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06
Top Ten Old Testament Stories: #5 Moses and the Crossing of the Red Sea
TIMING: While there aren’t definitive sources that corroborate the traditional timing of the life of Moses (1400-1201 B.C.), for the sake of the chronology the crossing of the Red Sea is about four hundred years after Joseph dies. This gives time for the pharaoh that loved Joseph to die, and for a new king to come to power and treat the Israelites harshly (Exodus 1: 8-22).  REASON TO READ: There are several levels on which one could read the story of Exodus: Historically as a story of the Israelites, As a metaphor of our struggle against sin, To study Moses as a model of leadership, To study the character of God in how He deals with his difficult people, and many more perspectives that we could not cover in a single article. We will explore each of these reasons when we discuss how this story fits in the top ten, below. BRIEF SUMMARY: This is one of the most popular stories in the Bible, so we will not spend too much time elaborating here on the details. The main events are Moses grows up in Pharaoh’s house (Exodus 2:1-10), He realizes his people are being oppressed, tries to liberate them by his own strength, kills an Egyptian, and flees to Midian (Exodus 2:11-25), He sees God in the burning bush and God tells him to go back to rescue the Israelites (Exodus 3), Moses tells God that he is not the right man for th...

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04
Top Ten Old Testament Stories: #4 Joseph and Pharaoh’s Dream
TIMING: The historical timing is controversial with multiple accounts: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/02/18/Joseph-in-Egypt-Part-I.aspx http://www.freemaninstitute.com/Gallery/joseph.htm http://creation.com/egyptian-history-and-the-biblical-record-a-perfect-match The take home message is that Joseph went to Egypt around 1600 B.C. give or take a few hundred years. REASON TO READ: The story of Joseph in Egypt marks a milestone in the story of the Hebrews in that it is the means by which Israel and his sons to go to Egypt, which is the prequel to their descendants’ Exodus with Moses. BRIEF SUMMARY: Just as with Abraham, Joseph has many spiritually beneficial stories, starting from his birth Genesis 30 until the end of the book in Chapter 50. For our purposes here, we will focus on his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream in Chapter 41. Joseph had been put in jail for a crime he did not commit, and while he was in jail he had correctly interpreted dreams for the baker and the chief butler of Pharaoh. He had asked the chief butler to put a good word in for him with Pharaoh, but he had forgotten until Pharaoh had a dream that nobody could interpret. When the chief Butler told Pharaoh about him, they brought Joseph out of the dungeon and Pharaoh told him his dream: "Behold, in my dream I stood on the bank of the river. Suddenly seven cows came up out o...

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03
Top Ten Old Testament Stories: #3 Abraham and the Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19)
TIMING: Traditionally, Abraham was thought to live 2000 years before Christ, but this has been questioned recently by such books as Abraham in History and Tradition by biblical scholar John Van Seters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_in_History_and_Tradition). REASON TO READ: Prior to Abraham, God had individual relationships with people. He was close with Adam and Noah. There are other people we know of and potentially (likely) other people we do not know of that God approached on an individual basis. The unique thing about Abraham, is that God promised, not only to be close with him, but to all of his descendants also, which is a significant milestone in God beginning to form for Himself a "holy nation, His own special people, that ... who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10). BRIEF SUMMARY: Abraham has many stories found in Genesis 11-25, but here we are focused on when God asks him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This story begins in Chapter 17 when God makes a promise to Abraham that he will be the father of many nations through his son Isaac. It is important to read this and see that God does not simply make a general statement that Abraham will be a patriarch, but rather a specific statement that Isaac will be part of the promise also. Therefore, when God asks Abraham in Genesis...

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23
Why does God Allow Evil?
If God is all powerful, all knowing, just and loving, and if He's all goodness and graciousness then why is there such evil in the world?!  Where is God's love then?  Where is His justice?  If He's all powerful, why can't He stop the injustice?  If He's all loving, then why does He not protect His children from evil?  Why do we always hear about these terrorists and their heinous acts of evil?  Why does God allow such evil?   This is a question that comes to everyone's mind at some point in their lives and the answer to it might surprise you...  It is because of God's love, mercy and justice that He allows evil in the world!  Perhaps this might sound very strange at first, but allow me to explain and I hope that by the end of this article you might thank God for allowing evil for so long!   There's Evil in the World Because God is Merciful God is merciful upon all His creation.  Some of His children have strayed from His way and inflict evil upon the world.  God however is a "gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm." (Jonah 4:2)  God is patient because He has "no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." (Ezekiel 33:11)  This is why St. Peter says "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some ...

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12
Top Ten Old Testament Stories: #2 Noah’s Ark (Genesis 6-9)
TIMING: Potentially corroborated by geological data of flooding related to melting ice caps around 5600 B.C. (http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/science/010599sci-black-sea-flood.html). REASON TO READ: This epic story has the sort of excitement that movies are made of. My personal favorite is Evan Almighty which does not try to be historically accurate but rather captures the spirit of how crazy Noah must have felt to build his ark. BRIEF SUMMARY: The world had become so evil that God wanted to purge the world of its evil and start over. He tells Noah about His plan and tells him to build an ark so that he can survive the impending flood. Noah listens to God and builds an ark on land despite the ridicule from the people around him for the decades it took him to build it. He brings his wife, three sons, their wives, seven of every clean animal, two of every unclean animal, and seven of each type of bird. God brings rain upon the earth that lasts 40 days and 40 nights so that everyone on the ark is saved and everyone else perishes. Noah sends out a raven that does not return. He sends out a dove three times: the first time it returns empty-beaked, the second time it comes back with an olive leaf, and the third time it does not return. This is Noah’s sign that it is safe to leave the ark with his family and the animals that came with him. HOW THIS FITS IN THE TOP TE...

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15
Top Ten Old Testament Stories: #1 Adam and Eve (Genesis 1-3)
TIMING: No historical chronological corroboration available. REASON TO READ: This is the beginning of God’s relationship with man. If we understand how God “meant it to be” in its simplest form, then we can begin to see how He can steer our lives to resemble the paradise that God created for Adam and Eve to enjoy. BRIEF SUMMARY: God creates the world and puts Adam in the garden of Eden with Eve as his helpmate. They are allowed to eat of any tree in the garden except one, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve is deceived by the serpent and convinced to eat of the tree. She convinces Adam to do the same, and they become aware of their nakedness. They cover themselves in fig leaves, but God performs the first sacrifice and covers them with animal skins. They are kicked out of Eden and two cherubim with flaming swords are put at the gate to prevent them from going back in. HOW THIS FITS IN THE TOP TEN: To a certain extent we may take for granted the significance of God first creating then seeking a relationship with human beings. God could have very easily created us to be like earthly angels whose role is to serve God rather than creating us in his image and inviting us to become his children. We can discuss later what it truly means to be in God’s image and likeness, but for now let us simply see that we have a unique relationship with God...

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20
Introduction to the Top Ten Old Testament Stories
Question 1:  Why have a top ten? I'm guessing that a majority of us do not sit down and read the Old Testament in a structured fashion.  Why is that?  One of the reasons may be that we find it unmanageable:  "it's too long", "there's too many funny names", "it has too many irrelevant rules", "it's just too much" ... or is it?  I think the Old Testament is in many ways much simpler and much more straightforward than the New Testament.  "Yes, but what about all the Levitical laws and the lists of names and ..." - I say that studying them has its spiritual benefit, but you can skip some things for now and focus on the more accessible parts.  You can't swallow the ocean in our gulp, so you have to take it one sip at a time.  "But how do I know where to start?"  Excellent question, now we're getting somewhere! Answer:  To give you a good place to start and give you a foundation before reading the rest of the Old Testament. Question 2:  Who is in the top ten? If you have attended Sunday School for any length of time then you should have some familiarity with most of the cast of characters that you will find in the top ten.  The reason to read them again now is that they are organized in order for you in chronological order so that you understand where they fit in the big picture.  You may know that Adam came wa...

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21
Is the Bible a Science Book?
Recently there has been much talk and debates around "Creationism vs. Evolution".  The argument at its very core is "God vs. Science" or "The Bible vs. Science" as if they contradict.  What is right and what is wrong?  What is proven and what cannot be proven?  And if something cannot be proven then how do we know it's true?  If the theory of evolution proves true does that nullify Christianity?  Can I be a Christian and believe in evolution at the same time? God is the Author of Science The fact is that God and science do not contradict.  God is the author of nature and the rules of nature.  He's also the creator of humans and their brains which allow them to observe, measure and theorize the rules of nature in a scientific way.  If God is the author of science then how can they be at odds?  As a matter of fact, God even taught man science!  When God created Adam He "took the man He formed and put him in the garden to tend and keep it." (Genesis 2:15)  How did Adam know to water the plants unless God taught him how to tend and keep the Garden?  "Also, God formed out of the ground all the wild animals of the field and all the birds of heaven, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them..." (Genesis 2:19)  Adam gave the animals names according to their nature.  It other words Adam would obse...

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11
Noah's Ark Covered with Pitch
In Genesis we read "Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.  And this is how you shall make it..." (Genesis 6:14-15) The ark is a symbol of the Church.  Everyone outside the ark perished, whereas everyone inside the ark was saved.  Similarly the Orthodox Church teaches us that the Church is essential for our salvation, through which we receive the Mysteries which God gave us.  Many church buildings are designed to be shaped like Noah's ark for this reason. God instructed Noah to cover the ark with pitch from the inside and the outside.  The pitch here is used to protect the ark from the water so that it wouldn't leak through inside the ark.  Notice here that the pitch is to be on the inside and the outside, not just the outside.  Similarly the Church should be protected from attacks on the inside and the outside.  Also note that God instructed Noah to cover the ark with pitch from the inside first.  The attacks that target the Church from the inside are usually more detrimental than the attacks from the outside. Protecting the Church from the inside: Attacks on the Church from the inside could come in many forms.  One form would be attacks of heresies.  For example a heresy that says that Christ is not fully divine, or Christ is not fully human.  S...

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09
The Effects of My Sins
Quite often we hear arguments that sound like the following: "I can do whatever I want even if it's wrong as long as I'm not bothering anybody", or "It's my body, I can smoke or do drugs as long as I'm not affecting anyone", or "Me and her are in agreement, if we sleep together, what's it to you?!", or "Why do you care if I pray or not, go to church or not, etc...  I'm only impacting my spiritual life"... etc. Basically an argument that follows a pattern like "I can do ______ (a negative action) as long as I'm not bothering anybody or affecting anybody".  Sound familiar?  The answer to this argument comes in Genesis in the following verses: "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth."  (Genesis 6:11-12) At a first glance the second sentence might seem redundant.  However, after carefully reading it we see that it adds a new concept.  The first verse simply says that the earth was corrupt and filled with violence.  This could be understood as "the people on the earth" were corrupt and filled with violence.  Then comes the second verse to clarify and make the point that "the earth" was corrupt because "all flesh" corrupted their way.  As in, the earth and the nature were...

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