At the start of 2015, I made a New Year Resolution to read the entire Holy Bible from cover to cover in one year. It’s a bit of a lofty goal, and I may already be several days behind per the reading schedule, but I really love reading the Bible. I’ve read the entire thing through only one time before, back when I was in High School, so it’s a lot like reading some of these stories for the first time (okay, I’ve read the story of Adam and all of Genesis several times as I’ve attempted to read the Bible again on multiple occasions through the years, but you know how that goes). Currently I just started the book of Judges, and it’s a bit sad to have had to say goodbye to Moses. Moses was pretty freaking awesome. As was Joseph. And Noah. And Adam. Because even in the first few books (the Pentateuch or Torah) there are several important truths in the Old Testament.
When I read the scriptures, I really like to look at things in different ways, ask perhaps odd questions, and try to envision these people, to envision who they really were, what their temperaments were like. And so often these people, who are supposed to prophets, leaders, and future fathers of nations, are just so flawed, just like we all are today.
But, I love asking questions, questions I don’t really have the answer to, questions like “Why would Aaron create a golden calf for the people, just because they asked him to? Wouldn’t he know better?” or “What must it have been like to be the less favored wife or child?” or “Why did brothers conspire against each other so frequently?”
I really believe that the Old Testament prophets are there for us to learn from, and I want to learn from them, gain from their experiences, and recognize how God has dealt with His people throughout all time. The Old Testament is a fantastic history of people and events, and if we look closely, we can learn some very important truths.
7 Important Truths in the Old Testament:
1. Genealogy is extremely important.
You know those long lists of who begat so and so who begat so and so that we all buzz through as we read, in part because we can’t pronounce the names anyway? Well, all of these lists, all the records of lineage all say one thing – genealogy is important. Paternity is important. Family is important. Your lineage matters.
Knowing this is huge! Families are eternal entities and there are specific reasons why we are put into the families we are, why good things seem to happen to righteous families and their posterity, and why perhaps some families are left in darkness and obscurity for awhile. And if one thing is certain, people knew their family history growing up (which according to modern research suggests that these people must have been self-assured, resilient, and happier than others). They knew the stories of their forefathers well.
I think today we should remember to share our lineage, our family heritage with our own children, helping them remember where we came from, why, and how God has played a role in individual’s lives along the way.
If you don’t know your genealogy, now is always a great time to start discovering with Ancestry.com!
2. God listens to His people.
Prophets of God are pretty powerful, because, according to Old Testament stories, they got God to listen to them, their pleas, and their righteous wishes. These prophets begged for more time and got it. They begged for God to save a city if he could but find one righteous. Moses begged for someone else to speak for him, as he felt inadequate in speech, so God provided that his brother Aaron could do it. The cries and pleas of the people do ascend up to heaven, and lessen God’s wrath. God does listen to His people then and now.
3. God has high standards.
In a world of immorality, loose standards, and a go-with-the-flow mentality, it is powerful to know that God has high standards and doesn’t bend them because of man. He is strict. He is immovable. He is an unchanging God. While laws and policies change or are done away with over time, and covenants broken (because the people broke them – God doesn’t break his promises), there are certain things that are always wrong – immorality, infidelity, homosexuality, having other Gods, murdering someone, and treating someone unjustly.
You know what I find interesting though? Lying is actually not considered wrong all the time. Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife. Rebekah and Jacob lied in order for Jacob to receive Abraham’s patriarchal blessing. Jacob’s sons lied about what happened to Joseph. In each circumstance, there wasn’t a consequence from God, in many ways, it seems like the lying was okay or needed to accomplish bigger goals.
The only commandment that addresses lying is bearing false witness against your neighbor, which I assume means in a court of law. Apparently, lying is acceptable in certain situations (like to accomplish righteous ends). Who knew?
4. Joseph is a cry baby.
Seriously. Have you read his story? He weeps for joy on numerous occasions. He has to excuse himself and run into a private room, have himself a good cry, and then compose himself, before dealing with his brethren, who He is thrilled to see again! Joseph is tender-hearted. I absolutely love his character. He’s is one of the most righteous, patient, God-fearing, believing, and forgiving people in the Bible. He understands, from the eternal perspective, from God’s perspective, why he had to be sold into Egypt: to save his family. Had he not been there, had the trials he had, and been able to interpret the dream of Pharaoh, everyone would have died, or many of his family would have. But, God didn’t want that to happen. Joseph doesn’t seek revenge on his brothers, or on the baker who forgot him in the jail for seven years. He loved fully and served the people. The world could do to have more people like Joseph in it!
Plus, it’s good to see real emotion mentioned in the scriptures. So just as Joseph wept, so did Jesus Christ himself. Sadness and joy are strong emotions, and okay to show even as a man.
5. God cares about the poor and less fortunate.
In the Law of Moses there are several provisions about caring for widows and poor people. God tells them not to gather all of their crops, but to leave some of it for those who come wandering through their fields, that perhaps this stranger might have something to eat. God provides safe havens (cities) for those who have accidentally killed another person, so that they won’t be killed unjustly by those who are seeking for revenge for their family member. God tells them to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and care for the poor. He has a plan in place for a woman who lost her husband. He has a “special circumstance” clause for the poor who cannot bring forth the required sacrifice offerings.
God loves everyone, regardless of their circumstances, and wants everyone to have their needs met- rich, poor, blind, leprous, female, male, childless, fatherless, or whatever. Our Father in Heaven doesn’t believe we are all the same, at all. And He knows that there will always be the poor among us, and He wants us to not harden our hearts or cast these people away or forget them. He commands the people to care for them, to take them in, to feed them, to provide. Because Heavenly Father hears everyone’s prayers, and knows everyone’s hearts.
6. God gets mad.
God may be love, but he is also judgment. And God gets angry, as He is a “jealous God” and wants the people that He created, that He covenanted with, to serve Him, the only true and living God. So, when they turn their backs to him, worship Golden calves, forget the miracles He performed on their behalf, and don’t trust that God will do as He told them He will do (like help them destroy the people living in the Israelite’s promised land), then He gets angry.
It’s much akin to how we, as parents, get angry with our own children when they make mistakes, doing the exact thing we told them not to, or when they don’t trust the promises we made to them. We get angry! And God will prove himself again and again to worth believing in, worth fearing, and worth worshiping.
7. Symbols are extremely important and serve as reminders.
God loves symbols, mostly because He loves being remembered. Whenever anyone has a vision, they erect stones, name the location, and sanctify it. God put a rainbow in the sky to serve as a reminder of the covenant He made with Noah and the Earth that he would never again use a massive flood. The people of Israel remember what God has done for them as they eat certain foods and drinks during Holy Days set aside by the Lord. They offer up sacrifices on altars to God.
So much of what the people of Israel do is so that they will always remember God and to serve Him. And it still doesn’t work! The people of Israel are often quick to forsake the Lord and to not trust Him.
How much do we need symbols and reminders of what God has done for us in our day and age now then! We are all very quick to forget God. It makes me think about how I need more reminders set up in my home, scriptures on my wall, or pictures of temples hanging up, and a song in my heart.