When I’m looking for a new book to read, I usually read the first sentence and see if it captures my attention. If it does, I’ll usually give it a shot. I need those first few words to give me a sense of the author’s voice and what’s going to happen.
When you read the first sentence of a book of the Bible, you can get a sense of how the rest of the book is going to go, but it also might harken back to other books of the Bible and remind you of messages throughout Scripture.
To go along with our January Everyday Faith Calendar, we’ve taken a closer look at a few first sentences of some books of the Bible—and here’s what we learned.
Genesis: Only God Could Create the World We Live In
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
This short verse sets the stage for the entirety of Scripture. It presents us with the character of God and the very impetus of the creation of the world.
The Hebrew word for created, bara’, is only ever ascribed to God in the Old Testament—only He can create something from nothing. From this one little word, we begin to understand the power God possesses and what He does with that power.
We are also placed in this sentence, albeit indirectly—we live on “the earth” mentioned here. Although at this point we’re not sure of our place in the story that’s about to unfold, we know that it’s talking about a familiar place.
Leviticus + Numbers: God Dwelling In and Amongst His People
The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. (Leviticus 1:1)
The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt. (Numbers 1:1)
The first verses of consecutive books Leviticus and Numbers both occur around the tent of meeting—the holy portable place where God dwelled among the Israelites. In Leviticus, we see God speaking from the tent, and in Numbers He speaks in the tent.
Over the course of the Bible, we see God dwelling in and amongst His people in different ways. Here, we see God dwelling (“tabernacle-ing”) among His people—and Moses slowly getting closer to the presence of God (assuming he is outside the text in Leviticus and inside the tent in Numbers). As we read the grand narrative of Scripture, we long to see God fully dwell among His people.
Job: A Literary Set-Up
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. (Job 1:1)
When we read this first sentence of the story of Job, we immediately understand the context and perspective of this story—we know the main character’s name (Job), where he lives (Uz), and what he’s like (blameless and upright).
This introduction, from a literary perspective, sets up the entire story of Job. Job’s characteristics, especially, influence the entire story—Satan desires to tempt Job specifically because of his fear of God. This beginning sentence drives the entire story and ultimately drives us back to how our life is supposed to be as Christians: fearful of God and resisting sin.
John: Remembering Genesis and Setting the Stage for the Gospel
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
If we read on to verse 14 (sure, it’s cheating, but I get to make the rules in this post), we see a change in the way God dwelt among His people: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” No longer do we have the tabernacle of Leviticus and Numbers—now, we have God directly on Earth. No more tabernacle, no more temple. God is among us.
This first verse sets up the Gospel of John, where John’s purpose is to teach that Jesus is the Son of God, the fulfillment of what everything in the Old Testament was pointing to.
This sentence also calls to mind Genesis 1:1—in the beginning. . . The promises of God, from Genesis to Jesus, were fulfilled, so we can have confidence that the promises from Jesus to the Last Day will be fulfilled in God’s timing.
Hebrews: From Creation to Prophets to Promises
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1–2)
(Yeah, I know this is technically two verses, but it’s one sentence. Shhh.)
If you go back and read the first verse of any of the books of the prophetic books in the Old Testament, you’ll see that a lot of them start off “The word of the Lord came to the prophet ______.” The Book of Hebrews acknowledges this history and quickly flips the narrative to remind these Christians that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of old. This sentence also harkens back to Genesis 1:1, the creation of the world, where Jesus Himself was present.
In this one sentence, we get nearly the entire narrative of Scripture—the creation of the world, the prophets that predicted a necessary Savior, and the fulfillment of those promises.
As we enter in the New Year and start thinking about resolutions and starting at the beginning, make a commitment to read your Bible every day with your family! Download the January 2019 Everyday Faith Calendar and read the first verse (or two) of 32 different books of the Bible this month!