Through the years (an expression that makes me sound like I’m about 80 years old), I’ve talked with a number of people who feel that the Old Testament is boring and irrelevant, and so when it comes to Bible-reading, they skip it.
Some people have expressed that because Jesus came along in the New Testament and changed everything, the Old Testament can just be disregarded completely.
This always makes me very sad to hear, because I’m a big fan of the Old Testament.
But that has not always been the case.
I also used to think it was boring, confusing, and irrelevant at times.
And the genealogies! Seriously! I read all that stuff because I felt like I had to – all good Christians should read through the entire Bible, and never skip a single word, right?
But it was so hard!
And then I had an experience that forever changed my view of the Old Testament.
During my first year of Bible School, I took an Old Testament class. Right at the beginning of the semester, we were told that 10% of our mark would be based on reading through the Old Testament. We were even given a handy-dandy little reading plan, which I fell behind on by Week Two.
I slacked off for the entire semester, until there was only one week of class left.
And then I panicked. I really, really wanted (needed) that 10%.
So I power-read my way through the Old Testament.
Folks, I have NEVER read like that in my entire life. (Skimmed, if you want to get technical.)
For one week straight, I ate, slept, breathed the Old Testament. It was very stressful.
But it was also very fantastic. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced with my Bible.
I got it done. And something wonderful happened: I finally got to see the whole picture.
The Old Testament is so long and involved that it can be easy to get lost and muddled up and bogged down somewhere along the way as we’re reading it.
But in that week, the whole thing flashed before my eyes.
It was kind of like those pictures that are made up of many tiny, little pictures. When you look at it right up close, you almost go crossed-eyed, and you basically just see millions of tiny little pictures. You can’t tell what the big picture is.
But back up, look at it from a distance, and suddenly you see the whole picture, instead of all the little tiny ones . You realize what you’re actually looking at, and everything falls into place.
I finally got to see the big picture of the Old Testament.
I got to see how the Old Testament shows us over and over and over again what happens to people when they don’t have a Savior. I got to see how the Old Testament is completely relevant for us today – we need to see what we’ve been saved from. We need a “Before and After” picture. We need to see how much we need Jesus, how much we’ve always needed Him, and how much every person on this planet has needed Him from beginning of time until the end.
While reading the Old Testament that week, it was like seeing the same story told in many, many different ways, over and over again. People try to do things their own way, they mess up, and God rescues them. They remember that for awhile, and then the same cycle happens all over again. The Old Testament paints this picture, it sets the scene, and gives all the background.
By the time you get to the New Testament, it is SUCH a relief that Jesus FINALLY shows up, because by that time, we’re all thoroughly convinced that the World needs saving.
The whole sacrificing thing was not working. Not having a personal relationship with God was not working. Not having the Holy Spirit inside each follower of God was not working. Rules and regulations were not working.
And in the end, God just wants to be with His people.
So Jesus came.
When I read all those rich stories in the Old Testament, I see a bit of myself in each one – that’s me, trying to do it on my own. That’s me, ignoring the Holy Spirit, making bad choices.
Sometimes it’s hard to really grasp the fact that those were real people. The emotions and details in Bible stories can be a bit sparse, and it can feel so distant from real life.
But when you pick a passage, and really camp out there for awhile – study the background and cultural stuff, use your imagination, think very “humanly” about what it must have been like – suddenly those stories start to mean more. They start to have the power to change us. We give the Holy Spirit enough time to speak to us.
Can you imagine what the Bible would be like if you chopped off the whole Old Testament? If that doesn’t make you sad, it might mean that it’s time to dig in and get better acquainted…
What about you – have you read through the whole Bible before? Have any tips for learning how to love reading it?