We just celebrated Valentine’s Day. We women are romantics at heart. We love to receive gifts, and it really doesn’t matter the value of the gift – just so it’s from the heart. Something our guy believes is going to please us. So imagine your sweetie walks in with that oh-gosh-golly-gee look on his face and he’s hiding something behind his back. You know better than to have expectations for diamonds or gold, but what is it? He gives you a kiss and hands you a box with a big bow on it. Your favorite candy?! “Oh, honey,” you say. “You shouldn’t have!” You open it up, and … it’s a box of VEGETABLES. “This is how you tell me you love me?” you ask.
That’s kind of how it feels reading and studying portions of the Old Testament. It’s like getting vegetables when you’d rather have a box of chocolates. “Really, Lord? Why do I need to know this way ancient history? I’d much rather spend my time in Philippians or Ephesians, or the gospel of John. You know, those parts of the Bible that make me feel good and blessed.”
I make myself eat my vegetables because I am convinced they are good for me, not because I love them. I really don’t think I would miss them if we suddenly found out that they weren’t good for us after all! You wouldn’t find me sneaking a brussel sprout when no one was looking. No, I would much rather fill myself up all day long with whole grains and fruits and diary products… oh, and sweets. Yummm! What makes it so very difficult to day after day and year after year continue to eat vegetables, especially now that I don’t want the extra calories of cooking them in butter or dipping them in Ranch dressing, is the fact that I derive no immediate benefit. All those vitamins and minerals and fiber and whatnot are invisible. If it were only like Popeye when he ate his can of spinach… Wow! Now then eating vegetables would be more encouraging! But that ain’t gonna happen. So I must accept, by faith, that nutritionists are correct. And I bet everyone who eats healthy foods also accepts by faith that we are better off eating a balanced diet and limiting desserts!
Now, granted, because I have eaten relatively healthy for my entire life, if I just went rogue and started eating whatever my little heart desires, it wouldn’t be long before I would notice that I do not feel as well as I used to. But what about those unfortunates who weren’t brought up being made to eat their vegetables or they had to go without dessert, and not being allowed to eat a steady diet of fast foods? Those folks have no idea how much better they would eventually feel if they ate right. Therefore they continue to eat only the things that please them at the moment and completely miss out on the benefits of a balanced diet.
I think it is much the same with the Bible. It isn’t derogatory to say that many parts of the Old Testament are akin to eating your proverbial vegetables whether you want to or not (ooh, that is what my mom used to say!). So I thought it would be a good idea to reinforce just why it is important that we read and study the whole Bible, and not just the parts we like best.
First, just for fun (!), let’s review what makes up our Bible.
In the Old Testament, we have
- 17 Historical books, recounting the rise and fall of the Hebrew Nation.
- 5 Poetical books recounting the Nation’s Golden Age
- 17 Prophetic books telling of the Nation’s Dark Days
In the New Testament we have
- 4 Gospels, the Good News of the Man produced out of the Nation
- The Acts of the Apostles, the beginning of the Church
- 21 Epistles that lay out His teachings and principles
- The Revelation, forecasting the future Victory of the Church led by Christ.
-The Old Testament is an account of a Nation – the Nation of Israel.
-The New Testament is an account of a Man – Jesus Christ.
-The Nation, Israel, was founded and nurtured of God to bring the Man, Jesus, into the world.
Here is what a few well-known historical figures have said about the Bible:
Abraham Lincoln said, “I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book.”
George Washington, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
Napoleon (Napoleon? Really? Wow!), “The Bible is no mere book, but a Living Creature, with a power that conquers all that oppose it.”
Patrick Henry, “The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”
John Quincy Adams (this one is my favorite quote), “So great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens of their country and respectable members of society. I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year.”
In the history of the church, the enemy of our souls has always sought to keep people from God’s Word. Even the Old Testament Law!
In the book of Nehemiah, a remnant returned to Jerusalem after many, many years in exile. The people stood for hours to listen to the Law of Moses being read and explained by Ezra, many probably having never heard it before. What they learned made them weep with joy and sadness. Joy because they were again God’s people, and it was so good to have that wonderful identity again, and sadness because they had not been obedient to Him for a very, very long time. The people then and there repented and began to obey the Word they had heard.
Over and over again in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel drifted away from the Law of Moses due to their own disregard, their own wicked kings and priests, and due to being in exile in pagan lands. And each time the Law of Moses was dug out and dusted off and read, there would be revival. Revival from reading The Law of Moses!! That is how alive God’s word is.
Often in church history the established church itself repressed the Word of God. During New Testament times, the leaders of the Jewish Synagogues taught that their traditions and rules were equal with the Law of Moses, and put burdens of obedience to every tiny rule and law that were impossible to follow. Jesus had some very harsh words to say to the Pharisees about that.
During the Dark Ages, the Roman Church, more of a political entity than what we would think of as a church, actually prohibited the distribution of the Bible among the people, even putting to death anyone who read the Bible! Translations of the Bible were forbidden, and translated Bibles were burned when found, and those found with the translated Bible were burned with them.
The devout of that era were in bondage to whatever the church decreed, an example of which was the requirement of the payment of indulgences. Indulgences were payments made for personal sins committed, as well as the sins of those who had died, according to the priests, unforgiven. If you were the nobility, or wealthy, you could sin all you want, as long as you could afford to pay the piper!
Purgatory was taught to be a kind of waiting place between heaven and hell, but was more like hell than heaven. The only way to release your loved ones was the payment of exorbitant sums to the church. It was said, “As soon as your coin clinks in the chest the souls of your friends will rise out of Purgatory into Heaven.” If you did not have enough money, and the majority of peasants had next to nothing, you were allowed toyou’re your indulgence by fighting in the Crusades, a risky endeavor, or by turning in a neighbor for heresy. Obviously this was a fearful and desperate time.
Martin Luther, a German monk, found a Bible and began reading it. Do you know what specific Scripture it was that compelled Martin Luther to risk going against the status quo? To risk his life? He was reading the book of Romans. He read, “The just shall live by faith.” Rom 1:17. The New Living Translation says it this way: “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
The author of Romans was reciting a verse from the Old Testament, Habakkuk 2:4. It was the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, who was first inspired to write those words that opened the eyes of Martin Luther to see, at last, that salvation was to be gained by trust in God through Christ alone. There was no need to purchase salvation by buying indulgences. Salvation wasn’t earned or found in rituals or sacraments or penances. Salvation was a gift. Habakkuk knew it centuries before Christ was even born. The book of Habakkuk is as alive as the book of Romans. Peace and enlightenment washed over Martin Luther and changed his whole life. And the lives of every Christian since.
It was the Bible in the hands of the people that brought the world out of the Dark Ages and bondage. Copies of the Bible began to be printed and dispersed all over Germany and translated into the German language so the common man could read it. Europe was set on fire because of the Word of God! Because of the Reformation, protestants and Catholics alike can now own, read and study the Word of God for themselves without fear of reprisal from the church.
If you want to learn more about Martin Luther and the Reformation, I highly recommend the DVD, Luther: The Movie. It is very good, and helps us to appreciate the fact that we have the precious Word of God because of men and women who laid their lives on the line so it could be available to all who wanted a copy of it.
Now let’s look at three more reasons the entire Bible is worthy of our time to read and to study:
- Paul the Apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says so!
Paul writes to Timothy: “You have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training for righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:15-17.
“You have known the holy Scriptures..” Since the New Testament was yet to be written and compiled, what Scriptures was Paul talking about here? The Old Testament! Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says the Old Testament Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”! The Old Testament tells of salvation through faith in Jesus? Yes! Halley says this about the Bible:
“The whole Bible is God’s Word, all One Story, a literary structure of profound and marvelous unity, centered around Christ. Christ is the heart and climax of the Bible. All that goes before is in one way or another anticipatory of Him. All that comes after is interpretive of Him. The whole Bible may very properly be called the Story of Christ. The Old Testament paves the way for His coming. The four gospels tell the story of His earthly life, the epistles explain His teachings, and Revelation, His triumph.”
- Jesus says so!
After Jesus was raised from the dead and before he ascended into heaven, he appeared to many people. Two of His followers were leaving Jerusalem and were walking on the road to Emmaus when Jesus joined them and began walking along with them and talking. They were kept from recognizing Him.
One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:18-27
Rather than use a miracle to prove who He was, or allow Himself to be recognized so those men would believe in Him, he used the Scriptures, and those Scriptures were the Old Testament. He made God’s Word come alive to them as never before and the Scriptures say their hearts were burning within them as He taught them. Jesus Himself used the Old Covenant to explain the New Covenant.
- The New Testament says so!
There are at least 295 separate references to the Old Testament in the New Testament. 295! I wouldn’t call the Old Testament unnecessary or even secondary when it has been quoted at least 295 times in the New Testament!
God wrote the entire Bible because He loves us so very much. Each book of the Bible is a love gift to us and essential for a balanced spiritual diet, whether that book is easy or hard to digest. Yes, even Leviticus and the minor prophets! I congratulate any of you who faithfully reading their Bibles for sticking with eating your spiritual vegetables by faith! God is pleased, and He promises much better gifts to come!
A word of advice from one who has been eating her spiritual vegetables for over 30 years:
My two-year-old granddaughter has been sick with either pneumonia or asthma or a bad cold – no one can agree. But she has her antibiotics and a nebulizer and her Children’s Advil and Children’s Tylenol. She had been such a trooper with taking all of her medicines, but she decided to draw the line with that nebulizer! I told my daughter that when all else fails, there is always M&M’s! Because, after all, we know that just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, right?
It’s the same with the Bible. Read a little of the Old Testament every day, and then follow that with your spoonful of sugar in the New Testament, or a Psalm, or a chapter in Proverbs. End with a devotion that speaks to your heart, like Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Every day. Why? Because it will make you spiritually healthy and strong and enable you to walk by faith. That is a fact and a promise!