Bethany Christian Fellowship in Smith
Lately in my practice of reading Scripture I have been going through the prophets in the Old Testament. As a pastor, I am not sure if I am allowed to admit it, but often I find these prophets unfamiliar, difficult and even confusing. I’d like to explain how each of those is actually a good thing.
Parts of Scripture are unfamiliar to us. The Bible is a collection of writings spanning thousands of years. It was a different time. Our Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. Not all words and ideas translate easily. It can be hard for me to wrap my mind around the places that are being written about, and they don’t translate to modern maps so well. When the Bible was written they also didn’t have an easy calendar to keep. They counted from the year of the reign of the local king (as a bad illustration, instead of 2023, would be “The 8th year of the reign of Trudeau”, and 2013 would be “7th year of the reign of Harper”)
Parts of the Bible are difficult for me. Sometimes the Bible does not match up to a modern world or practice. Especially in the prophets there are statements and emotions that are not very acceptable to our sensibilities. Vengeance, frustration, hate, punishment and justice are strong themes, and to my experience we are not supposed to have these. I think these things are hard for us to hear because we need to hear them. I think that I would rather hide or cover up ugly parts of my heart and life than deal with them. If the Bible did not challenge us to anything difficult, then it wouldn’t have any real claim to change us.
Parts of the Bible are confusing. What should I do with old statements on the king of Tyre? Last I checked, Tyre hasn’t been a city for a long time, and rulers are pretty different. There is an awful lot about Babylon too, but nothing about Edmonton. How am I supposed to take the prophecies about the weather? Should I really understand aspects of nature like rain or natural disasters are part of how God deals with the faithfulness of the people of a country? Is God using nature to speak to us today, or are these naturally occurring phenomena that we deal with as they come up?
Even if it is unfamiliar, difficult and confusing for me, our Old Testament was familiar to Jesus, but Jesus was able to understand it in a way no one else could. Since Jesus understood the Old Testament, he was able to live in the Way that no one else did. Since Jesus lived the Way that no one else could, he saw the damage and cost that the Old Testament said happened to people and creation. He did what no one else could, he covered the cost, he made a way to make things right.
The Old Testament may be unfamiliar, difficult and confusing to me, and I think that means I am still learning, still growing, and definitely not perfect, but I follow a Jesus who is perfect, who does understand, who sees sin, wrong and evil in the world, and invites me to help put it right. With Jesus, step by step, I can understand a little more, grow a little more, and follow a little better.