Thursday, October 23, 2014

7 Reasons to Love the Old Testament



Of all the scriptures in the LDS canon, it seems to me that the Old Testament is the most unappreciated. Yes, the Book of Mormon is the one always attacked by our critics, but among church members it’s the Old Testament that is most often feared, ignored, or underrated. Why is that? 


Well, because there’s some weird stuff in there! Stuff that makes us uncomfortable! When we study the Old Testament we find ourselves asking questions like:

“What’s up with all these rituals? How come they had to do all these different sacrifices?"

 Or

“What’s Song of Solomon doing in here? Am I even allowed to be reading
 this stuff?”

Or

 “What did Isaiah mean when he said…anything?”

It’s true. The Old Testament is hard. But it can also be extremely rewarding. So for those of you tempted to count down the weeks until the year ends and we start studying something else in Gospel Doctrine, here are 7 reasons to love the Old Testament.


1.      Great heroes


Who doesn’t love reading great stories of great people doing great things? (I mean, that’s a lot of great!) The Old Testament is jam-packed with hero stories. Joseph of Egypt, Moses, Daniel, Queen Esther and Elijah can all be found somewhere in the first half of the Bible. (Come on, not even the Avengers had that kind of lineup.) Plus, once you begin an in-depth study of the Old Testament you will get to know a few lesser-known heroes, like King Josiah or Gideon and his 300. If you’re looking for some cool history, look no further than the O. T.


2.      It illuminates the New Testament



The New Testament is full of wonderful, inspirational stories, and that’s no surprise, seeing as how it contains the life and words of Jesus. But if you really want to understand the New Testament, you've got to understand the Old. How was the Church working before Jesus came on the scene? What’s the significance of the rituals and festivals the Jews participated in, like the Passover? Who was Jesus quoting when he was tempted by Satan? All these answers are found in the Old Testament. Among other things, the O.T. gives a rich background to the life and times of Christ.


3.      It illuminates the Book of Mormon   

You know, if you had never read the Old Testament, the story of the Book of Mormon would not make much sense, because the entire story is a product of Old Testament history. The story of the Nephites doesn’t begin until around the time of Jeremiah. The Jaredites are chronologically earlier, but they have their roots in the Tower of Babel. Plus there’s everything the Book of Mormon has to say about the law of Moses and the writings of Isaiah, which brings us to our next point.


4.      Powerful Poetry and Doctrine

The scriptures are full of beautiful imagery teaching beautiful doctrine. But besides maybe the parables, nothing compares to the magnificence of Isaiah and the Psalms. These are only two of the many books in the Old Testament filled with poetic doctrine. As Latter-day Saints we can benefit greatly from a study of these books. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland agrees. He recently released a book all about the Psalms. (You can find it here: http://deseretbook.com/Times-Trouble-Jeffrey-R-Holland/i/5094665) Nephi quoted Isaiah extensively in his writings. Christ quoted the Psalms on the cross (compare Psalms 22:1 and Matthew 27:46). And when he visited the Nephites, Jesus himself said “Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1).


5.      The Old Testament challenges you
        
Yes, I know Isaiah is tough. There are some scholars that still aren’t sure exactly what he meant in some of his writings. And Isaiah’s not the only part of the Old Testament that can throw you for a loop. Stories like the Fall of Adam, Lot’s wife, and Uzzah steadying the ark can all leave you scratching your head and wondering what you’re supposed to glean from the story. (I haven’t even touched the really crazy ones!) But believe it or not, being challenged by the scriptures is good and healthy for a budding Latter-day Saint. If we choose to stay comfortable in our study of the gospel, we’re missing out on a chance to grow and learn. We should always take our gospel study at an appropriate pace, of course. You want to make sure you’ve had enough milk before you chow down on meat (1 Corinthians 3: 1-2). But if you start to tackle some of the tougher parts of the scriptures, you may find that a passage you once thought was strange and confusing actually contains a powerful message for you.


6.      Great people sacrificed a lot to bring it to you

Remember William Tyndale? He’s the guy Elder Christofferson talked about in his April 2010 conference talk. He’s also the first person to publish the Bible in English. Tyndale lived in England during the 1500s when the Catholic Church was in power. Translating the Bible into English was illegal there, but that didn't stop Tyndale. He went ahead and did it. He translated the New Testament first, making the scriptures available to the common man for the first time in England. As punishment for his crimes he was strangled to death and then burned at the stake. Guess what he was working on before his death? The English translation of the Old Testament. Tyndale never completed his work, but he is only one in a long line of people who risked their lives and reputations to put the Old Testament into our hands. The least we can do is read it, wouldn't you say?



7.      It testifies of Jesus Christ


Like all scripture, the Old Testament is filled with the gospel of Christ. While Jesus may not physically arrive in the Bible until the book of Matthew, he is still present in the pages of Genesis and all the way through Malachi. Whether it’s through Christ figures like Abraham or through symbolic stories like Esther rescuing her people, Jesus’ life and Atonement are displayed in all their glory in the Old Testament. The Old Testament, above all, is the word of God. It’s there to teach us about Christ and about how if we look to him, like the Israelites to the brazen serpent, we, too, shall live. 

References:
-"BBC History - William Tyndale." BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
 -Christofferson, D. Todd. "The Blessing of Scripture." Ensign May 2010: n. pag. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. <https://www.lds.org/ensign/2010/05/the-blessing-of-scripture?lang=eng>.

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