I started this year with an ambitious goal. Maybe not ambitious to you or anyone you know, but one that I’ve never done before, so a goal of new territory for me.
My pursuit this year is one of intentional direction and seeking what God has next. I felt the best way to do that would be a super fast trek through his word, and so began my quest through the Bible in 30 days. I’ll end up a few days late because, you know, life happens.
Recently, I’ve seen a few stories of people who have abandoned their faith because of problems with the Old Testament. They say that they cannot trust a God who would go to such lengths to destroy rather than forgive and who seemed to be more about rules than relationship.
They are speaking through their ignorance and lack of first hand investigated effort. They see this through their perception rather than through their knowledge of investigated effort.
In my quick read through the Old Testament, so quickly that it becomes difficult to seperate stories. It all begins to run together and lines become less in chapters and books, but more history and story of love, grace and generosity.
What I see through the Old Testament is a story of the grace of a God who created, establish a baseline of holiness, told his people to match that baseline and then provide grace where they would be unable to match it.
As you enter into the Major Prophets-Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel-you see God telling these guys over and over again to tell his message to the people who would listen and hopefully see the truth, relent of their decision to abandon God and return to him. Over and again, you see God declaring his love for all people everywhere if they would but recognize him and his grace apart from every other potential path. For some reason they simply could not see the goodness of God. All they could see was what he had commanded that they stay away from.
The message I hear today is why does God need to be so restrictive? Because all those things were deceitful, deceptive and destructive.
Tell me, how does one go from honoring the Lord would lead them out of the slavery they found in Egypt to worshipping a metal statue where you light a fire in it’s belly and place your live children on its outstretched arms to be burned alive as a sacrifice to another so called god?
You and I cannot fathom how that could become a possibility but it is what the Lord was trying to keep them from. He knew the dangers of unbelief. It is not that God is restrictive, it’s that he is abundantly good and gracious far beyond our understanding.
Even through all the Major Prophets, you see a stretched out story of repetition in hopes that his people would see his goodness. He would choose other nations of the world to allow his people to be taken into captivity again so they could eventually see again his ability to protect and provide.
Why do good things happen to bad people? Well, one explanation does not satisfy the thousands of different scenarios, but one explanation is that God allows travesty so we can see his extreme goodness as well.
One of the most widely overused and miscommunicated verses in the Old Testament is found in these Major Prophets, Jeremiah 29:11. For some reason we believe that we can lift this right out of the context in which it is written and apply it to all of our own situations. Do you know the story in which Jeremiah captured those profound and amazing words? Do you understand what it was in reference to? He was declaring to his people how much he loved them and was devastated over their current situation. This was one of those moments where you see the Lord weeping over the story they were choosing. They were abandoning him as their Lord and allowing something far less to captivate their attention. So he allowed them to walk that road knowing it would lead them to some very desperate surroundings. But even with all that in mind, his words through Jeremiah are profound and encouraging- I know the plans, I will bring you home again. Even though it looks really tough right now, don’t give up, don’t break down, the end of it will come and I’ll restore to you everything you’ve lost.
Maybe the reason we take such delight in those amazingly encouraging words are that if they could be true to those people then maybe they can be true again!? Maybe that’s why Romans 8:28 is so profoundly encouraging to us. Could it be the New Testament equal to this Old Testament promise?
What I’m learning through this fast read through the Bible is that the love and grace of Jesus as displayed through the New Testament, the New Covenant that was finalized on a cross, is nothing without the trial, struggle and toughness of the Old Testament.
What we see is that this Word he gifted to us is sufficient to prove his holiness, our depravity, and the grace and mercy to connect them both.
Have you ever read through the Bible?
Maybe not at a stupid pace like the whole thing in 30 days (or 37 as it’s turning out to be for me), but to get the whole story and understand it in a way you never have before.
It’s worth it. All those moments of mountain top momentum paired with the painful passages of people’s names, they all become worth it in the end when you see the love story God chose to leave you until He comes back to get you.
Make it your mission, read His letter this year. It’ll change you!