Many of us have an aversion to reading the Old Testament. It is cumbersome, complex, and oftentimes confusing. We naturally ask ourselves, “What am I supposed to get out of this?” So to make our task a little easier I have outlined a few basic steps to help us appreciate the Old Testament more, and to motivate us to want to read it again and again.
- “And God said” – This line should be enough. It should not be glossed over. ‘The Word of the Lord came to me’ or ‘Thus says the Lord’ should cause us to realize God is speaking to us. That is no light thing. That is not a ho-hum line. ‘God said’ should get and hold our attention.
- Entering the strange (new, fascinating) world of the Bible – The Bible is not meant to be domesticated and dissected. It is meant to be entered into and pulled along on a ride where we are not the ones in control. It becomes very clear early on that God is the One in control, and He leads us into all kinds of strange places. And He tells fascinating stories!
- Recognizing the great variety in the Old Testament – Part of the point of the Old Testament is that God uses many different kinds of people, different locations, and different situations. He is not God in only one place, nor God who only spoke to one kind of person. God spoke to and through a nomad, a slave, a queen, a shepherd, a child, and one who lived hundreds of years. He spoke to those who seemed not to be seeking Him, to those who seemed abandoned by Him, to those who seemed to be the least likely candidates for God to use.
- The continuous surprise factor – God keeps showing up when it looks like He is nowhere to be found. God can, as it were, show up all of a sudden, after a long time of silence, show up when all is lost. One gets the deep impression when God shows up He is not apologetic about His timing. God is not insecure when He moves. To be clear – it is man who is in the insecure position. It is man who has the great difficulty of navigating this life on His own. It is God who speaks to man of how to navigate this life – “Fear not.” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” “Be still and know that I am God.”
- It is not man’s search for God – It is God seeking and saving that which is lost. It is God intervening in man’s inability to save himself. It is God who is the subject and the verb of the stories.
- Show not tell – God is not wanting to make up lists for us. He delights in showing us who He is. He does not just use words. He likes His actions.
- Getting submersed into the world of the Bible – Reading it for a couple of hours, getting caught up in its drama, tension, and mystery, and letting it work in our soul however it will. As one young lady told me, “There are times where I start to read the Bible and all of a sudden I realize I have been reading it for a couple of hours.” That’s submersing ourselves into its world.
- Studying the Old Testament is life-giving – The more one reads it the more one realizes Scripture has a power to sustain us in this life. It is more than a tour guide through a museum. It is a guide through the Himalayas to the top of Mount Everest. It keeps us alive in dangerous conditions. It keeps us on course in the midst of challenging terrain. It is not a man-made Disneyworld ride. It is beyond our control and comfort. And yet, in it we are kept alive.
- It is to be read & studied with others – It is good to read the Scripture alone for personal reflection but that is not enough. The Old Testament should be read and studied in small group and large group settings. Each size group brings different elements of understanding the Word of God – it is personal, it is to be discussed in a small group, it is to be heard among a diverse gathering of people. This variety prevents us from reducing the Bible to just me and my problems.
- What does it say? – This is the central question. What does it say in the context of the whole story, letter, poem? The important question is not “What does it say to me”, or “How do I apply this to life?” The Bible is not a quick fix manual. It is a book that points us to the God who is there at all times and seasons.
Let us endeavor to read the Bible for all it’s worth.