My small group from church has taken on the challenge of reading the entire Bible chronologically (in order of when it was written) in one year. We’re just now at the point where we’re finishing the Old Testament and beginning the New Testament. I’ve never been so excited to read the New Testament than I am at this point, and it’s not because I’m necessarily “tired” of the Old Testament. It’s because I’m going to get so much more out of it after reading through the Old Testament! Below is the yearlong “reading plan” we started on January 1st. if you’ve never read the entire Bible and/or haven’t read it chronologically, I encourage you to utilize this tool!
Reading through the Old Testament has increased my understanding greatly about the Bible. In the past, I always thought the Old Testament was too strange to study and didn’t apply to my life since Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament–rendering its effect on my life as “irrelevant.” I couldn’t have been more off-base! It’s true the Old Testament is rather “strange” and it’s true Jesus fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament, but that doesn’t make the Old Testament irrelevant to our lives. In fact, the Old Testament is a vital resource for us to use as Christians to gain a greater understanding of God and getting to know Him more (it is “God-breathed” just like the New Testament). The three biggest truths I’ve learned about God through studying the Old Testament are:
1) God loves us
2) God ferociously hates our sin (which we’ve brought into the world)
3) A Messiah is coming to save us from our sin
I want to take a closer look at these three truths and how they apply to our lives. Within each section, I want to include some of the verses I feel show the truth of each aspect of God so that you know I’m not just making this stuff up myself!
1) God Loves Us
Most people don’t have a problem with the idea that God loves us. The challenge comes when we misinterpret what love is by defining it as something that gives us what we want all the time. We shouldn’t look at God like a “lover” who only exists to please us. We need to look at God like a “father” who wants what’s best for us and desires we grow to be mature and complete in becoming as much like Him as we possibly can. And like a father disciplines a child, God disciplining us is not a sign that He doesn’t love us, rather it’s a sign that He loves us immensely and cares about our well-being. If God didn’t love us, then He wouldn’t care enough to discipline us when we do wrong. In fact, if God didn’t love us then He wouldn’t have created us at all! For God never needed to create us, but He did so that we might share in His love and enjoy His glory by becoming a part of His amazing creation! Thank God He loves us, or we wouldn’t exist!
Genesis 1: 27 “God created us in His own image.”
Genesis 1: 31 “God saw all that He had made and it was very good.”
Deuteronomy 23:5 “…the Lord your God loves you.”
1 Chronicles 16: 34 “His love endures forever.”
Psalm 6: 4 “Save me because of your unfailing love.”
Nehemiah 9: 17 “You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”
Psalm 119:64 “The earth is filled with your love, O Lord.”
2) God hates our sin
The idea that God hates sin is a truth the Old Testament makes unmistakably clear and is hard for us to fully understand. The fact is God is a loving God and a just God. If He weren’t loving then He wouldn’t be just, and if He weren’t just then He wouldn’t be loving. To demonstrate this concept I want you to think about a person in your life you love immensely (this scenario will be direct and “extreme” to make this truth more clear). I now want you to imagine how you’d feel if that person was viciously murdered in a terrible way. If God was loving, how could He allow the perpetrator in this scenario to go unpunished? He couldn’t! God is perfect and cannot tolerate sin. If He did tolerate sin, then it would mean He didn’t care about us and would not be a loving God! The hard thing for us to understand is that every sin we commit is as atrocious to God as any other. For example, a person who lies for their personal gain is just as guilty of sinning as a person who murders countless people in cold blood! God cannot even look upon sin due to His holiness, which is why God requires a sacrifice to justify sin so we can be in relation to Him. In the Old Testament, justification for sin is much “harsher” than what we 21st century people are used to. Citizens being executed, entire cities being annihilated, and people having to pay for their sins with their lives are not uncommon events in the Old Testament, and such acts often cause us to ask, “How can a loving God do this?” The fact is God has to do this since it’s in His eternal being to be loving, just, and perfect. If God weren’t loving then He wouldn’t care about sin, if God didn’t punish then He wouldn’t be just, and if God didn’t do anything about injustice He wouldn’t be perfect. God makes it unmistakably clear throughout the Old Testament that He takes sin extremely seriously, which means we need to take it seriously as well by resisting temptation, avoiding sinful situations, and repenting when we inevitably do sin.
Exodus 34: 7 “He does not leave the guilty unpunished;”
Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just.”
Numbers 15: 30 “But anyone who sins defiantly blasphemes the Lord”
1 Kings 8: 46 “for there is no one who does not sin”
Isaiah 64: 6 “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the
wind our sins sweep us away.”
Habakkuk 1: 13 “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.”
Psalm 33: 5 “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.”
3) A Messiah is coming to save us
Another profound truth of the Old Testament is that God loves us so much He’s not willing to sit back and watch our sin destroy us. In fact, the Old Testament makes it clear God plans to save His people from sin by sending a Messiah (a “Savior”) to come rescue us from its disastrous consequences. This is the ultimate display of God’s love. Even though we continuously rebel against Him, He cares so much for us He’s willing to save us in the most amazing of ways! The only question now is, “Who is this Savior and when is He coming?” Conveniently, the Old Testament gives us insight into this question by providing us with over 100 prophecies about this Messiah telling us who He is and what He is coming to do. Thus, God not only says He’s going to bring us a Savior but also foreshadows His arrival and tells us things about Him hundreds of years before He ever comes! And fittingly, the only person in history (and the future) who fits all these prophecies is none other than Jesus Christ, who came down to earth two-thousand years ago and sacrificed Himself so we could be saved! This is why the “harshness” of God seems so different between the Old Testament and the New. God’s justice and hatred of sin didn’t change in the New Testament, it just adapted. Since Jesus came down to save us, He bore the wrath of God, allowing us to avoid the terrible consequences of our sin as long as we repent and accept the free sacrifice He gives us! Praise God for this amazingly glorious act of love that allows us to not only know Him but be in relation with Him forever!
A few prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament (these were written HUNDREDS of years before Jesus’ birth):
Jeremiah 23: 5-6 (Messiah will be a descendant of David)
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord our Righteousness.”
Micah 5:2 (Messiah will be born in Bethlehem)
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”
Isaiah 7: 14 (Messiah will be born of a virgin)
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
Isaiah 53:5 (Messiah will suffer the consequences for our sins and would be pierced)
“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 53:7 (Messiah wouldn’t speak out against accusations)
“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.”
Psalm 34: 20 (Messiah’s bones will not be broken—even though bones were broken in crucifixions)
“He protects al his bones, not one of them will be broken.”
Psalm 16: 10 (Messiah will rise up from the dead)
“you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”
Reading the Old Testament has been a true blessing to me and has strengthened my faith tremendously. Seeing the work of God before He came down to earth (through Jesus) was eye-opening in realizing how much He cares for creation and how seriously He takes sin. Thankfully, He cares so much He sent His own Son down to earth to rescue us from our demise. I strongly encourage you to take on the undertaking of reading the Old Testament; it will strengthen and challenge your faith in ways you wouldn’t have expected! Below are some tips I have for you to consider if you do decide to read through it!
–It was written in a culture vastly different than ours, but its lessons still apply today!
–It was written before Jesus came to earth; thus, God had to deal with sin much more direct and “harsh” since Jesus hadn’t yet come to bear His wrath on sin.
–The “strange” acts of God weren’t something that happened every day. God used them in extreme scenarios to make a point and teach a lesson to a lost people that weren’t saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (as well as a lesson to us who have been saved by Jesus!).
–Notice how the events of Israel and the world at large play out in a historical context (especially if you’re reading it chronologically). It’s amazing how archaeological evidence and historical events/figures verify the truthfulness of the Bible!
–Look out for references and prophecies of Jesus—you’ll find them throughout your reading! The fact the Old Testament was written hundreds of years before Jesus came makes it clear that the “coming Messiah” could only be one person who was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.