Avoiding the Old Testament? Reconsider!

Photo Credit: Yad Vashem
It’s been more years than I like to admit that I’ve not read the Old Testament line by line. I finally made a New Year’s resolution to reconnect in a systematic way with the Old Testament, along with the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs through the Daily Audio Bible. 

The Old Testament's descriptive accounts of wars, murders, beheadings, child-killing, idol-worship and all manner of awfulness, led me to write the word “horrific” in the margins of my Bible next to the accounts. I want to fast- forward the audio… and fast!

 I’ve been troubled and yes, self-righteous thinking about these “terrible” people and events both Jewish and non-Jewish. It’s easier to excuse my own shortcomings when reading about theirs. Yet, wading through the Old Testament’s rivers of conflict and wars, I’ve finally realized once again that it’s me in those stories. Not with wars and murder, but owning the fact that we are all born into a sinful state; it's uncomfortable to accept. We are vulnerable to all kinds of failings, including Christians, of which I’m a part.

The Old Testament pulls no punches describing sin, often in detail. It graphically sets the stage for an encounter with our Redeemer. The Old Testament is raw. In your face. Yet, each book is woven with inspiration. 

For example, reading about a disobedient Moses, an adulterous David who ordered a “hit” on a husband, a cowardly Gideon, and a runaway Jonah, I'm reminded that God used each one to accomplish great tasks. 

Am I downplaying the sinful mistakes of our beloved Biblical leaders? Absolutely not. I am them! In my mind, I’ve killed. In my mind and words,  I’ve given in to anger. I’ve hurt others. I’ve settled for lukewarm. I’ve made wrong choices. Many of them. And maybe this is one reason why I, and others, tend to avoid the Old Testament … it's a way of avoiding the realities of our own imperfections.
“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” -Mark Twain
I’m reminded once again that I must fully welcome the indwelling, incarnational Jesus so that I can have any semblance of an overcoming life. The easy way is to avoid confession and repentance. The easy way is to blame others. The easy way is to live in the grace of the New Testament while ignoring the ugliness of the Old Testament and deny my  own desperate state.

The Old and New Testaments are a whole, entwined book. They cannot and should not be separated. Old Testament is a stark record of humankind’s sinful nature side by side with profiles of God's transformation of novices into leaders. Its stories take us by the hand and lead us to our Redeemer in the New. 

There, we discover our Savior in His fullness Who makes it "well with our souls." Biblical festivals and teachings in the Old Testament vividly describe the culture Jesus lived in and the scripture scrolls He unrolled and read in synagogue. The prophecies of His coming scattered throughout the Old Testament are proven in the New Testament. 

 The Old Testament brings us to our knees recognizing ourselves in the lives of its characters. It readies us to meet our Lord Who triumphs on our behalf with unconditional love and sacrifice. Father God’s tough, sometimes harsh reactions are recounted in the Old Testament yet with stunning acts of undeserved mercy and second chances.   

When God clothed Himself in a human body and lived among us on earth, He transformed the lives of everyone who encountered Him. He was “Walking Redemptive Love.” When we embrace Him in His fullness our relationship with Him is enriched. 

If Trees Could Talk

Crape Myrtle
 Poet Khalil Gibran once wrote, “Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” Sixty thousand species of  these  “poems” grow on our planet.

 The trees have messages that can build us up in our   walk with the Lord and how He designed us. In 1   Corinthians 12:12-27, the Apostle Paul gives us a   roadmap that describes the body of believers, one in   Christ yet with many parts. His roadmap reminds us   that just like our human body, we all need each other.

In this important passage Paul lists clear examples. In verses 21-23 he writes, “ The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without.” 

The passage goes on to say, “God has placed each part in the body just as He wanted it to be.  If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body?  As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.”   The point is that God has created each one of us uniquely. Each with a different fingerprint. Distinct yet essential giftings. He values us and has designed a place in His family. A place to belong. A place to reach out to others. A purpose in life. A special role.
If trees could talk, what would they tell us about themselves?

Date Trees in Israel
A crape myrtle shows off its flowers providing beauty for our eyes. In the autumn, gingko trees burst out in brilliant golden beauty. Consider date trees with their delicious bounty. Or a walnut tree producing edible nuts. Weeping willows shade us from the sun.  For recreation, children climb sturdy oaks and swing from their branches. Pine tree wood builds homes and the wood of poplar trees is used for musical instruments and surf boards. 
Israeli Olive Trees
Many trees are also symbolic. The dogwood tree with its springtime cross-shaped flowers reminds us of Jesus' sacrificial love.  The olive tree not only produces olives but is a profound symbol of unity where gentiles are grafted into the ancient faith of the Jews.  Each tree has something special to offer.

If you have one of those days where you feel useless or wonder about your purpose in life or feel insignificant, and even comparing yourself to others, re-read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 asking the Lord to inform your thoughts. Think of the trees and the vast and varying purposes of their existence.  

Most of all, remember....each of us are "poems that God writes." 

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