Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Old Testament

Tonight in the Summit Arena in downtown Hot Springs, the Jessieville Lions will try to make it two-in-a-row against the Junction City Dragons. Back in December, Jessieville knocked off Junction City 20-19 to win the Class AA Arkansas State Championship in football.
Tonight, the basketball teams of the same two high schools go at it in the Class AA State Championship game in basketball. Junction City is led by future Oklahoma State Cowboy, James Anderson, arguably the greatest player in the state of Arkansas this year.

I know many of the pundits and message board posters aren't giving the Lions much of a chance, but the same pundits and message board posters didn't give them much of a chance in the football championship game either.

Go Zach Sykora...and Go Lions!

My life with the Old Testament has been a rather circuitous adventure. When I was young, I wasn't sure the Old Testament held any value for us, save for the heroic tales of men like Joseph, Joshua, Gideon and David. Sure the Old Testament was in the Bible, but its significance seemed relegated to the mighty accomplishments of God's men.
When I got to college and worked toward my degree, significant time was spent in the Old Testament. I began to appreciate its place in our faith -- as a book not so much about the heroic accomplishments of men but of the mighty works of God. Believe it or not, I actually took an elective class on Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Man, could that class drag at times, but the fruit of that class was a renewed appreciation in my life of faith for the symmetry between the Old and the New.
I began to see the Old Testament and the New Testament not as competing covenants but as two sides of the same coin. And the unifier behind it all was the Sovereign God, working and interacting within his creation to bring about his good purpose, ultimately in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
As I've moved into full-time ministry, I've gained even greater appreciation for the Old Testament. The move of God in salvation history, originally in the promise to Abraham, through Moses and the Law, ultimately to Jesus is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
It is my belief that we short-change our view of God and his activity in history when we do not give due credit to the wisdom of God as revealed in the Old Testament.
In the current issue of "Christian Studies" published by the Austin Graduate School of Theology, there is a wonderful piece by J.J.M. Roberts speaking to the value of the Old Testament in the life of the church:
"The emphasis in the Restoration tradition on 'rightly dividing the Word,' on recognizing the different dispensations reflected in scripture, on seeing a clear distinction between the old and new covenant was a correct and important insight, but even correct insights drag in their wake unintended, incorrect, and harmful consquences. In the Restoration tradition the emphasis on being under the new covenant has led to a serious neglect and even disparagement of the Old Testament as of no relevance for modern believers. Patently false dichotomies between the Law in the Old versus Grace in the New, a God of wrath in the Old versus a God of love in the New, harsh punishment in the Old versus forgiveness in the New, etc., have been widely passed off as true largely because the Old Testament has been little read and seldom seriously studied in our tradition. One does not need to listen long in a typical Bible class to hear such negative, uninformed stereotypes about the Old Testament scriptures, and it is not unusual to hear the complaint that classes on an Old Testament book or sermons on an Old Testament text are a waste of time. After all, as New Testament Christians, of what relevance is the Old Testament for our lives" (15)?
To answer his question, there is great relevance! The Old Testament was the Bible of the first church. Without the benefit of the canon of the New Testament scriptures, the first church leaned on the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms for their spiritual guidance and wisdom. Paul says the things written in the past (speaking of the Old Testament) were written to teach us (see Romans 15.4).
Our faith in God takes an anemic path when we relegate the Old Testament to the scrap pile. May we ever appreciate the Old Testament Law for its moral compass and ethical calling. May we ever appreciate the Old Testament Prophets for their plea for obedience of the people of God in advancing just causes. And may we ever appreciate the Psalms as God's hymnal for a people longing to worship and adore the Real Hero of the Old Testament, God himself.