Recently I wrote on how to “Overcome Spiritual Stagnation.” My writing argued from Scripture that the way to overcome spiritual stagnation is by behold the glory of God in the face of Christ, which can seen in Scripture as the Spirit encourages us through it. In short, reading and seeing God’s wonders in Scriptures is the main way to overcome spiritual stagnation. The post then steered in the direction of studying the Old Testament. This is because in the Old Testament, we see God’s unfolding revelation play out.
An obvious and biting question arises from this, however, and that is how do we study the Old Testament? How does on see or behold the glory of God in the face of Christ in the Old Testament? For many, this is a difficult venture. My purpose here, though, is to give some direction into the study of the Old Testament. Studying and understanding the older Scriptures is not impossible goal but a realistic and attainable accomplishment. That’s the big take away here.
Not only is it possible to read and understand the Old Testament, but it will transform a Christian from one level of glory to another. It will drive us from the spiritual dumps into the smorgasbord of spiritual depth. For this reason, I have provided a few suggestions to reading the Old Testament.
First, read the Bible. Read and then re-read. The main way to know the Bible, learn from, and see God’s glory in it is to read it. The dearth of spiritual impact from the Old Testament is often sourced in the fact that we do not read it. We know six or seven verses off hand from Romans and can piece that book together, but we cannot even quote one verse from Judges—much less explain the contents of that book!
Second, distinguish between the characters in Old Testament and the meaning of the author. In other words, as you read Genesis 15, for example, remember that Abram did not write this chapter. Abram’s emotions or thoughts are not the point of Genesis 15 (unless the author intended that to be known and the point). Abram’s thought process or the history that surrounds Abram may not even be the point. The author here, Moses, included this event in his larger work (Genesis–Deuteronomy) for a purpose that relates to the whole.
Ask the question, “What did Moses intend by recording Yahweh’s covenant with Abram” not “What did Abram intend by x, y, and z, (though this may also be an appropriate questions at times)”. The point may seem subtle, but it is important. Moses had a purpose in writing the Pentateuch (the Pentateuch includes Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and he intended to convey his point through the narratives of Adam, Abraham, Isaac and so forth.
Third, identify the purpose or main idea of the book. When we book a book today, we often know what it is about by the title or through reading the preface. If it is a bigger book, looking at the table of contents can also help us see how the argument unfolds. We should approach the Bible in a similar way. While books in the Bible do not have prefaces or tables of content, they do contain ways of expressing their main idea and how individual chapters develop that idea.
If Moses wrote Genesis through Deuteronomy as one book, then what is the purpose of the Pentateuch? What is the idea that holds it all together? Authors have an idea they want to convey and their chapters contribute to that big idea. So what is Moses’ main idea in the Pentateuch? How do the chapters in Genesis or Leviticus fit into that big idea?
These three guidelines are the main things one should consider when approaching the Old Testament. Read Scripture and re-read it; recognize that the author intends something by what he writes and the author is often not the character in the story (Joshua probably did not write Joshua, for example); and try to find the main idea of the book you are reading to see how each chapter fits into the whole book.
The benefit of reading Scripture is knowing God better through his word and being transformed as your dive deeper into God’s word. There is no way to lose by reading the Old Testament.