The Old Testament has a bad wrap. People often skip right over it and go straight to the “good stuff” of the New Testament. But, I’ve got three of I’m sure many reasons to find fun in reading Genesis to Malachi. Give me five minutes, and see if I can’t give you a more positive view of God’s word than you may have held once before.
What we call the Old Testament is the Bible Jesus read! At the time that Jesus walked on the earth, the only Bible that existed was what we now call the Old Testament. Christ’s death and resurrection is what created the New Testament whose name we have applied to the part of our modern-day Bible beginning with the Gospels. When Jesus unrolled the scroll and read in the Temple, He was reading from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. When He spent time speaking with the priests of the Temple, He was discussing the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (which was the way the books were arranged at that time). The Laws that Jesus refers to in His parables come from the writings of Moses. John tells us that “In the beginning, was the Word,” equating Christ to the Word of God, and underscoring the first-hand knowledge that Christ has of what we call the Old Testament. Philip Yancey has written an entire study of this reason, aptly titled The Bible Jesus Read.
The science and history that backs up what the Bible says. Don’t let your school textbooks or cynical college professors fool you. Real science and artifacts exist that back up what the Bible says. A good place to start exploring these truths is the website Reasons to Believe at reasons.org. If you are a DVD fan, I can recommend three series that explore the science and history behind the Bible, especially the Old Testament, really well (thanks to my friend and life-group member, Roger Jay!): If God Made the Universe… based on the work of Dr. Hugh Ross and TrueU: Does God Exist? Building the Scientific Case & TrueU: Is the Bible Reliable–Building the Historical Case . . . both based on the work of Dr. Stephen Meyer.
These DVDs do a much better job than I could in making the case for faith, so to speak. Also, I have an “Archaeological Study Bible” that is full of articles and references that point to real artifacts and known parallelisms between other historical sources and the Bible which makes reading the Old Testament an even more fulfilling experience.
Let me make myself clear on this fun point, however. The reason Christ said we must all come to Him “as little children,” doesn’t mean that you have to believe in Him before you become an adult. It means that believing in God and what He says is like having the open-mindedness and trust that only children can give us the purest examples of. No amount of scientific or historic evidence can change the reality of faith in Christ. He is Who He says He is. He does what He says He will do. Period.
My final fun reason for reading the Old Testament is discovering in its pages for myself the connections to what I know from the many times I have read the New Testament, like when you see similar phrases to ones Christ uses in His parables and teachings. (Yeah, I know those connecting verses are clearly labeled for me in the margins of my New Testament, but I rarely look at those! Shame on me.)
What is even more fun about these connections is when God opens them up to you Himself. For example, my Bible reading includes a little bit of Old Testament and then a little bit of New Testament. Right now, I am still making it through my Old Testament in the order it is published in my Archaeological Bible. But, having long since made it through the New Testament in my copy of that Bible, I am now reading the New Testament in my Ryrie NASB study bible, not in the order it was printed, but in the order the scholars think the books were actually written. So, while I am making my way through Lamentations in the OT, I am reading Romans in the NT.
One day last week, I was struck to read in Lamentations:
For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land, to deny a man his rights before the Most High, to deprive a man of justice–would not the Lord see such things? (Lamentations 3:31-36)
Remember, this book follows a time in Jewish history when the entire people of God have been defeated by the Babylonians and cast to the far reaches of the earth. Jerusalem is razed, and almost no Jews remain. In Lamentations, the author is trying to reason out the unknowable, to find hope in a time of despair most of us can only imagine. During that same day of reading, by chance (or I like to think by the power of the Holy Spirit that guides us when we move out of the way), my NT passage took me here:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. . . . The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5: 12-16, 20-21)
The Lamenter, having survived a punishment brought about by God through the Babylonians because God’s people had turned so far from Him, He had no other choice in calling them back to Him, asks the question: ”wouldn’t the Lord see our need for justice?” Generations later, Paul, writing to a group of newly-formed Christians, mostly non-Jews, answers with a resounding “Yes!” The Lord has indeed seen our need for justification, and He has given it to us in the only way we sinners can hope to achieve it–as a gift of GRACE through the sacrifice Christ made for each of us on the cross.
Reading these two passages in close proximity to each other, I was struck at how the members of Paul’s audience who may have been very acquainted with the passages from Lamentations would have heard his teachings on justification through grace with eyes so different from my own. I know I have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, but I don’t have stories told me at my father’s knee, passed down generationally, about whole civilizations of my people who paid the price for continued disobedience in ways that would keep me up at night if I took the time to dwell upon them. How much more wonderful did the promise of Christ’s gift to us sound to those ears?
My Old Testament view gave me the goosebumps as I read Romans this week. Now, there’s a fun reason to open the front half of your favorite book!
And one more P.S. on the subject of finding fun aspects to things you might not feel like doing. I began this post with the notes I had jotted down earlier in the week when this idea came to me, but I really didn’t feel like writing today. I had to say a quick prayer to have the willpower to begin my post. But, as I got to writing, I really started to enjoy exploring just why the OT is fun to read. I learned a few more reasons why myself, and if that’s the only reason this post got written according to His will, then that’s reason enough.
Have a blessed week, full of smiles, family-time, prayer-time, and a little time in the Old Testament. See what gems of truth or delight you uncover. And if you have the time, share them with the rest of us. I, for one, am eager to hear about your time in God’s word.