Learning to Love the Old Testament I

The more I read the Bible, the more I love it.  It doesn’t get old.  In fact, it gets better.  Because the more I read, the more I see how it fits together.  The more I get a vision of God’s over-arching plan.  The more I am amazed and inspired by who HE is.

I want to start a series on learning to love the Old Testament.  I think for many of us, it’s hard to study this portion of the Bible.  Sure, we’ll all read bits and stories.  But many of the books can feel tedious and uninspiring.

I think this is because we haven’t learned to see all we can see in what we’re reading.

Imagine watching two actors performing a scene on a bare stage in everyday clothing.  Your heart is somewhat moved, and you think, “That’s good.”  But now imagine seeing that same scene as you watch the whole play, complete with scenery, costumes and music.  It means so much more.  Your heart responds so much more.  You think, “That is incredible.”

That’s what I’d like to try to do with the Old Testament.  I’d like to help you get a feel for the whole grand, amazing production.  We’ll look in chronological order at key events in the Old Testament and show five ways that they are a part of the whole narrative, reflecting themes that go throughout the Bible and revealing the awesomeness of God.

So, let’s start!  Read Genesis 1.

There are so many things I could mention in the creation story, but here is what I see that is super cool:

God is good and all he creates is good. I feel like this is one of the most important themes of the Bible. God is utterly, wholly, completely and intrinsically good.  Jesus tells us that, “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18) James declares that, “every good and perfect gift is from above.”  (James 1:17)  Paul asserts that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”  (Romans 8:28)  John maintains that, “God is light, in him is no darkness at all.”  (I J 1:5)

God is orderly and works in processes. As much as it seems quick, God didn’t just zap the universe into existence.  He created it in stages.  What he did wasn’t haphazard, it was a deliberate progression of events.

We see this same thing all through the Bible. Abraham didn’t instantly father many nations.  It took years for him to even give birth to Isaac.  The Israelites didn’t immediately gain the land God promised them.  They had to go to Egypt for 400 years, wander in the desert, and then fight for their land piece by piece.  God waits for the right time.  He told his Abraham, “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Gen. 15:16)

This is also true of God’s plan for salvation.  He didn’t just save man, he allowed man to sin.  He allowed the Israelites to forsake him over and over again.  He sent prophet after prophet to warn them before he finally sent his son.

God’s creation is to be fruitful. God intended that every living thing would multiply.  “God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number…”  (Gen 1:22)

And then when God created his own people who would worship him, he intended for them to multiply.  “Then the LORD took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” (Gen 15:5)   

With Jesus, God intended for his son’s followers to multiply even more. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”  (Matt 13:34-35)

Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.”  (John 15:5)  And he went even further and said that if we follow in his footsteps of death, fruit will result: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

In this universe where entropy (deterioration) is the dominant law, it is completely encouraging that God has the power of life and growth.

We were created in God’s image.  The amazing thing is that we, as humans, were made for more than being fruitful.  We were fashioned to be like God.  “We were created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:24)  “What is man that you are mindful of him, human beings that you care for them? You made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Ps 8, Heb 2)  Thus, it makes sense that sin is described as falling short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)  Sin is failing to be what we were created to be.

As beings like God, we were created to have a relationship with God.  That is why God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden.  It is why God wants us as his bride. “I will betroth you to Me forever.”  (Hosea 2:19.  Read also Eph 5:25-27) It is why God wants us his children. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  (I John 3:1)

As beings like God, we were created for more than this earth.  Jesus says our intended inheritance is “the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”  (Matt 25:34)  God’s plan was always that we would be with him in heaven.

We have dominion over the earth. The last part of being like God means that he has given us authority over his creation. Ruling as God rules always implies caring for what is under your authority.   Ps 147:8-9 states, “He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.

As we read over the Bible, we see that this principle of caring for the earth primarily extends to caring for one another. “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Gal 5:14) Over and over we see verses like, “If anyone is poor . . .  do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.”  (Deut 15:7) Jesus entreated Peter to “Feed my sheep.”  He told his disciples to wash one another’s feet.  He said the hallmark of a disciple would be sacrificial love.  “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)

From the beginning, our lives were not to be just about ourselves.  We are stewards.

***

TO CLOSE OUT, let’s pray together and meditate on what we’ve learned:

God, you are good.  You surround us with your good creation.  You send us rain, and flowers, and crops that we can eat.  You give us wonderful good gifts every day, and the best gift is knowing you and drawing close to you in prayer.  May we see your goodness more, believe in it more, and KNOW you are good.  I thank you specifically for these good gifts: __________.  May I see your grace and goodness in this situation that troubles me:__________.

Father, I realize you work in processes.  Help me to be patient.  Help me to trust.    Help me to believe deeply that you have a plan for our lives, and you are carrying this out, and whatever I am going through is a part of the process.  Right now, I struggle to believe this because _____________.  I pray that you would help with this by _____________. Help me to remember how you have worked in my life in the past and brought me to this point, and know that you will bring me to the next point.

God, you created me to be fruitful today.  You want me to drink in all that you are and blossom with the fruits of the Spirit, joy and love.  You want me to go out and do good deeds.  You want me to let others who are struggling in deep dark places know about your light, and the truth.  Help me to be outward focused and make the most of every opportunity.  Help me to die to self and pour myself out entirely for you, knowing that this is what you can use for your purposes.  Help me specifically today to ________.

Father, how amazing it is that you put a piece of yourself in me.  I am made in your image.  May this give me faith that I am made for great purposes.  May this give me faith that I can overcome temptation and weaknesses.  Thank you that your heart’s desire is for me to be your bride, your child, and for me to be close to you forever.  May my heart be set today on heaven more than anything else.

God, as your child, you expect me to take care of your creation, and especially the the precious individuals who fill the earth.  Help me to get outside of my personal agenda and see others and their needs today.  I pray specifically for__________.  Help me to help with this need_____________.

Our hearts swell, Father, with all you are and the hope you give us in your Word.  Open our eyes to see the treasures in it.  Thank you that it transforms us.  Thank you for your grace in giving it to us.  May you be glorified always. 

In Jesus’ name, amen.

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