I finished reading the Old Testament early last week in my journey through the Bible in 90+ days. I was going to try and write a little bit about each of the last few books in the Old Testament, but those posts would be very similar to things I have already written before. So instead, I am going to talk about the Old Testament as a whole and what I have learned through this read through.
First let me begin by saying that the Old Testament is still very relevant to Christians. It is not a goup of books that should be ignored. The Old Testament creates the very foundation for being able to fully understand the New Testament. The Old Testament gives an amazing picture of God’s character. Through Genesis to Malachi it is clear that God is all loving, compassionate, just, and holy. And God often teaches people through bad situations. I have often heard the question “If God is loving then how can He allow bad things to happen?” Usually the good Christian answer is simply say that ‘God makes all things good in the end, we just can’t see this from our perspective’. But I think a more accurate picture is that we are stubborn, thick headed, and down right disobedient. And God uses bad situations to force us to look to Him and Him alone. He doesn’t do this out of anger, but out of perfect love for us. This is how God dealt with Israel. He was gracious and very slow to anger. He allowed many generations of disobedience before He acted against Israel. But when it was clear to God that only through exile and destruction would Israel truly come back to Him, He did bring Israel’s enemies to conquer them and drag them off to foreign lands. If anything the Old Testament clearly teaches us that bad things can come from God, that it does not need to mean that the devil is out to get you. It could mean you need to get right with God. As Christian’s we shouldn’t forget this, love doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen. When we teach that the devil is behind all bad things we can seriously mislead people and give the enemy credit for God’s work. It also takes away the responsibility we may have in the situation. We can clearly be in a bad situation due to our sin, with God trying to bring us to our knees so that we will look to Him as our last resort.
The Old Testament is also a group of books about Hope. Nearly every book focuses on how things are not perfect. How God’s people don’t follow Him well, and how messed up the world is since humans have sinned. But in all of this there is the constant hope for a time when God makes it all right. When God saves everyone from all that is wrong in the world. A picture of a God who is just to all, the righteous and the unrighteous. A time of blessing and of punishment. For Israel the hope is all in the future, much of the Old Testament was glim for Israel, focusing on her disobedience and then punishment by God. Yet at the same time clear that Israel, though a disobedient nation, is special to God. When you finish the Old Testament it is hard to be excited since the last group of books are simply depressing. But all of the prophets shared a glimpse of the hope to come, a hope that would come through Israel.
The Old Testament also shows us how much we need God to be merciful with us. Israel had God’s laws and could not obey them. Israel had God’s prophets and could not listen to them. Through God’s interaction with Israel it is clear that the hope in the future is not found in a group of rules or laws. But these rules and laws show us our desperate need for a God who is gracious and merciful, because we will always fail to uphold those laws perfectly. God did not have plan A, the Old Covenant, and then a plan B, the New Covenant because plan A failed. Plan A was designed to show us our need for plan B. Without Plan A (the sacrifices), Plan B (Jesus sacrifice) makes no sense. God has worked through history intentionally with great purpose. He has done things so that we can know His character and desire to be His children.
Many Christians have not fully read the Old Testament and my theory is that due to a dominant idea among Christians being: that the New Testament (New Covenant) has done away with most of the Old Testament (Old Covenant). The Old Testament also seems to be treated by many as short stories for children or used as simply a general reference resource. But I challenge you as an adult to read the Old Testament fully so that you will know God better. It isn’t all cute pictures and stories like you might remember in vacation Bible School. I think you will be challenged by some of the ideas and things that God does in the Old Testament, so your view of God will be stretched and refined to what is a more accurate represenation of the creator and sustainer of the universe.
So now I am moving into the New Testament (a set of books more familiar to many of us) so I am interested to see what new insights I may glean from having read through the Old Testament. I believe I have a more accurate picture of God now than I have ever had before and I am looking forward to what He will teach me.