Hi, friends. Click this post if you want to read about the good, bad, and ugly (or more like the strange, inexplicable, and wonderful) things about reading the Old Testament. 😉
In this time frame, I’ve read:
- I & II Samuel
- I & II Kings
- I & II Chronicles
- Some Psalms & Proverbs
- Some of the minor prophets
- Isaiah (currently reading)
I embarked on this journey for a couple big reasons:
- I wanted to pursue God and learn more about my religion (Christianity).
- Most criticism or misunderstandings about the Bible stem from the OT, so I wanted to dive into it for myself.
Below, I share three of my takeaways from my experience so far (still have a few books to chip away).
The OT is the predecessor of the NT
I’m stating the obvious here, but I think a lot of modern Christians (like me for most of my life) don’t understand the story of our faith. Jesus was not just a great moral teacher who randomly popped up in the middle of history; His timing, His message, His ministry, and everything about Him finds its source and meaning in the narrative of God’s chosen people that leads to Him. I now understand Christianity in an comprehensive, “A to Z” way I never did in the past.
God promised Abraham he would eventually bless ALL nations, which happened when Jesus came to earth. In significant ways, the exodus mirrors the mission of Jesus (God releasing “His people” from an outside, oppressive, evil force…first, freeing the Hebrews from the Egyptians…later, freeing all people from sin and death). The propensity of the Hebrews to stray from God throughout the OT echoes humanity’s gravitation to pride/selfishness/rebellion (which is also illustrated through Adam and Eve) and demonstrates the need for Jesus to come and do exactly what He did (and, if analyzed deeply, reveals why Jesus subverted messianic expectations). Reading “the beginning” of this epic story brings “the ending” into full perspective.
Pursuing God leads to wrestling with God
To be absolutely blunt, there is so much in the OT that unsettles me…some (many) of the laws of Moses, a talking donkey in Numbers, the mass murdering in Joshua, the story of the virgin from Judges, extreme wrath in the prophets’ books, and the list goes on. [Granted, there are a few disconcerting things in the NT (not a big fan of the Ananias and Sapphira story), but still.] The margins of my Bible contain plenty of confused question marks and shocked exclamation marks. This is when it’s easier to be the Christian whose knowledge of the OT is limited to the creation, flood, and exodus…or, better yet, the Christian who just inherited their parents’ religion, never chewing on the meat, content with milk.
I don’t have a million justifications to plaster over every questionable story or rule; I could rebut some but certainly not all of a skeptic’s criticism on certain passages. I’ll let you in on a secret, though: wrestling with God lines up more with the Bible’s overarching message of loving humility than arrogantly believing you have all the answers. Hey, at least I’m pursuing Him hard enough to have questions and concerns at all! 😉
God & Jesus & the Holy Spirit have the same heart
This statement may initially seem redundant, but I find it extremely necessary, if not urgent, to clarify this. Many people–Christian and non-Christian–believe an over-simplified misconception that God is “the strict one” and Jesus is “the compassionate one.” Gah, the cognitive dissonance! But I discovered as I read the entire history of God and the Hebrews for myself that God exhibits the same heart for the poor/oppressed/helpless, the same mercy, etc. as Jesus does in the gospels.
While the law of Moses contains a loooot of tedium (and musings on the purpose of those rules is better suited for a separate post), God also mandates the Hebrews to care for the lowly (especially in Leviticus 19). I mentioned how the Hebrews repeatedly stray from the path in the OT, and neglecting care for the lowly plays a major role in that. In fact, most of the coming wrath displayed in the books from prophets is directed towards greedy, powerful people who exploit and neglect the lowly, while refuge is promised to the poor and needy.
So God sent His son Jesus, who has the heart of His Father, to reiterate the spirit of the law and extend it. The Holy Spirit is simply the spirit of God and Jesus, which guides us and stirs our hearts. If the three members of the trinity aren’t united in grace and truth, the whole concept makes no sense. As my blogging buddy Mel once said so profoundly, Jesus is the lens through which we should view God.
Reading the Old Testament full-force has somehow simultaneously challenged and strengthened my faith. Despite all the things I don’t comprehend and that stumble me up, I’ve felt God working on me through this process.
Thanks for reading! How much of the OT have you read? What’s your two cents? Let me know in the comments.