We know that everything in the Bible is there so that we can learn from it. The apostle Paul tells us this:
All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness – 2 Timothy 3:16
When Paul was writing his letters don’t forget that his Bible WAS the Old Testament, so clearly he thought there was much we can learn from it.
If you read the Old Testament you will be struck by the way its written as a history book rather than a means of religious instruction. We are to learn by reading about other peoples lives, and more importantly the mistakes they make, because believe me, in many cases the Old Testament is a catalogue of how NOT to worship God!
The Israelites worship idols, they follow false gods, and they complain about their lot. They are constantly under attack from enemies because they fail to trust in God, and they only turn back to him when they are in trouble.
And as for the individuals: they commit adultery, murder, and theft. They lie, they covet and they disobey God… I could go on.
But hang on, its not as if we are perfect ourselves. How many of us have told lies, been jealous of someone or in some other way committed a sin?
Every single one of us!
Which is the whole point. We are not perfect and neither were God’s chosen people. If we read the Old Testament we learn about how people dealt with their mistakes and the consequences, we learn about forgiveness, we learn that its okay to say I’m sorry to God and try again.
We also see how these flawed people sometimes managed to get it right! David was called a man after God’s own heart. Moses was referred to as the friend of God. There is a message there for us that if we try hard to do what God wants, he can be pleased with us, and because of Jesus, he will forgive us when we do wrong.
So next time you read something from the Old Testament, remember, these were real people. They lived their lives just like we do, they had the same desires and physical needs. They made the same mistakes. They had the same capacity for good, the same altruistic motives. They sometimes struggled with their faith and went through highs and lows in their lives.
Let’s take comfort from the experiences of those people who lived in Old Testament times, and learn from them, knowing that these were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God [has] planned something better for us so that only together with us [will] they be made perfect – Hebrews 11:40