My seminary professor posed a question in his lecture the other day: Should we decorate our nurseries with Noah’s Ark themes? Um, well…I did. My oldest, who’s now off at college, had a yellow and green Noah’s Ark themed nursery when she was a baby. What’s the problem, Prof.?
But then I studied the story. It’s not that I hadn’t learned about Noah before, but most of my understanding of the passage, along with many other Old Testament stories, comes from childhood books filled with primary colors and cartoon-like figures. But the story of Noah is actually incredibly heavy and exceedingly violent.
Many Old Testament stories carry this kind of weight. While studying 1 Samuel with our women’s Bible study, we came across this verse: “The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors…” (5:16). This probably isn’t a Scripture passage hung up on the fridge for that good ole’ morning encouragement. As we digested what was going on in the context, one friend lamented that passages like this are why she stays away from the Old Testament. I get it. I had similar feelings when digging into the story of Noah. It’s hard sometimes to understand how these Old Testament stories apply to us today; it’s equally difficult to grasp the importance of reading them when many are harsh and even some, grotesque.
But the Old Testament is significantly beautiful. It is vital to our understanding of the great and glorious God we serve and digging into these books sheds light on the incredible beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many other reasons to give time and attention to Old Testament books, but here are three to consider:
The Old Testament is Significant because it Reveals the Purposes of God
As a literature teacher, I delight in seeing a student’s face light up when they begin to understand how the plot details of a piece of literature fit together to create one unifying and often very meaningful story. Our understanding of Scripture must be seen in a similar light. The Bible is one beautiful and grand story – the grandest story! It cannot merely be understood as individual, disconnected books made up of individual, disconnected stories. When we study the Bible, we often do so by jumping around to different books and chapters, which is certainly fine and can be beneficial. But the challenge is that we not losing sight of the big picture – the grand story – that connects all the details from Genesis to Revelation…
As Christian women, it is quite natural that questions arise in our hearts and minds concerning our prayer life. Like the disciples, we want to ask Jesus “teach me to pray.” We wonder what “pray without ceasing” could look like, whether we are honoring God, and whether we should find some new method.
Jesus’ disciples were still learning how to pray; Jesus was patient in instructing them. This lets us know that our desire to learn more about prayer is healthy, and He delights to teach us as well. Today we will look at how abiding in Christ can help us find answers to these questions.
Two particular passages from the Gospel of John speak to our heart’s desire to learn more about prayer:
John 8:31-32 “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed in Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”
John 15:5-8 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather then, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”
We continue in His word.
As we continue, His word finds a place in us. We read, we muse upon His word, we remember it and believe it, and as Paul told the Thessalonians, His word works powerfully in us (see 1 Thessalonians 2:13). In us, in our inner self. This means we should notice the impact of abiding in His word in our thought life, in our desires, in our conscience. As we patiently continue, His truth sets us free from focusing too much on self. His truth will push out fears and doubts that would otherwise hold us back from prayer…