One of my (few) New Years Resolution for 2017 was to read through the entirety of the Old Testament and to expose myself to more teachings and sermons about the Old Testament. There’s no strategy or app to go along with my reading plan, just good ol’ daily cracking open of the Bible, the occasional commentary and hopeful ambition that I will be able to reach the book of Micah by year-end. To 21st-century Christians, going through the compilation of Old Testament books is an arduous, and dare I say, irrelevant task.
After all, we live on the other side of the cross, we are Christians, not Israelites, we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us, and we await the second coming of Christ, not the first coming of the promised Messiah. Surely, the New Testament would be beneficial in teaching us more about God than the Old?
To me, the NT is undoubtedly a quicker and easier read. There is so much in the OT. Amongst others: 10 chapters of ordinances in Exodus 21-31, 8 chapters of genealogy in 1 Chronicles 1-8, a whole book of laws (Leviticus), consistent moral failings by the people of God and to top it off, a rich historical context to work through. In short, the OT is a piece of work, and I often leave with questions after my readings, even with the vast amount of resources available at my finger tips. Also, as Christians we know that we read the OT within the context of the NT, and see how Jesus Christ and His work on the cross informs and fulfils the OT text. This of course, means learning up skills on how to interpret OT text in light of this. Alas, this is a skill many Christians (including myself), hold at unsatisfactory levels. Perhaps this is why we shy away from the difficult texts in the OT.
Furthermore, I’m guessing that many Christians are still uncomfortable, if not uncertain of why the God of the NT is seemingly portrayed very differently in the OT. The classic ‘Why is the OT God so judgemental and angry, and the NT God full of love and pardon?’ is a trigger question to both Christians and non-Christians, raising the issue of whether the God we Christians serve is trustworthy and consistent in His ways. Reading through it myself, I come across many instances that conflict with what I know of the God of the NT, which causes me to pause and mull over what I think I know about the characteristics of God. Hence, it is challenging, both to my intellect and my faith.
However, two months into my resolution, I affirm how important it is to take the whole counsel of the Bible seriously. If we affirm the inspired-nature of the 39 books of the OT and are genuine in our belief that God teaches us through the OT to make us wise in salvation and righteous living, then our mentality of the OT should change. There is, of course, room for apprehension and uncertainty when reading the Bible, and opportunity for discussion, perhaps even different theological conclusions. However, as Christians, it is imperative for us to see the need in building our knowledge of the whole counsel of the Word and develop skills in rightfully handling it, this in order for us to spread the Good New of Christ to those who have yet to believe or who are struggling to believe.
It is our calling, as people who have a relationship with God, to know God as He is revealed in both the New and Old Testament of the Bible. If we shy away from a huge portion of the Bible because we are fearful of what we may find, we must take steps to check where our heart lies and upon what our faith is cemented upon. There is more to the Bible than the God of love portrayed in the New Testament. His plan for salvation was initiated way before the coming of our revered Lord Jesus Christ, and His faithfulness existed before we ourselves came to hold the Word of truth. Knowing Him begins in Genesis.