There are several reasons why the Old Testament (OT) is more difficult to read and understand than the New Testament:
- It’s not chronological
- It takes place in a very different time and culture
- That’s not even much of a story; it’s a lot of history
So a while ago I set out to better understand the elusive OT. First, I completed one of the challenges by reading a chronological version of the Bible. You can easily find them on the YouVersion Bible app or another app of your choice. I read/listened to the Bible, chronologically, in one year. I’m in my second year and this has helped me make more orderly sense of the Old Testament, in particular. It is also very important to have a version of the Bible that you can understand. My first childhood experience with the Bible was a family heirloom, King James Version, which might as well have been written in Greek. I just couldn’t understand it.
Second, I begin to dig into the context, story, and setting of the verse or book I was reading. How, you ask me? There are a number of study tools available such as study bibles, concordances, bible dictionaries, bible atlases, etc. However, if you don’t want to invest in these tools, you can always use our good old friend, Google. Type any question and start learning! Just be careful to use reliable sources!
Once the book of the Old Testament begins to become more comprehensible to you, you will begin to see God’s intentional desire for a relationship with man. You will also see how the Old Testament repeatedly points to the coming of Jesus as the fulfillment and personification of God and his love for us.
For example, one of my favorite verses in the Bible is Micah 6:8, “He showed you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (NKJV) For me, this verse encourages me to live my life according to what God has already shown me so that I can walk humbly with Him.
By researching a bit, I learned that Micaiah was a prophet whose name meant “who is like God”. He lived around 750-700 BC. I discovered that Micah actually wrote those words to Jerusalem as a stern warning of how they lived as they continued to turn away from God. He points out that God has already shown them how they should live. He gave them the Ten Commandments through Moses (my comment, not Micah’s). It sums up, indicating that they should be just and treat others with kindness, which will enable them to walk humbly with God. It speaks of a unity with God in those particular areas. This indicates that it is the nature of God. He is just and He is merciful. Micah also refers to a coming judgment on those who continue on the path of wickedness.
Furthermore, he tells them that God will send a new king to rule. This King, Jesus, will do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. (Micah 5:2-5). He even prophesies that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem!
Applying this OT story to our lives today shows hope – even amid stern warnings about disobedience. We see indications of God’s redemptive plan for us and His desire to be in relationship with us. Sending Jesus to reunite us with Him has always been God’s (and Jesus’) plan.
Typing a simple question about the meaning of one of my favorite Bible verses – the one that gives me direction and comfort – turned into a short study of all seven chapters of the book of Micah. It also gave me a better understanding of God and his promises, plans and hopes for me.
Whatever we read, Old or New Testament, our goal should always be to learn the voice, mind and heart of God.
My challenge is for you to get a Bible you understand, read it often and a little at a time, and spend even a few minutes digging a little deeper. The time you invest, big or small, will produce in you a greater understanding of God and what He desires for you and for your life.
Sylvia Gaston is pastor of family ministry at Koinonia Church in Hanford. She can be reached at [email protected] or 559-582-1528.