By the middle of next week we will have jumped forward in time 400 years into Luke's chronology of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, so today I'm taking a moment to pull together my thoughts on this year's experience of reading through the Hebrew Scriptures.
This is only the third time I've read the Old Testament from beginning to end, and one of those doesn't really count because it was done on a Florida beach in a timespan of less than a week, so I have very little memory of it other than falling asleep in the middle of Jeremiah (who knew reading 12+ hours a day could be so exhausting?). But each time - and this time in particular - I am left with no doubt of the incredible importance of knowing and studying these precious texts. My knowledge of my God would be tragically shrunken if I did not know the account of His creation, His history with the patriarchs, His patience in the wilderness, His stunningly detailed Law, His heartbreak for His adulterous beloved, His wrath toward Israel's defiance, or His longsuffering promise of the coming restoration. I am struck by the complexity and consistency of His character - by the way His attributes, even those that seem opposite, work together in perfect harmony in every single situation.
I shudder to think what a task it would be to understand the ministry of Christ and the writings of the New Testament if we didn't have the Tanakh to build a foundational picture of who God is first.
What has perhaps hit me the hardest along the way, from Genesis to Malachi, has been this:
The God of the Bible is not at all like you and me.
And the fact that He is so unlike us is what demands that we make a decision about Him, about what He means to us - about whether He means everything, or nothing. The question that the Old Testament leaves ringing in our ears is just this: "Who makes the rules?"
If I do, then God is immoral by definition, and the notion of following Him is nothing short of ridiculous; He means nothing.
But if He does, then I am the one who is immoral - and following Him is the only hope of salvation. He means everything.
God is not like us. He creates something beautiful and allows it to be sabotaged so that He can have the joy of resurrecting it. He grieves over the suffering of His people and yet plans it into their lives anyway, for purposes unknown. He uses the darkness of destruction and pain and blood to communicate His beauty and glory and grace to the world.
This is the God of the Bible. He either means everything or nothing at all, based on the answer to just that one question. And how we go forward into the New Testament, how we understand Jesus and the Gospel, will be critically impacted too.
Who makes the rules?
Chronicles: God of Judah
Total read time: 4.25 hours