By Shelly Burke, Editor and Author of Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom's Guide
Do you ever wonder why the narratives in the Old Testament were recorded to be read now, thousands of years later? (Our pastor pointed out that calling them “stories” can imply that they’re fiction; in our denomination we believe that all of the events recorded in the Bible took place as written.)
What is the relevance today of the book of Judges? Or the Psalms? Or even the record of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years? What about Nehemiah, and the minor Prophets?
Romans 15:4 tells us, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4. This verse refers specifically to Psalm 69, quoted in the verse previous to this one. But we know that every word of Scripture—Old Testament and New—is God’s Word to us, and therefore of value to us today.
I think about the twisted family narratives in Genesis. Cain and Able. Sari and Abram (later Sarah and Abraham) trying to force God’s promise of a child, by bringing Hagar into the picture. Esau selling his birthright for a plate of food and Jacob deceiving his father and receiving his father’s blessing. Laban deceiving Jacob and forcing Jacob to work for 14 years to get the woman he loved. Dinah being defiled and Jacob’s son’s killing and plundering for revenge. Joseph being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.
Why are these recorded? I think for several reasons; one, to reassure us that dysfunction as a result of sin has been part of the world since Adam and Eve first sinned. As well as reassurance that we are not alone if we live in a dysfunctional family, the narratives also serve as a warning and show that there are consequences, sometimes severe, of not following God’s will and instructions.
Many of God’s people in the Old Testament are great examples for us: Noah’s faith was demonstrated when he built the ark. Abraham’s faith shown by his willingness to sacrifice his son. Joseph kept his values and during his years in slavery, which resulted in Joseph being able to save his family years later during a famine.
And that is all in Genesis!
Exodus gives us the Ten Commandments, applicable to our lives today.
Judges shows us the pattern of the people trusting in man rather than God…turning from God to idols…being suppressed by different people…turning back to God…asking for forgiveness…and repeating the cycle.
Nehemiah teaches us lessons about priorities and focus. (Click here to read "Lessons from Nehemiah" one of my posts from the A to Z Blogging Challenge last year.)
The book of Esther contains one of my favorite verses in the Bible: “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b) Esther is also a wonderful example of the “bad guy” getting what he deserves.
What about the poetry of the Psalms? How can we use that today? When I was going through probably the most difficult time in my life, I could not focus enough to read anything but Psalms. Every day I found a Psalm that expressed what I felt and reassured me of God’s love for me. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found comfort in that book.
Proverbs offers us wisdom for many “real life” situations.
A large part of the Old Testament is prophecy of what will happen either in the New Testament or later, or is yet to happen.
There are difficult verses, chapters, and books in the Old Testament, but there are always examples of God’s love and forgiveness for those who are truly repentant, and His promise of a Savior Who will save each and every one of us if we accept His gift.
I encourage you to read the Old Testament. It is fascinating—mysteries, drama, history, sex, violence, faith, forgiveness, and evidence of God’s hand. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathes out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16