We have to be honest and say that there are portions of scripture that most of us just completely ignore, and most of those just happen to be in the Old Testament. You know the passages I’m talking about: those long lists of laws, or endless lines of begets.
Many of us have been taught that the Bible is our handbook, so as we read we’re looking for application or instruction on how we should live our lives. When we come across something like Exodus 21-23 where it talks about a bull goring someone else’s bull, or what to do with the fat from our festival offering, we say, “Hey this doesn’t apply to me,” and skip over it.
Stop Dismissing the Old Testament
The thing is, there’s an interesting line that Paul said to Timothy. Maybe you’ve heard it before. Paul said that “all scripture is useful.” (2 Timothy 3:16) I’ve often wrestled with that verse. If all Scripture is useful then why do you have genealogies or legal sections? How are we supposed to view those sections as useful?
First, we should know how God views those long sections of Old Testament law. He calls them good. In Romans 7:12, we read, “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” We’ve got to get away from this idea that the Old Testament law was this bad thing, or some bad experiment that God tried, but New Testament stuff is where it’s at. The Old Testament law is good.
All Part of One Divine Whole
Next, we’ll be more likely to view a passage as useful if we realize that the law is unified. In an effort to figure out which parts of the Old Testament law they should keep and which parts they should ignore, some people have broken up the Old Testament law into civil laws, ceremonial laws, and ethical laws.
Civil laws would be things like how to govern the nation. Well, that doesn’t apply to us. Ceremonial laws would be things like we find in Leviticus; how you do sacrifices, and stuff like that. That doesn’t apply to us. But the moral stuff, things like don’t commit adultery, well that applies at any time and at any place.
I’ve got to be honest. That kind of makes sense, but the problem is the Bible never talks about the law that way. It never breaks up the law into those divisions. It always speaks of the law as a unified whole.
Missing Part of God’s Heart
All Scripture is useful, because it’s all about God. Part of what the law is designed to do is reveal God. This is why it troubles me as an Old Testament Professor that so many people ignore the Old Testament law. God is revealing himself. He’s revealing his character and that’s super important. If we’re going to go around saying that it’s important to know God, but we ignore these huge sections of scripture that actually reveal his heart and his concerns and his character to us, I think it’s to our own detriment.
Now about those genealogies. We’ll discuss those another day.