Teaching my Sunday school class today took my mind back to Sierra Leone and to September 4, 1969. Rosa and I had just arrived in Kamakwie, Sierra Leone, West Africa, where I was to be chaplain and Bible teacher at Kamakwie Secondary School (see the picture in my last blog). We had been married on August 15 and I had been ordained to the ministry on August 17. Then, on September 2, we arrived in Freetown for a three-year term of missionary service. For the first three to four weeks of that school term the students learned nothing in Bible class. I mean this literally—none of the students learned anything! The Sierra Leonean proverb runs: “If every tree you climb has ants on it, check your own pants.” The fault was obviously mine—I spoke too quickly in American English and used educational methods foreign to their background. What was I going to do? I either had to find a way to communicate with these kids—or, go back to America!
There were many facets in my adaptation to Sierra Leonean ways that enabled me, with God’s help, to become a successful secondary school teacher. One thing I did was to focus on the persons of the Biblical story. What was the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament? Why, the Old Testament was about Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, and the prophets. The New Testament was about Jesus and the people who followed Him. Many of the students were already familiar with several of these names either through Bible stories taught in primary school or through Muslim teaching that recognized some of these same people.
Today in my Sunday school class I discovered that Biblical names could help adult Americans as well as teenage Sierra Leoneans. Our lesson was on God’s promising David that he would establish his sons as his “house” who would rule after him. You can find it in 2 Samuel 7. I wanted to put David in Biblical perspective. So I asked the class, “After Adam, who are the ‘big four’ in the Old Testament?” Abraham, Moses, and David were clear answers. The class was ambivalent about number four. I argued for Solomon—Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon.
The next question was, “How are these four related?” “How does the Biblical story tie them together?” “What role does each play?” We talked about Abraham, Moses, and David today. Solomon as the beginning of David’s house is going to get our attention next week—when we look at Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. The relationship of these three—Abraham, Moses, David—is integral to the Biblical story. In Adam humanity rebelled and was separated from God. The three relationships that made up God’s plan of blessing for human beings was ruptured—fellowship with God, harmonious fellowship among people, and responsible enjoyment of the world. When God called Abraham, he promised him that through Abraham’s family God would bless the world by restoring those very three relationships. Then, by delivering his people from Egypt under Moses, God began to fulfill his promise to Abraham. God’s people, however, refused to live in harmony under God’s laws, so they began to suffer. God made David king with the purpose that he, and his descendents, would overcome the people’s rebellion by leading them in faithful obedience. Then I realized that what I was teaching my class paralleled Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles, my book just released by Thomas Nelson last month. Chapter one covers Adam; chapter two, Abraham; chapters three and four, Moses; chapters five and six, David and Solomon.
What do you think? I’d like to hear about your experience. Have you used Biblical persons as a way to tie the whole Bible together? Next Time: I hope to expand on this subject in next week’s blog.
Here, again, is an endorsement for Christian Faith in the Old Testament.
“As a pastor, Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles really connects with me. I will use this well-written and informative book often in my reading, preaching, and teaching. In addition, I will encourage my congregation to read it! Dr. Cockerill helps everyone to grasp the wholeness of Scripture and provides aids to help us live an obedient life that reflects the full-scope of the Bible’s teaching.”
Senior Pastor, Southland Community Church