Today I finished the Old Testament. I’ve been methodically working my way through the Bible in chronological order, following the readings from bibleinayear.org. It’s been a fascinating journey, learning about what happened in those days, and in what order, and getting a more detailed overview of the history in the Bible. Before I started reading it I just assumed that I knew almost everything, and that those bits that I’d not read in the Old Testament were the boring irrelevant bits – I was wrong on both counts!
Reading it through in chronological order brought many new things to light for me. For instance, reading Kings and Chronicles side by side told the same story from different perspectives, and adding in the Psalms where they would have been written made them more relevant and poignant. I was also surprised by just how much I had never even heard about before. I’ve been going to church all my life, and after 23 years I thought pretty much everything would have been covered in sermons and talks by now. But as I read I discovered a whole load of people, events, places, useful advice, laws, and stuff that I had never read about before.
I can’t claim to know the Old Testament inside out, of course, there are whole chunks of it that I already cannot remember in detail. But I have really enjoyed getting to know the Old Testament a bit better, seeing how all those events added up and set the stage for that first Christmas. Being a Jew was not an easy life, and they were constantly messing things up. It wasn’t the fault of the religion itself, but it did very effectively highlight how quickly mankind can twist things around and get it horribly wrong. Reading the Old Testament in light of the New Testament has also been quite eye-opening, seeing how things relate to what Jesus said years later, and seeing what those prophesies were actually talking about.
Tomorrow I start with Matthew chapter 1. The New Testament seems to get more press these days, and I guess it’s probably a lot more accessible in terms of its message and its literary style, but the New Testament is nothing without the Old. The New Testament message, without the backdrop of the Old Testament, is just a portrayal of a nice way to live. Jesus, without the sins of nations and the prophecies telling of the saviour, is just a very nice man. But with those two pieces fitted together, suddenly it all takes on a whole new meaning, a deeper meaning, one in which both halves make far more sense. The hopelessness highlighted in the constant straying from the law in the Old Testament becomes cause for celebration when taken in the context of Jesus’ redeeming love and forgiveness. Jesus’ suffering on the cross is even more necessary when taking into account how much the world needed saving. And above all, God never stopped working throughout that time, from the creation of the world, through the prosperity of Israel, through the turmoil of successive rebellions and exiles, through the ministry of Jesus, through the building of the church. God kept working then, and God keeps working now – I reckon that’s reason enough to be secure in my belief that God will still be working tomorrow!