Andrew Fountain - Roadblocks in Reading the Old Testament


Sermon notes - Roadblocks in Reading the Old Testament

Road Block

Road Block

Image source: Associated Pres

  • Today I want to motivate you to be more intentional about reading your Bible this year, and I want to demolish a potential roadblock
  • has a special free offer for this month: audio for the whole Bible as a free download (75 hours)
  • How much of the Bible does the Old Testament take up?
    • 78% —just over 3/4!

Old Testament

Old Testament

  • You pick up your Bible and start to read in the Old Testament
  • What might cause you some problems? What are the potential roadblocks?

Elephant Roadblock

Elephant Roadblock

Image source: link

Three types of roadblock

  1. Confusing
  2. Violent
  3. Strange laws

“The Psalms are OK. I like the Psalms.”

  • (most of them anyway)

Confusing: Ezekiel 17

  1. Thus says the Lord GOD: A great eagle with great wings and long pinions, rich in plumage of many colors, came to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar.
  2. He broke off the topmost of its young twigs and carried it to a land of trade and set it in a city of merchants.
  3. Then he took of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters. He set it like a willow twig,
  4. “And there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage, and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and shot forth its branches toward him from the bed where it was planted, that he might water it…

Ezekiel 17 cont’d

  1. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.”
  • I’m as confused as you are.
    • But the reason we are confused is that we don’t know the background and context for the prophecy
    • You either need to spend a lot of time studying Ezekiel and Bible history, or you need to read someone who has.
    • The easiest way to do this is to get a trustworthy study bible, like the ESV Study Bible.

Roadblock 1: Confusing

  • Weird visions with no explanation
  • Doesn’t seem to all be in order
  • e.g. Kings & Chronicles repeat the same set of stories. Isaiah and other prophets are not in chronological order
  • Great detail on lives of some unimportant people
  • e.g. book of Ruth. But most of it is revealing how God relates to people
  • Seems like a string of failures
  • That is the point. If it was a wonderful success, there would be no need for Jesus to come!
  • Answer: A study Bible or a good friend

Roadblock 2: Violence

  • Animal sacrifices to please God?
  • Commands to the Israelites to attack and kill
  • Slaves

Animal sacrifices

  • God allowed the killing of animals for food, but they had to recognize that death only happened because we live in a sinful, broken world.
  • The animal dies so that we can live
  • To re-enforce that idea, when the nation was small, and living in the desert, every time they killed an animal for food, they had to take the blood to the tent where the alter was. (Lev.17)
  • When the nation grew, they didn’t have to do that if they lived far from the temple. (Deut 12:20)
  • When there was a special animal sacrifice, un virtually all cases the meat was eaten
    • But this was a very powerful teaching lesson for them about substitution
    • The animal was dying as a substitue for them
    • It pointed forward in time when Jesus would come and die as a substitue for his people

Commands to the Israelites to attack and kill

  • Recently a magazine called The American Muslim has published a list of violent passages in the Bible in order to argue that Islam is less violent than Christianity.
    • But most of the quotes are the Bible simply reporting violent incidents, not saying the violence was a good thing
    • On the occasions when God did tell them to do something violent, then it was very specific and limited in scope
    • There are never any commands that give us license to kill today.
  • So what about the few rare cases when they are told to destroy a city?
  • God has the right to judge
    • Day of judgement when God will judge all who have ever lived
    • God sometimes judges through events: e.g. when the Israelites rebelled in the wilderness, he sent poisonous snakes to punish them
      • The snakes were the tool God used, like a surgeon might use a scalpel to cut out a cancer
    • For a very limited time, and for a very specific purpose, God used Israel like a scalpel
      • From the archeological evidence we have, the Canaanites (the people who they were told to destroy) had sunk to one of the worst levels of depravity in human history. Horrific cruelty, even sacrificing their babies in a way that I won’t describe to you.
      • We can’t judge God. We have to accept that Israel was his chosen scalpel to cut out this cancer.

Slaves: Exodus 21

  1. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing.
  • Wait a minute, “buy a slave...?”
  • This has got nothing to do with North American slavery in the last few centuries, which had the extra dimension of racismm, and was one of the most appalling stains on Western civilization.
  • It was one of the forms of employment—a 6 year contract.
    • They were family members
      • Abraham’s eldest servant was given charge of everything, and would inherit his wealth if he didn’t have a son.
      • Joseph was a slave in Egypt, but he says that he was equal with his master and the only thing that was not available to him was his master’s wife
    • Of course there were abuses, but it was a job for life (if you wanted it) with total package of healthcare, pension and security.
  • Yet even so, slavery is not the best way of employing people—more on that…

Roadblock 3: All the Laws, e.g.

  • Harvesting laws
  • Sabbath law
  • When God established them as a nation, there were lots of laws that were about how society functioned.
    • Like fair trading regulations (weights and measures) just as we have today
  • When they harvested an olive tree, or a grape vine, they were only allowed to go over it once. (Deut 24:19–22)
    • They couldn’t go back and check if they had missed anything
    • This was for widows, orphans and new immigrants
  • But the purpose of these laws was to restrain evil
    • Slavery was not the ideal method of employment, but at least the law could provide some protection
    • When you read the laws, don’t think they are God’s ideal plan—they are just to restrain evil
    • After the day of Pentecost, with the coming of the Spirit and the New Covenant, how did widows get dealt with?
      • Part of a new community, a church family that shared everything
      • That was God’s ideal

The Sabbath Law

  1. When the Israelites were in the wilderness they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day.
  2. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to the whole community.
  3. They put him in custody, because there was no clear instruction about what should be done to him.
  4. Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; the whole community must stone him with stones outside the camp.”

Not under Moses but under Jesus

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

  • Why don’t we do this today?
    • Matthew 12, the disciple commit a similar act and the Pharisees condemn them
    • Jesus doen’t say—don’t be so petty
    • He says, I am greater than all the old law, even greater than the temple
    • I replace the Sabbath
  • Say you’re looking for Riverdale Farm, (around 6 blocks to the east of here)
    • You come across this sign on the way there, telling you it’s not far away

Riverdale Sign

Riverdale Sign

Image source: Tripadvisor

  • You stop at the sign and unpack your picnic, and prepare to spend the afternoon in front of the sign.
    • But why stop at the signpost, when you can have the reality?

Riverdale Farm

Riverdale Farm

Image source: Mauricio Alas

Three main approaches to O.T.

Continuiy – Discontinuity

  1. Everything is the same, with different names
  2. There is really no connection
  3. It was a signpost, and now we have the reality

Read the Bible in 2016

  • Free download this month
  • Read the Old Testament as well as the new
  • I recommend getting a Study Bible
  • Jesus was the ultimate O.T. study Bible:
    “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
    They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” Luke 24:27,32
  • Ultimately the Old Testament is a signpost that points to Jesus
    • Sacrifices ->
    • Laws ->
    • Failures ->
  • Jesus died so that we may have life!
  • Read about God’s faithfulness, even in the failure
    • In the stories, you come face to face with his character
    • Yes, there is some violence, but much more of God’s compassion and patience
  • Read the Bible in 2016
    • Include the Old Testament, and come face to face with the faithful love of the God of Abraham, David and Daniel.

Updated on 2016-01-17 by Andrew Fountain