The Old Testament Blues

Posted: October 13, 2009 in bible

I don’t quite understand how to read the Old Testament.  Do I read it for historical purposes, to understand the lineage of Jesus?  Do I read it for life application, comparing my life to the up and downs of the Israelites, realizing that I stray and turn my back on God as often as they did?  Do I read it just to get an understanding of how bad things were, and why we needed a Savior?

Example.  We just studied the 10 Plagues in Exodus at small group last week.  We doing some studies of the Essential 100, and that’s just where we are at.

Now, the plagues are an amazing story, just in terms of story value.  Makes for an amazing movie.  Shows the power of God in a frightening way.  The things that happened are unfathomable and so epic that we could never understand their affect.

But I don’t really understand what to take from reading about the plagues.  In fact, it makes me shake my head about God maybe more than anything else in the OT.  The plagues were cruel, terrible, sort of over-the-top punishment rained upon an entire nation or people group.  It’s hard for me to be believe that ALL the Egyptians were deserving of this punishment, that many of them were simply suffering because of the hard heart of the Pharoah.  Their water supply was ruined, their land turned to filthy, odorous ruins, their livestock obliterated, and thousands of firstborn children killed.  Sure, the end game was to make it possible for Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and off to their own lands.  But was all that really necessary?  In fact, the flood makes more sense to me than the plagues.

Over the last 2 years in small group, we’ve studied Genesis, some of Exodus, and most of the minor prophets.  And I’ve continued this struggle of knowing how to read these books and what to gain from them.  I’ve struggled with the fact that so much is missing, chunks of time go by in a story and you have no idea what happened during those times.  Sometimes God is a provider, sometimes full of wrath, sometimes elusive, and sometimes is even coaxed by a prophet to change His mind about something.

So many Old Testament laws and practices no longer apply and were really abolished by the new covenant.  The person of Jesus made so many OT laws seem ridiculous (an eye for an eye).  So, why read parts of Exodus or Deuteronomy or Leviticus where so many of these laws are laid out, which no longer mean anything to me, and only serve to make me more confused?

So.  How do you read the Old Testament?  What do you gain from it in personal life application?  Do you get as confused as I do?  Do you read it just as a surface story, or do you like to dig deeper into the meanings, the culture, the background?  Ultimately, I know it’s important for me to read these books of Scripture, I’d just like to figure out the best reason why.

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