Let me start off with a question. How often do you skip or skim over parts of the Bible because you don’t think they apply to you? Books like Leviticus, Numbers, Ezra, Ezekiel, and a lot of the minor prophets are skipped over because they don’t make us feel particularly good. Those books don’t always give us the same joy and eagerness as reading the gospels or Paul’s letters. The issue with this is that we begin skipping over large portions of the Old Testament and we can’t fully appreciate what Jesus did for us on the cross.
The Bible is a book about God, not us. It should not be based on how we feel because feelings are transient. We are selfish people who like to focus on our feelings and how things will impact us, but when we approach the Bible with the mindset of “What am I going to get out of this?” we will skip over lots of fascinating stories and information. These stories can often make the New Testament seem more real to us. I often view the Bible as an assurance that I’m loved and forgiven and that the purpose of the Bible is to comfort me. It’s true that the Bible does do those things, but it does it through the lens of God. By seeing how loving God is, it shows me how unloving I am.
Instead of asking the question; “What does the passage say about me?” we must begin to ask the question, “What does this passage speak about God?” By asking this question, we begin to see who God is and who we are in relation to Him.
Now, I’m not saying any of this to make you all feel insecure about the way you study the Bible, I’m saying it because I realized a few months ago that I was studying the Bible wrong. I was treating it as a book about myself and as a result, I skipped over most of the Old Testament and stayed safe in the New Testament. When I learned that I needed to study all parts of the Bible, I decided that I would read a chapter a day and read through the Bible in order, particularly the Old Testament. This may not sound too hard, but when you hit Leviticus, it can be hard to read the chapter about “Defiling skin diseases” and not move to one of Paul’s letters.
It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago at Adventure Club (our program for 2nd-5th graders) that I actually saw how important it was to read ALL parts of the Bible. We had been talking about Ruth that night, and in small group, a 5th grade girl asked “Why was it okay for relatives to marry relatives in the Old Testament, but not now?” She asked this because in the story of Ruth, her husband dies and widows were to be remarried to the husband's closest relative. This was a pretty tough question to answer, but thankfully God gave me the words to say. I told her about how God required the Israelites in the Old Testament to offer all these elaborate and specific sacrifices of animals to God based on what sin they committed and by doing that they would be forgiven, but in the New Testament, God told His people that they would no longer have to offer sacrifices because He would send His perfect Son to be the ultimate sacrifice for God’s people (Hebrews 4:15, Isaiah 7:14). Now, all God’s people have to do is ask that God would forgive them, and they will be forgiven (Psalm 103:10-12). God did not change His mind, this was just His plan of salvation for His people. Just like God changed the way His people could be forgiven, He also changed and developed who His people could marry. Another part of the reason God allowed this now-taboo practice in the Old Testament was because He didn’t want the Israelites to marry people from other tribes such as the Philistines, Amalakites, or Mideanites. Because they weren’t allowed to marry other people groups, their options for marriage were pretty slim. Nevertheless, if I hadn’t been studying Leviticus recently, I may not have been able to give my student an answer.
Even though reading each book of the Bible isn’t easy, it is necessary. It stretches and grows your faith in ways you may not see. Without the understanding of the many specific rules the Israelites had to follow, it’s easy to take for granted how gracious God is towards us. When we just stick to the New Testament or books that are familiar to us, our faith will never grow. So I encourage you to begin reading those books that you’ve avoided. God will show you new and encouraging things.