Have you ever had your eyes opened to a new way of thinking, and then you become incredibly eager to learn more about something? That’s been me since New Year’s Day when it comes to Scripture. Before, when I would read Scripture or hear it, I would understand some of the moral lessons God is trying to teach, but I did not understand the deeper beauty of it. I think that came from not approaching Scripture with the right attitude.
I love learning when I’m passionate about something. But when I’m not passionate about something? It feels forced, dry, and like it’s a chore. So of course, my eyes weren’t opened to the deeper beauty and excitement of everything. God didn’t reveal Himself to me because my heart wasn’t truly focused on looking for Him. I unfortunately looked at reading the Bible as a thing to do on a daily checklist. I didn’t truly revere or respect it as God’s message to humanity. But now that I have changed my attitude, and sincerely asked God to open my heart and strengthen my faith, I think I can understand what He has to say more clearly than I used to. Although I still often struggle to understand Him. Especially in these times.
I think what reignited my long lost passion for seriously studying the Bible, was the notion that Jesus, and prophecies referring to Him could be found in the Old Testament. The thought that God not only lays out how to obey Him, but that He also foretells the coming of Jesus through prophets HUNDREDS of years before His birth or ministry, is incredibly fascinating to me!
Of course, there are probably many who will say that Jesus didn’t fulfill all the Messianic prophecies, and so therefore He cannot be the Messiah. But the ones that I’ve heard that He has fulfilled are incredibly numerous, with the most striking one of these being Isaiah 53. Read that, and tell me it doesn’t sound like Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to a tee. That was prophesied by Isaiah long before Jesus showed up in the flesh. At least 800 years beforehand! If I am able to find other instances of foretelling like that one in the Old Testament, it will help strengthen my faith even further, and allow me to more clearly see the whole plan God has for humanity. Or at least much more clearly than I am used to.
I am also reinvigorated to study the Bible, because as I’ve gone along with Genesis, I feel like the people I’ve read about so far are relatable. They’re not robots who serve God without any emotion. They sin. They doubt. They fear. They get angry. They’re sometimes impatient. But they are real, flawed people who God used to reveal His nature to others. And I am noticing three themes: God’s promises, His reaction to sin, and His character.
New view of God in the Old Testament
So far through where I currently am in Genesis 38, God has made three promises or covenants: The covenant with Adam and Eve that allowed them to live in complete harmony with Him (broken by their sin), the covenant to not flood the earth again (seen in a sign as a rainbow) after saving Noah and his family, and the covenant to make Abraham a father of all nations, since Abraham righteously obeyed Him.
These covenants seem to help me to better understand something: God still is loving. He still has a plan for humanity. Even when He still may seem harsh when it comes to dealing with sin, especially concerning The Flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah. But this severe reaction to sin also reveals part of His character: He is entirely good and holy, which means He doesn’t tolerate evil or sin. Whether that was in the times described in Genesis or today.
I do not know what changed my feelings on the Old Testament. But they have definitely changed so far. Before I seriously made it a goal to truly dive into the Bible, my original line of thinking on the Old Testament went something like this: “The God of the Old Testament seems too harsh. I can understand Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament, but I am often confused and horrified by what God does in the Old Testament.”
However now, I look at it like this, “If Jesus is 100 percent telling the truth like I believe He is, the Old Testament, dark parts and all, is necessary in order to help us truly understand the New Testament. One informs the other. Go through the Old Testament, and whenever you don’t understand something, look it up, and see which explanation makes the most sense to you. Pray to God to reveal Himself to you.”
When we approach Scripture with our normal human hearts, biases and attitudes, we cannot see what is right there in front of us. Stubbornness, boredom and cynicism prevent us from seeing what we’re supposed to see. We may also view God as we sometimes view other human beings: Cruel, vindictive and that He derives pleasure from hurting others just because He can. But that couldn’t be further from the truth of who He is. We also cherry pick the parts we agree with and ignore the ones we don’t understand or agree with, rather than looking to see WHY God does what He does, even in the parts that are difficult to read. True, there are some things in the Bible we will never understand. Don’t get me started on the symbolism used in Revelation! Haha.
But when we approach Scripture humbly, and truly focus on learning and enjoying seeing how the entire story fits together, God helps us make connections. One BIG connection I made so far involves Jacob and his brother Esau, unexpected actions by God, and the old animal sacrifices at the Temple vs. the new sacrifice by Jesus!
Jesus: The ultimate unexpected move by God
Jacob and Esau were two brothers, the sons of Isaac and Rebecca. Esau was the older one, a hunter. While Jacob, his younger brother, was a shepherd. Usually when the father of a family was on his deathbed, he would give his blessing to the eldest son, and task him with caring for the family after the father died, which was a huge deal. However, Rebecca tricked her husband Isaac into thinking that Jacob was Esau, and Isaac gave Jacob his blessing while Esau was out hunting for his father. Why Rebecca tricked Isaac is not explicitly said. But I noticed it was the first time God did something unexpected in the Old Testament. And even though this is not explicitly said either, SOMETHING in Jacob seems to have signaled to God that he was the best for the job of taking care of the family over Esau.
I am not this far along yet, but where else do we hear of God doing away with tradition or the expected in favor of somebody else? When He chooses young David, the youngest son of Jesse, from among his seven older brothers to eventually become the King of Israel. Finally, where do we see God doing the unexpected? When he sends Jesus to earth as a helpless baby, rather than with all the richness, glory and power that the people expected the Messiah to have.
All Jesus did was save humanity with His sacrifice, making animal sacrifices unnecessary and obsolete. No more lambs or other animals were needed as atonement for sin, since The Lamb gave Himself up for all of humanity. Past, present and future. Until the end of time.
It is connections like these that spur me on! Connections, the richness of the story, the realistic humanity of the people, and keeping an eye out for references to Jesus, even though I am nowhere close to where He shows up. When approached in the way we probably normally approach it, the Bible is a dry, dusty, rarely used book our religious teachers forced us to read in classes.
But when approached eagerly, with genuine curiosity to learn more and a humble heart, the Bible comes alive. It’s an incredibly entertaining, relatable, instructive, true story. One that’s worth studying over and over again, even if you’ve heard the stories several times. There’s always something new to learn. Even the most experienced people find themselves constantly picking up new things. Most importantly, if you study Scripture, remember this: God is talking to you through it. Sometimes He’s stern. Sometimes He’s trying to teach you something like a teacher would do with their student. But he is ALWAYS expressing His love for you.
The Bible: A love letter from God to humanity!