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’s set in a vastly different time and culture
- It’s not even a lot of story; it’s a lot of history
So, some time ago, I set out to gain a better understanding of the elusive OT. First, I tackled one of the challenges by reading a chronological version of the Bible. You can find them easily on the YouVersion Bible app or another app of your choosing. I read/listened to the Bible, chronologically, in a year. I’m into my second year and it has helped me make more orderly sense of the Old Testament, in particular. It’s 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.
Secondly, I started digging into the context, history, and setting of the verse or book I was reading. How you may ask? 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 ol’ friend, Google. Type in any question and begin learning! Just be careful to use reliable sources!
Once, the OT book starts to become more understandable to you, you’ll begin to see God’s intentional desire for relationship with man. You’ll also see how the Old Testament over and over again 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 has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NKJV) To 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.
As I searched a little, I learned that Micah was a prophet whose name meant, ‘who is like God’. He lived approximately 750-700 BC. I found out that Micah actually wrote these words to Jerusalem as a harsh warning about the way they were living 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). He summarizes, indicating they are to be fair and treat others with kindness, which will bring about the ability to walk humbly with God. This speaks to a unity with God in these particular areas. It points to the fact that this is the nature of God. He is fair and He is merciful. Micah also references a coming judgment on those who continue on the path of wickedness.
Additionally, he tells them God will send a new king to rule. This King, Jesus, will do justice, will love mercy, and He will walk humbly with God. (Micah 5:2-5). He even prophesizes that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem!
Applying this one OT story to our lives today shows hope – even in the midst of harsh warnings about disobedience. We see indications of God’s plan of redemption 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’s) plan.
Typing in a simple question about the meaning of one of my favorite Bible verses – one that gives me direction and gives me comfort – turned into a short study on the entire seven chapters of the book of Micah. It also gave me a greater 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 just a few minutes digging a bit deeper. The time you invest, large or small, will produce in you a greater understanding of God and what He desires for you and for your life.
Sylvia Gaston is Family Ministry Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 559-582-1528.