My favorite subject in school was Mathematics. One of my least favorite subjects was Literature. Math was always exciting to me, but reading literary works was typically a chore. My motivation for reading was often lacking–especially when it came to older novels. It wasn’t that I had difficulty reading, but, as a teenager, I failed to see much benefit in studying those works of old. Looking back upon my years of public schooling, I know that I did not put forth my best effort and failed to learn all I could have in this area.
I wonder if some Christians have a tendency to view the Old Testament in the same manner as I viewed many literary works. Although it is doubtful that many children of God would affirm that the Old Testament is pointless for man today, nevertheless, by their actions, some Christians treat the Old Testament as an irrelevant and useless document of antiquity.
Friends, let us never forget that God’s word, the Bible, is composed of sixty-six books–thirty-nine of which are in the Old Testament. How many of those first thirty-nine books have you studied in depth? How many of them have you even read from beginning to end? How many of them could you find quickly, if asked to do so? Tragically, there are many books in the Old Testament that most Christians know little, if anything, about.
Perhaps you are wondering: “So what, Stephen! The Old Testament is no longer binding upon man today; we live under the New Testament and are to be guided by the doctrines taught therein. Why should we spend our time studying in the Old Testament?”
Such is an appropriate question, but before I answer it, let me say this: It is true that God does not expect anyone living today to pattern his or her life around the Old Testament. It has been superseded by the authority of the New Testament (Heb. 8:6,7,13). However, that is not to say that the Old Testament does not serve a purpose for man today. Listen to what Paul wrote about this matter in Rom. 15:4 – “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” The apostle Paul was most certainly referring to the Old Testament books, and he provides an inspired answer to our question.
Christians should spend time studying the Old Testament because there is much to be learned therein. Without the Old Testament, we would be ignorant about the details of the creation, specifically the origin of man. Without the Old Testament, there is much about God and His nature that we would not learn. Without the Old Testament, much of the history of God’s children would be unknown. Without the Old Testament, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Without the Old Testament, it would be impossible to understand and defend much of the New Testament (since there are hundreds of Old Testament references found within the New Testament). Without the Old Testament, we would be without many examples that were recorded for our admonition (I Cor. 10:11). Although the Old Testament is no longer binding upon man today, only a fool would dismiss it as being unworthy of diligent, in depth study.
Let me leave you with this thought. Though my Literature teachers told me of the benefits of reading and reflecting upon certain literary works, it took me quite a while to believe them. Friends, I hope you will take Paul’s inspired words to heart and realize that the Old Testament was written for your learning. To ignore these books is to deprive oneself of much spiritual nourishment. I pray that you will put forth the effort to mine some of the many jewels that are present within the first thirty-nine books of the Bible.