I’m sure we have all heard it plenty of times (perhaps, we have also said it ourselves)… The Old Testament is hard to read! It’s confusing. It’s bloody. It’s boring. It’s… well… it’s history. We know it is God’s Word, and know that we should cherish it, but, frankly, it is just too… unreadable!
Intellectually and theologically we might know better. We know that this is the Bible Jesus used. It’s the book of which He said, “Not an iota, not a dot will pass away until all is accomplished.” The Old Testament is as much the Word of God as the New. These things we might know, but I fear that our practice betrays us. When we read the Old Testament, beyond the Psalms, perhaps some favorite Bible stories, too often we do not experience the joy of hearing from our Father. We don’t encounter the grace of our Savior. We can’t relish this gift of the Holy Spirit.
While I suspect that there are many reasons for this practical neglect of the Old Testament, there are a few reasons I see most clearly in my ministry and in my own life. First, we often don’t know what we are reading. When we approach the Bible as a group of moral stories, or as a history of the Israelites, or even as a collection of inspiring accounts of individual interactions with God, it is no wonder we don’t read it well. The point of the Bible is not our moral interactions. It is not religion. It is not for our inspiration. The point of the Bible is to recount God’s plan of redemption as fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That is what we are reading when we read both the Old and the New Testaments. We are reading of God’s work of redeeming His people through the salvation in Jesus. If we read the Bible looking for the wrong things, it is no wonder we will not understand it.
Similarly, all too often, we do not have a clear grasp on the essence of the Gospel itself. Our understanding of the Gospel message has been diluted, watered down to “how we live our lives.” While our daily lives are indeed to be shaped by the Bible, the Gospel is so much more than just about my daily life. It is about the depth of our sin; our spiritual inability in the face of our sin; the passion of God for His sinful people; the substitutionary sacrifice of the Son; His victory over death; our union with God and one another. The Gospel is beautiful in its simplicity; and, beautiful in its unfathomable depth. If we do not know God’s plan of redemption, it is easy to miss it in His Word.
As we explore the Scripture together, as we learn to submit ourselves to His Word, we will be seeing more and more clearly God’s plan for our redemption, culminating in the Cross of Jesus our Lord.
In preparation for this Sunday’s message, you might want to consider the following:
1. Why does the Old Testament have such a negative reputation?
2. Read Matthew 5:17-20 for insight into how Jesus approached the Old Testament.
3. How can we develop the kind of respect for the Old Testament that Jesus Himself had?
4. Read Exodus 17:1-7. Why would it be easy to read this story as just another example of Israel’s bad interactions with God?
5. How does the depth of Israel’s sin show itself in this story?
6. How does the depth of God’s love for His people show itself?
7. How does this event in Israel’s history point the way to the work of Jesus?
8. In what ways might we respond in faith to this Word?
Looking forward to meeting you on Sunday!