Posts Tagged ‘old testament’

Bible reading has become the religious equivalent of sound-bite journalism. When people read from the Bible they typically open it, read a brief passage without much regard for the context, and consider the primary thought or feeling that the passage provided. If they are comfortable with it, they accept it; otherwise, they deem it interesting but irrelevant to their life, and move on. There is shockingly little growth evident in people’s understanding of the fundamental themes of the scriptures and amazingly little interest in deepening their knowledge and application of biblical principles. – George Barna

Merry Christmas! Besides celebrating the incarnation of the One who came to serve and be a ransom for us, it also means the end of another year and the start of a new one. I love how Christmas is linked with the fresh start of a new year! Two key things in my walk I will constantly and never stop advocating for are the use of a Bible reading schedule and the value of consistently reading the whole of the Bible. Bible reading schedules have significant value as they lay a nice framework to tackle the Bible each year.

Overview of the Bible is underrated

As the two younger generations (Busters and Mosaics) ascend to numerical and positional supremacy in churches across the nation, the data suggest that biblical literacy is likely to decline significantly. The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency. – George Barna

When the bell drops on 2010, I will have read through the entire Bible for the 14th time and I feel like I am just beginning to get it. I am starting to see the fruit of gaining familiarity with the whole of the Word. I see connections between the Old Testament and New Testament much easier than 5 or 10 years ago. The Bible is starting to feel like a unified text revealing God’s glory in His plan to redeem us from sin through Christ. Leviticus flows right into reading Hebrews. Malachi connects with how Jesus attacks religious legalism in the Gospels. When you start to see God’s grace revealed in Kings or Malachi, approaching the Word suddenly becomes more of a love than a habit or duty. But it’s just starting to feel that way, only recently have I begun this romance with God’s word.

Reading the Old Testament (OT) can be frustrating, but we’re so unfamiliar with it. Many avoid the OT, at least all the books after Joshua. It is tougher and can seem like a drudgery or a discouragement to a lot of us. How do I deal with the slaughter of the Canaanites? What relevance is 1 Chronicles to me? Why is all that harsh brutality of the book of Judges even in the Bible? Why does God seem so condemning in the minor and major prophets? Legitimate questions, only answered by an understanding of the Bible as a whole.

Any part of the human body can only be properly explained in reference to the whole body. And any part of the Bible can only be properly explained in reference to the whole Bible. – F.F. Bruce

We’re quick to zoom in without connecting with the big picture. We often find one verse that stands out instead of trusting God to understand what He is communicating through a book as a whole or section. 1 and 2 Kings demonstrate how hard it is to finish the race strong. Judges shows what happens to us over and over again when we reject God and yield to sinful, violent, brutal ways. It’s easy to get stuck on a challenging verse or section of scripture and give up, especially in the OT. Understanding the larger framework and literature types, seeing everything in light of the cross, and utilizing a reading schedule helps us both grasp those challenging passages and press on to learn more. A schedule helps you consistently read it all and not avoid the hard sections. It helps you read larger chunks in one sitting so as to see more of the big picture. God will give you progress in understanding the Bible as you patiently and diligently trust Him to do it over time, not after just one year. Seek to know the Bible significantly better than any book you’ve ever read, not just for knowledge but to know Him.

“Take time. Give God time to reveal Himself to you. Give yourself time to be silent and quiet before Him, waiting to receive, through the Spirit, the assurance of His presence with you, His power working in you. Take time to read His Word as in His presence, that from it you may know what He asks of you and what He promises you. Let the Word create around you, create within you a holy atmosphere, a holy heavenly light, in which your soul will be refreshed and strengthened for the work of daily life.” (Hudson Taylor)

It was just because he did this that Hudson Taylor’s life was full of joy and power, by the grace of God. When over seventy years of age he paused, Bible in hand, as he crossed the sitting-room in Lausanne, and said to one of his children: “I have just finished reading the Bible through, today, for the fortieth time in forty years.” And he not only read it, he lived it. – Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor (Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret)

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If you have been following this blog for very long, you have likely figured at least one thing: I gravitate towards the Old Testament. From Jacob to Ahab to Job, I consistently get more encouragement from my time in the OT. I see real life there. I see the gospel and the foreshadowing of Jesus everywhere. I identify with sinners like Judah. I see hope for God to use me in the life of a man like Jonah. I grieve and learn with Job in his suffering and loss and wrestling with who this God really is. So when I saw this post from Tyler Kenney at Desiring God, I just had to highlight it and draw attention to it. Tyler’s thoughts:

It has been my experience, in talking with fellow evangelicals, that many of us are quick to equate the Old Testament to mean little more than what the Pharisees thought it meant in Jesus’ day. It is a book of Jewish religion, and if there is any Christian doctrine in its pages, it is veiled to the reader who hasn’t first become acquainted with the New Testament.

We tend the view the OT as outdated and not useful anymore. It’s too confusing; I don’t have to obey any of Leviticus anymore anyway, right? What relevance would 1st and 2nd Kings be to me? We’re not a nation anymore and besides, I would never do what those kings did and let all that happen. Ezekiel? Way too hard to understand.

So why not skip the OT altogether and just stick with the New?

That would make sense if mere doctrinal information is all we are after. If all we want from our Bibles is to learn Christian dogma in its most developed form, reading the NT alone would probably be sufficient. It practically teaches every doctrine covered by the OT, and then of course it adds some crucial material of its own.

But we want more from Scripture than just a systematic theology, don’t we? There’s a reason we don’t settle for catechisms and dissertations in our devotional lives. We want faith and hope and encouragement and love, not merely a catalogue of things we ought to believe. And how do we get those things?

How often is the Old Testament preached on in our churches? (The last 2 months, actually, in my church!) Most folks I know have not even read the entire OT and tend to avoid it. There’s definitely something to be said for understanding the New Testament and the gospel. But isn’t sin still sin? We tend to say that the God of the OT is different and harsher and more condemning? Really? Who talked more about hell and eternal punishment and gnashing of teeth? That’s right, Jesus, in the New Testament! The OT is full of seemingly harsh physical punishments and consequences but the NT highlights the even scarier doctrine of hell.

But there’s no grace in the Old Testament! Really? There’s no grace in how God blesses and pursues men like Jacob and Ahab? Take a closer look at Ahab’s life, a man proclaimed the most evil king ever. Take a look at Job’s life even and recognize how in the OT, God is still the same God who wants relationship with us, wants us to be satisfied in Him, and will eventually crush all sin by taking the punishment and guilt on Himself. Maybe His glorious grace is not completely or fully revealed there in the Old Testament, but it’s there. Look for it. The people of the OT were real. Those things actually happened. Read it that way.

The more I read the OT, the more I see how indispensable it is for fostering the encouragement and faith I need to thrive in my walk with God. And my challenge to you in writing this post is that you would approach the OT as a complete, competent, and relevant work for you in its own right.

The OT is not a deflated sail that needs NT air to get moving. Sure, there is more revelation beyond Malachi, and yes, we shouldn’t try to just forget the NT when reading the prophets. But let’s not use what we know from the apostles to reinterpret or silence what the prophets themselves have to say to us. They were writing for us in the first place, you know (1 Peter 1:12).

Don’t fear the Old Testament. Read it. Process it. See His steadfast love there. See people not that different from you and me there. Most of all see His glorious grace there.

Read Tyler Kenney’s full post here: “Thoughts on Evangelical Neglect of the Old Testament”

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