Reading the Old Testament from Beginning to End

God’s faithfulness comes through so clearly in the Old Testament.  So does human free will.  I get frustrated with people sometimes if they truly wonder why God allows bad things to happen to good people.  To me it is clearly axiomatic that that is the only way free will can function.  If God intervened more than rarely, we would be robbed of our free will, which is the essence of humanity.  The Old Testament also clearly depicts the evil that is in the world.  God loves us so much that He will allow us to choose evil, yet restore us to Him as soon as we give up our evil ways.  Because God respects our free will so much He lets us experience the consequences of our poor choices by withdrawing His favor from His chosen people.  I definitely sense that God has withdrawn his favor from the United States in 2014.  We have also lost the sense of how awe-some God really is.  The first reaction anyone who encounters God has is fear.  The wrath of God is quite frightening.  In 2014, we live our lives, going our merry ways without a second thought about how important it is to live our lives as pleasing unto God.

The Old Testament is also very violent.  It is a rich depiction of human behavior, as realistic today as it was when written.  Atheists today are quick to call “hypocrite” any time they spot any Christian falling short.  They would have had a field day with the Old Testament titans.  All of the major Biblical figures are deeply flawed.  Just because we have accepted Jesus today, doesn’t mean we are perfect, only that we are trying much harder to be good than we might otherwise have.  I shudder to think of what I would be like if I didn’t at least try to act according to Christian principles. 

The Old Testament contains something not present in any other sacred texts – prophecy and prediction that have been, and continue to be fulfilled.  In fact, anyone who claims “all religions are alike” or “religions are different paths up the same mountain” hasn’t done her homework.  The major religions of the world are vastly different when it comes to answering life’s major questions.  They tend only to be similar in some aspects of right living such as honesty and the golden rule.

I was also reminded in this reading how much scientific, philosophical, and historical research just in the past 10 years has validated the writings of the Old Testament.  A few years back I published an article about this (including the whole Bible, not just the Old Testament).  If you are interested, you can read it at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2283428   Atheist scholars had argued, for example, that the character of David was too heroic to have truly lived, but then artifacts supporting his existence are found.  At this writing, a story is making the rounds claiming that the Bible is flawed because the oldest camel bones found don’t go as far back as the Bible claims.  I certainly accept that scientific evidence.  At the same time, based on the veracity and validity of the Bible, I fully expect that even older camel bones will some day turn up.

This front-to-back reading of the Old Testament also reminds me that people considering Christianity should start with the New Testament.  Many passages (such as the prophecies about the second coming of Christ, which are abundant) are “advanced” and really can only be properly understood after the foundation of basic Christianity is in place.  A weak analogy is watching old cartoons, such as the Flintstones, as an adult.  There is plenty in the cartoon for a child to be amused.  At the same time, there is often another level of “adult” humor intertwined that goes over the heads of the children.  They will only understand it after of foundation of maturity is in place. 

Finally, a continuous reading of the Old Testament clearly shows God at work throughout history.  God has set humankind free.  Now he is attempting to win us back with repeated acts of redemption.  The greatest act, of course, begins as I turn the page and start the New Testament.

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