I sat in a small group discussion a while back and someone declared, “I think the Old Testament is a fairy tale, a myth like Greek or Roman literature.” While this cast a pall on the conversation, I think this proclamation struck at the heart of what we at times felt about the Old Testament, but didn’t want to confess.
How about you? Does the Old Testament seem like a fable? Do some of the stories (people living for 800 years, great fish, arks, tumbling walls, etc.) seem a bit far-fetched? Does it seem ancient and irrelevant? Do you wonder why the God of the Old Testament seems so angry and wrathful, little resembling the loving, forgiving God we know through Jesus?
I admit I do…or at least I did.
But an amazing thing has happened in the last year or so. I started to read the Old Testament and have discovered insights into God—and Jesus—that have been like unearthing buried treasure. It’s been fascinating.
Recently, our pastor challenged us to read through the first chapter of each book of the Bible, starting at Genesis and going all the way to Revelation. Now, my Bible is pretty well worn, but there were many books in the Bible I had never read. My knowledge of Old Testament stories, history and its important characters was extremely limited.
Well, I accepted the challenge and started reading. (And I know many of you did as well.) During this journey, I discovered a history that while ancient, is incredibly relevant. I met men and women who have so much to teach us today. I found missing pieces to the puzzle of God I’m trying to put together. And most of all I saw that the entire Old Testament, from the first lines in Genesis to the last in Malachi, is a prelude that points directly to Jesus.
I still have lots of questions, but God and His nature are much clearer now. For one thing I see that, God is a jealous god. Much of God’s anger in the Old Testament is a direct result of his children turning away from Him (which they did an awful lot!). Through Moses, God said, “They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols.” (Deut. 32:17)
Throughout the Old Testament all the way through today, what God wants most from us is not our time, our money, our talents, our prayers or our good works. He wants our hearts. He wants us to forsake the idols and false gods around us and choose Him. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he repeated again and again, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2)
Repentance means that we consciously turn from our sins (and idols and false gods) toward God. It is an act of our will.
God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Open God’s word. Hear His voice. Choose Him.