Why Reading (and Wrestling) with the Old Testament Matters

This past Sunday evening, I dropped in on the Community Bible Study small group that John & Debbie Ranieri host in their home. After feasting on Debbie’s homemade lasagna, the group began to discuss the previous week’s readings from 1st & 2nd Samuel.

During our discussion, one of our group spoke about the struggle he was having with all the destruction and killing that was ordered by God in what we had been reading. He shared how many of the accounts he was reading in the Old Testament didn’t square with his understanding of who God is.

It’s a sentiment I’ve heard repeated by other Edgebrook Covenanters taking part in this Community Bible Experience. And guess what? We’re supposed to struggle with the Scriptures. Wrestling with what we read in the Bible is a very good thing!

This struggle is good because it means we are taking the Bible seriously and we’re taking the God of the Bible seriously. Too often in the evangelical world, we try to sanitize the Scriptures. We relish the parts of the Bible that reinforce our beliefs about God, the world and ourselves and deny, dismiss, or ignore other passages of Scripture that challenge those cherished notions.

An extreme example of this is when we treat the Old Testament (except for maybe the first three chapters of Genesis, the book of Ruth and our favorite psalms) as largely irrelevant to our faith. It’s true that God says things and does things in the Old Testament that challenge our views about God, but then again, Jesus says and does things in the New Testament that also challenge our views about God.

As we continue our study of the Old Testament (which, lest we forget, makes up 2/3 of our Bible), we would do well to heed the words of author and biblical scholar Elizabeth Achtemeier: “Apart from the Old Testament, we would not know who the Father of Jesus Christ is nor do we know who we are as “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16)…. the difficulties that we encounter with parts of the Old Testament are not the Old Testament’s problems. They are ours. We are required to wrestle with these difficult texts until we can come to some peace with them. We are not to bring our views of God to the texts. Rather we are to attempt to let the texts shape our views of God and his working.” (Achtemeier, Preaching Hard Texts of the Old Testament, emphasis added).

So, when you find you are really having a hard time with what you are reading in the Old Testament, remember, you’re supposed to struggle. And here’s the thing: honestly wrestling with the Scriptures will ultimately pay tremendous dividends in one’s faith and in one’s life. The struggle, as it turns out, is always worth it.

Pastor Greg