By Don Gentry
Why the Old Testament?!?
Have you ever told someone or been told by someone to read the Bible? One of the comments that I have received in reply is, “I just don’t understand it,” or “It doesn’t really apply to me.” I receive a host of other replies as well and they very seldom imply a love of the scriptures.
To help read the scriptures, especially the Old Testament there are a few foundational thoughts and steps that I think can help create a better understanding of the Bible.
- Ask God to help you fall in love with the Bible. The Bible is literally God’s word to you. It was written by the Holy Spirit through men so that we could understand the heart and story of God’s interaction with and love for mankind.
- Put yourself in character. The Bible is a compilation of the stories of God. Try to imagine yourself as the character in that story. The Bible reads differently when you are the character that you are reading about. To do this, you may need to visit a few museums and study some history books so that you can understand the culture in which the Bible was written. When you understand the culture, then you can become a part of the script. For example, are you the mom that dedicates her son to the service of God, or are you the son? Are you the warrior that drove your sword into the fat of the king, or are you the husband that gave your wife to the whims of a king so that you wouldn’t die. Become a part of the story.
- When reading the OT, remember it was before Jesus came as the final sacrifice. This is imperative for understanding the OT. God uses the OT to help us understand how righteous and Holy he is. He uses the stories and characters of the OT to help us understand the fallenness of mankind and how separate from man God is. He uses the stories to show that the only way to him is through holy right living and sacrifices. He uses the stories so that we can see that even in all the failing of mankind for over 4,000 years, he was infinitely patient before he finally said enough. The OT builds up to the point where we understand our need for a perfect sacrifice. Jesus.
- We have to understand that the Holy Spirit was not given to all equally in the OT. Not until the New Testament are all people equal in their ability to hear and respond to God. The giving of the Holy Spirit in the NT is the great equalizer for humanity. In the OT relationship with God is very detailed and works driven. The Holy Spirit’s activity was limited to prophets, judges, key leaders, priests, and other isolated incidents in the OT. In the NT we all have equal access.
- The OT is an account of a 4,000-year story of God’s interaction and dealings with mankind that should lead us to a very clear understanding of why we need a savior like Jesus Christ.
- There is a three-step process to help you do this. 1. Observe the passage of scripture. Observation will help you gain context so that you can become a part of the story. This is where research and study must come in. 2. Interpret the passage. Once you have observed all that you can, then we can begin to interpret how this story points us to the bigger story of God’s interaction with man. We can begin to see what God was saying to the early audience. 3. Then we can apply the passage. Once we have observed the correct context of the story and interpreted what it meant to the early audience, then we can ask the question: what can I learn from this and how can I apply it to my personal walk. There are all kinds of tools that can help you with this three-step process.
You could read the OT with just this three-step process, but I believe by having a solid foundation as outlined in points 1-5 your scripture reading will come alive in a whole new way!