for my honest book review. However, there are more books that I pass on than books I agree to review. Since I am already working my way through the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible, I wasn’t too eager to dive into another study Bible just yet. But I’m so glad I did! 

Reading Henry Halley’s concise overview of each book of the Bible was nostalgic for me, reminding me of what initially intrigued about his handbook: taking voluminous information and giving such a clear, concise overview. 

The study notes on each page offer fascinating insights, and the unique perspective Halley offers of the people, places, and practices chronicled in the pages of Scripture are unparalleled. And what I especially appreciate is Halley’s whole-Bible approach. By that, I mean his ability to show you a theme that originates in the Old Testament and finds its fulfillment in the New Testament, showing how all of the Bible is interconnected. 

If you are looking for a new way to study your Bible, I highly recommend Halley’s Study Bible to you. 

I am a HarperCollins book reviewer. 

The Old Testament Affirmed In The New Testament

(click image for a larger view)

Sometimes, instead of referring to the two major divisions of the Bible as the Old Testament and the New Testament, I prefer to use the First Testament and the Second Testament. This helps me remember that “Old” doesn’t mean outdated and “New” doesn’t mean forgetting what came before it. 

I love how B.B. Warfield describes the First Testament as being like a mansion with richly-decorated, beautifully-ornate rooms, but which are dimly lit. With Christ’s Advent described in the Second Testament, the light is turned on and we can now appreciate the beauty that was always there! 

Sadly, there are far too many people who see the two divisions of the Bible as separate. In reality, the First Testament is affirmed over and over again in the Second Testament. In fulfilled prophesy alone, there is an abundance of evidence! 

But let’s get even more obvious: In just the four Gospels there are at least 100 direct mentions or quotations of passages from the Old Testament. Clearly, both Jesus and the Gospel writers saw the First Testament as an integral part of Christ’s ministry. 

Check out this list that I compiled and look up the references for yourself (a great place to look up Scriptures is on BibleGateway.com). 

If you would like to download a PDF version of this list, click here → Old Testament affirmed in the New Testament ← If you would like to use this document in a teaching session, just be sure to mention that you downloaded it from craigtowens.com. Thanks! 

More resource for your Bible study: 

The Holy Spirit On And In

I’m in a series right now at Calvary Assembly of God called We Are: Pentecostal. This is the second time we have rejoined this series because, quite honestly, there is just way too much for me to cover effectively! 

I have pointed out how most people in the Old Testament had the Spirit of God come ON them, but in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit comes IN Christians. And I’ve made the case that IN > ON (read more about that by clicking here). 

The Infographic Bible has a wonderful graphic depicting the On/In nature of the Spirit in the two Testaments—

 

And if you would like to see a short video where I try to illustrate the difference between on and in, please check this out. 

Prescribed & Personal Worship

But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put His Name there for His dwelling (Deuteronomy 12:5).

THE place—not a place.

The Old Testament physical practices always point to the New Testament spiritual practices:

  • We cannot worship like everyone else does—You must not worship the Lord your God in their [pagan] way (v. 4) 
  • We cannot worship God like it’s always been done before—You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit (v. 8) 
  • We cannot worship God in a way that is cheap and convenient—Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please (v. 13) 

Go to THE place the Lord will choose (v. 26). 

The exclusivity focus is on the Person not the place or the practice.

Jesus said, “Not here or in Jerusalem, but in spirit and in truth” (John 4:20-24). And He made clear that He is THE exclusive way to the Father (John 14:6).

The apostle Paul noted that the day of the week or the type of food doesn’t matter in our worship practices; THE focus on Jesus is what matters (Romans 14).

So worship of God is both prescribed and personal:

  • Prescribed in that it’s only THE work of Jesus that makes worship possible. 
  • Personal in that I worship God as me—as He created me—not by following a formula. 

Paul went on to say in Romans 14 that we shouldn’t judge the sincerity of another person’s worship. If they are glorifying God—great! If not—they will have to stand before THE Judge.

We only have access to God through THE High Priest Jesus Christ. Let us always make sure that He is THE focus.

Our Priestly Service

… pronounce them clean … pronounce them unclean … (about 40 times in Leviticus 12-15).

The Old Testament priests could not cure anyone, they could only pronounce cleanness or uncleanness. Only God could cure. So when Jesus walked this earth, He showed His deity by touching lepers and saying, “You are clean,” by stopping the flow of blood that made a woman unclean, and by restoring maimed limbs and blinded eyes that kept people from entering into the place of worship. 

Jesus said to His followers—and He still says to us today—“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you“ (John 15:3). Jesus cleanses our bodies and our consciences, and He keeps us clean until He presents us to His Father in Heaven (Hebrews 10:22; Jude 24).

We have been cleansed for a purpose. What is that purpose? In short, it is for our priestly service to our world. 

I find it interesting that the person in the Old Testament who was pronounced clean was then anointed in the exact same ways as the priests were when they were consecrated for service in the tabernacle (Leviticus 14:14-18, 25-29; 8:23-24, 30). When Jesus sent His followers out to minister, He consecrated them with the New Testament mandate, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, CLEANSE those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give“ (Matthew 10:8). 

Not just, “Pronounce them healed, raised, cleansed, and freed,” but “Heal, raise, cleanse, free”!

Jesus has cleansed us AND consecrated us to be His ministers. He has given us His authority not just to make pronouncements, but to actually heal and deliver! 

The Need For Confession

Jesus taught us to pray to OUR Father. This speaks of community and accountability. Ken Blanchard noted: “Accountability means: We owe each other for something we’ve agreed upon.” What have the saints of God agreed upon? That God is our Father, that Jesus is His Son and our Brother, and that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We’ve agreed that if we are brothers and sisters in God’s family, we are mutually accountable to one another. 

The part of accountability that some people don’t like is the realization that I make mistakes: I let people down; I sin. In a community of saints, my shortfall not only affects me but the rest of the community too. But there is a remedy—The remedy for my sin starts with my confession of my sin. 

If people like David, Isaiah, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Paul confessed their sin and called themselves sinners, what makes me think that I’m exempt from that diagnosis or that cure?! 

Confession is an owning of my sin. It’s saying to God, “I have sinned. I need forgiveness. I will repent of this. I need Your mercy.” And it’s saying to my fellow saints, “I need your help so I don’t have to repeat this sin.” 

Unconfessed sin is life-draining (Psalm 32:1-5). The word confess in the Old Testament Hebrew means to “throw out your hand.” Expose it all! In the New Testament Greek confess means to acknowledge that my life does not measure up to God’s standard. 

Confession may start in my personal prayer closet, but it needs to move to the public domain of the community of saints. Jesus made it plural, “Forgive US OUR debts, as WE have forgiven OUR debtors.” 

Sometimes I cannot see my own debts that need to be forgiven (Psalm 19:12), so I need the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the loving confrontation of someone who loves me (Psalm 139:23-24; Proverbs 27:6, 2 Samuel 12:1-13). 

The apostle James helps us see how a loving community brings healing, deliverance, and restoration. The key components that James lists are prayer and confession (James 5:13-16). 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoed James when he wrote, “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.”  

Confession may be the most under-used resource for Christians to gain power in prayer and victory over falling into temptation!

Let’s continually make use of this wonderfully freeing discipline. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—“Got To” To “Get To”

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

“Got To” To “Get To” 

     What a glorious covenant the second covenant is! Well might it be called “a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). … 

     It is better, for it is founded upon a better principle. The old covenant was founded on the principle of merit. It was “Serve God and you will be rewarded for it. If you walk perfectly in the fear of the Lord, God will walk well toward you and all the blessings of Mount Gerizim will come upon you and you will be exceedingly blessed in this world and the world that is to come.” But that covenant fell to the ground, because, although it was just that man should be rewarded for his good works, or punished for his evil ones, yet man being sure to sin and since the fall infallibly tending toward iniquity, the covenant was not suitable for his happiness, nor could it promote his eternal welfare.

     But the new covenant is not founded on works at all. It is a covenant of pure unmingled grace. You may read it from its first word to its last, and there is not a solitary syllable as to anything to be done by us. The whole covenant is a covenant, not so much between man and his Maker, as between Jehovah and man’s representative, the Lord Jesus Christ. The human side of the covenant has been already fulfilled by Jesus, and there remains nothing now but for the covenant of giving, not the covenant of requirements.

From God In The Covenant 

The old covenant was—you’ve got to do this. The new covenant is—you get to do this! 

The old covenant made requirements. The new covenant invites joyful participation. 

The old covenant needed men to do rituals of sacrifice. The new covenant was done once for all when Jesus said, “It is finished!” 

Under the new covenant, we are free to worship God and enjoy His blessings without having to complete a checklist of religious duties. Have you traded GOT TO for GET TO?

Prophecy Fulfilled

Jesus doesn’t just appear in the pages of the New Testament. All of the Old Testament Scriptures are pointing to Jesus, with some of them being quite specific concerning the time that Jesus would be living on Earth. 

Whether or not the New Testament writers explicitly point to how Jesus fulfilled those prophecies, they are all there for us to discover. It’s absolutely astounding! 

Here are two graphics from The Infographic Bible and the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible that will help you see some of these fulfilled prophecies in Christ’s First Advent. And there are still more prophecies that Jesus will fulfill in His any-day-now Second Advent! 

Book Reviews From 2019

A Minor Introduction

The minor prophets in the Bible are pretty cool! But we have to be careful with man-made titles. For example, the “old” in Old Testament doesn’t mean outdated; nor does the “new” in New Testament mean something updated to modern times. 

In the same way, the minor prophets are only called “minor” because of the volume of their writing, not the quality of their message. In fact, their messages are actually quite major! 

The minor prophets cover a span of about 300 years, from 760 BC (Amos) to 450 BC (Malachi). You can check out this side-by-side chart to see where these prophets fit in the history of Judah and Israel. 

Here are some interesting tidbits about the minor prophets:

  • In the Hebrew Bible, these books are referred to simply as “The Twelve.” 
  • All of these prophets identify themselves in the first verse of their writing except Jonah, but he is identified in 2 Kings 14:23-25. 
  • The only others of the Twelve that are mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament are Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah (see Jeremiah 26:16-19; 2 Kings 25:18-21; Ezra 5:1). 
  • The prophets consistently give us some historical context in their writings to help us place when, where, and to whom their ministry took place. 

The Twelve also show up quite liberally in the New Testament. Every one of them has either direct quotations or has their writings implicitly referred to throughout the New Testament. Here’s just a small sampling… 

  • Micah 5:2 tells us where Jesus would be born (Matthew 2:6)
  • Hosea 11:1 says Jesus would spend time in Egypt (Matthew 2:15)
  • Malachi 4:5 says an “Elijah” would precede Jesus (Matthew 17:10-11)
  • Zechariah 9:9 foretells Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-10)
  • Jonah 1:17 was used by Jesus to predict His own resurrection (Matthew 12:39-42)
  • Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21)
  • Amos 9:11-12 foretold all peoples coming to Jesus (Acts 15:16-17)
  • Hosea 13:14 was quoted by Paul to show how death was defeated (1 Corinthians 15:53-57)
  • Habakkuk 2:4 was also quoted by Paul to tell how righteous people live (Galatians 3:11)
  • Haggai 2:6 foretells the end times (Hebrews 12:26-29)

I look forward to diving deep into the major lessons in the minor prophets over the next several weeks, but in preparation for that let me give you 3 overarching lessons for all Bible studies:

  1. Christianity is rooted in history. The Bible is a historical record of real people, saying and doing real things in real places in the world. It’s not a collection of fables, myths, or legends. 
  2. We need to study the whole counsel of God’s Word. All of Scripture is interdependent on all the other parts of Scripture, and every part reinforces and amplifies every other part. Don’t limit your Bible reading to just one or two parts.
  3. Looking back in wonder and gratitude builds faith for today and hope for tomorrow. When we see what God has done in the past, and we realize that He is still the same God today, it builds our faith for today. And when our faith today is strengthened, it gives us a bright hope for tomorrow. 

I look forward to having you join me on this journey of discovery through the minor prophets! 

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