The second thing is that although the Bible has one true Divine author, the Bible has also been given to us through human authors, as I said. Now that doesn’t mean that the Bible contains errors. Sometimes people have argued that. They have said that to err is human. So if human beings had anything to do with it, it must contain errors. That is a fallacy of logic. Just because it’s natural for me to make mistakes doesn’t mean I have to make mistakes in any given instance. It is possible, for example, even on a human level quite apart from inspiration or anything spiritual, to write an inerrant manual on how to run a dishwasher.
To produce a book like this, covering so many details in such a long period of history and to do it in an inerrant fashion requires the work of the Holy Spirit to guide the human authors. We readily admit that, you see. But there is no reason why error necessarily has to follow. Second Peter 1:20-21 says, “No prophecy of Scripture ever came about by the prophets’ own interpretation. But men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” And the phrase “were carried along” is the same word that Luke the author of Acts used to describe the ship which, when it was in the midst of the storm and they cut down the sails to keep them from being torn apart, was driven along before the wind. It was still a ship. But it didn’t have any ability to control its own destiny. The wind was taking it wherever it would go. Now that’s what Peter said happened to these men. They were still men who wrote with their vocabularies. But, nevertheless, the Holy Spirit bore them along.
There is an application here in terms of interpretation. It has to do with understanding the context, vocabulary, and situation out of which the human writer was writing. That will mean, for example, that when we want to understand these books we can learn something from the environment that we learn from secular sources. It’s going to be very helpful, for example, to know something about the religion of Egypt because all those plagues that came upon the people were not a case of God simply picking a punishment. Those plagues were all directed against the gods of Egypt. So every one of those plagues showed that the God of the Hebrews, the true God Jehovah, was more powerful than Apis the bull, or Hathor the cow, or so on down through all the gods and goddesses of the Egyptian pantheon.
The third point is that the Bible’s purpose is to lead us to faith in Jesus Christ. Now Jesus taught this Himself in John’s Gospel in the fifth chapter. He was talking to the Jewish leaders, and He said, “You diligently search the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, and yet you refuse to come to me in order that you might have life.” Now the Scriptures they had were the Scriptures of the Old Testament. They didn’t have the New Testament at the time of Jesus Christ; it wasn’t written yet. So Jesus was saying in very clear language that the Scriptures of the Old Testament were given to point to Jesus Christ.
Now you couldn’t fault the leaders of His day for failing to study the Scriptures. They did that. They were diligent in their study of the Scriptures. They studied individual words when they copied them over as the scribes did. They counted the letters on the page so they wouldn’t make any single mistake when they were copying. They were great students of the Scripture. But Jesus said, in effect, “You missed the point of it all. The reason God gave it was to point to Me. And now I’ve come and you don’t understand me and you won’t come to me in order that you might have life.”
You see what that means? It means that when we study the life of Moses, we’re not going to be studying just a great man or even a marvelous story of deliverance of a people that were under oppression. We’re going to be studying things that point forward to Jesus Christ. If at the end of the study you don’t understand Jesus Christ better, if you’re not following Him more closely if you are a Christian, then you missed the point of it all.
Thus far I have made three points about the Bible, and I want to give you the fourth one. We need the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Bible correctly. The Holy Spirit wasn’t only active in giving the Bible, which is what theologians refer to by “inspiration,” the word I mentioned a moment ago. He’s also active in opening our minds individually to understand the Bible when we read it. Theologians refer to that as illumination. Paul told the Corinthians, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, in order that we may understand what God has freely given us…The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God because they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:12, 14). Since the Bible deals with spiritual matters, it requires a ministry of the Holy Spirit for us to understand them.
This leads to a very practical matter. It means we have to pray as we come to the Bible. You do that in your own personal study of the Bible. You can study the Bible and become very learned in the knowledge of the Bible; you can even teach it in a university and not be affected by it in any personal way. But if it’s going to have the right effect on you, it has to be preceded by prayer. You have to ask the Holy Spirit for understanding and then when you study it and understand it, you have to ask the Holy Spirit to give you the grace actually to live by it. The Holy Spirit has to teach us if we’re to benefit from this study of Moses or any other Bible topic.
Moses’ story begins in Exodus, and the very first thing we notice there is that this second book of the Bible is closely tied to the first. What I mean by that is that it picks up the story of Abraham’s descendants by showing what was happening to them in Egypt and how they got out of Egypt.
The tie between Exodus and Genesis is closer than is apparent to most of us in our English translation. For one thing the Hebrew text of Exodus begins with the word “And.” We don’t write that way in English so the translators don’t begin it that way, but it actually says, “And these are the names.” Numbers and Leviticus begin this way. What he is saying, of course, is that the story that’s about to begin now in Exodus is not a new story, although it’s a new chapter in this continuing story of redemption. Rather it’s a continuation of what God began to do when He first called Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, out of Ur of the Chaldees.