Every word in the Bible is there for a reason. Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the narratives of the Old Testament are? (Our pastor calls them “narratives”, as the word “stories” implies they are fiction. In our denomination we believe that every narrative in the Bible actually happened.)
Paul wrote, in the New Testament, about the events that happened during the time the Israelites were wandering in the desert for 40 years. The Israelites grumbled, complained, disobeyed and doubted the Lord, and worshiped idols.
“Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did…Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction…”
1 Corinthians 10:6, 11
These narratives are not only a record of the events that occurred as our faith-history, they are events that the Lord wants us to remember and look back upon. The Israelites give us many examples of how we should not act. They show us the consequences of evil and of sin.
The Old Testament can also inspire and encourage us. In Romans, St. Paul wrote:
“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.”
What is your favorite OT narrative?
I think mine is the narrative of Joseph (Genesis 37-46). He endured so much at the hands of his brothers, then Potiphar (after his wife lied to him that Joseph had tried to assault her). Even when he was in prison for an additional two years (because the cupbearer to whom Joseph had interpreted a dream had forgotten him) Joseph did not give up hope. Eventually Joseph was raised into power and saved the entire country, and his family (who he forgave for selling him into slavery), from starvation. The reach of this narrative—through many years and several nations—shows me how, despite bad things happening, God makes all things for good. During this time Joseph was faithful to the Lord, despite being betrayed over and over. Joseph can be an example for all of us, in how he did not only forgive his brothers, but brought them to live with him.
I am also encouraged by Joshua, who lead the Israelites into the promised land; most experts believe there were several million Israelites by this time—and they were a challenge, to be sure!
Esther’s bravery inspires me to do what is right no matter where I am and what I’m doing.
These narratives and more have encouraged me to endure through the difficult times in my life; I know that, like God’s Old Testament people, I can survive and thrive, with the help of the Lord.
Study the Old Testament, with your children if they are still at home. Every narrative gives guidance and instruction, encouragement. Some give warnings; some help us to endure. As you read the narratives, talk about and write down the life-lessons you can learn from them.
What is your favorite Old Testament narrative and why? Share your comments below.