Fred and I are very diligent about our Bible reading this year. I realize, though, that if you try to read through the Bible in a year, there won't be much time for in-depth study. I work hard just to complete the five chapters (usually) each day. We finished Genesis and Exodus and all the drama there. We found some troubling ideas, objectionable customs, loathsome people, and even words of God we wrestle with and struggle to understand. I have to remind myself of the cultural gap between people today and those who lived thousands of years ago. But I also always keep in mind that these words are still the inspired Word of God. I have to pray and ask for wisdom and discernment to learn from them.
I think we also need to read the Old Testament with an eye on Jesus. The words and the stories all point to him. When we read of warnings and threats, we better understand God's demand for holiness and how our sin separates us from him. The atoning animal sacrifices that are abhorrent to us today are a foreshadow of God sacrificing his son on the cross to take away our sins. The multitude of laws, that people could never fully obey, were fulfilled in Christ. He alone lived the perfect life God required and became victor over sin and death. We read about Moses and how he interceded for the people, praying for them and telling them what God had to say. We better understand how Jesus is our intercessor who reveals God to us. Jesus said to his disciples, "If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. (John 14:7)
One of the major themes of the Old Testament is what God repeats over and over, "I will be their God and they shall be my people." The promises made to Abraham were fulfilled in Jesus. Those promises become our promises. Through Jesus, we become God's children, along with all the privileges and responsibilities. We are able to speak directly to the unapproachable God of the Old Testament because of what Jesus has done for us.
It is encouraging to me to read the Old Testament and the failings of flawed humans. Those people were imperfect--just like me. But God used sinful people to achieve his purposes, and he can use even me. Through these characters we can learn lessons of wise choices and guard against foolish ones. We become more aware of the consequences of our actions, the immediate ones and also the far-reaching ones.
As we read, we must use caution not to create God in our own image. God is not our very best idea of a god. We shouldn't say, "Well, if I were God, I would do this and not allow that." God is who he is. So as we read these stories, we might not like some things God does. Isn't it enough to acknowledge that since we are not gods, it is just possible that some things are beyond our understanding? A child does not understand everything her father does, and in fact, is not capable of doing so.
The God of the New Testament is also the God of the Old. He is Jesus. Jesus says, "Whoever has seen me has seen the father." (John 14:9) But, as C. S. Lewis cautions, "He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion." God is powerful, merciful, and faithful, but he is not tame, predictable, or controllable." He says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." Isaiah 55:8.
We press onward...