The older I get the more I love to read the Old Testament (OT). When I was younger I stayed out of the OT because I found it hard to understand and I couldn’t pronounce most of the names. But after listening to some really great pastors who preached out of the OT I must have learned a little more about the whys and wherefores because now I really enjoy reading in the OT. I want to explore this idea of learning from the rich history in the OT. So of course I begin in the New Testament (NT)! Go figure!
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:1-7, (English Standard Version or ESV).
I love to encourage others and that is why I write this blog. I also love to be encouraged. Let’s face it there will be times in all of our lives when we benefit from some encouragement given to us by others. We also benefit when we are blessed to be in a position to give someone else a little encouragement. Well guess how God encourages us? Yep, through His written word and the Old Testament is as much a part of the Bible as the New Testament. Notice how the author of Romans says we can be instructed through what was written long ago. There’s another verse similar to this I want to show you.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17, (ESV).
The Apostle Paul was encouraging a young pastor named Timothy to continue on in the faith that he learned during his childhood. Paul reminds Timothy that every word of scripture has been breathed into being by our loving God, OT and NT alike. So why not learn from some of the examples in how to live or not live in the Old Testament! Here are some of my favorites.
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.
When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her—please.” But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran. Numbers 12:1-16, (ESV).
Wow! I think it is pretty obvious that when you speak against the person God has chosen to be a leader you won’t escape consequences. Miriam was Moses’s older sister and I think she thought that she should be in charge or at least that she shared in the decisions but God showed her that she was wrong! A good warning for me to keep my mouth shut and not to talk bad about church leaders or for that matter any leaders! What do you think? Here’s another of my favorites.
My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray. Proverbs 5:1-23, (ESV).
Hmmm! I imagine we all know someone who should have taken the advice offered in this passage. There are real consequences from adultery for sure! Here’s another favorite of mine.
He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria. 2 Kings 2:23-25, (ESV).
Never make fun of a bald man, especially if he is a prophet of God. Enough said! One more!
Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women— when the young woman went in to the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name. Esther 2:12-14, (ESV).
It takes time to look your best. In order to become a queen Esther had to do as she was told. She must have worked very hard during those twelve months to keep her appearance such that the King fell in love with her. I am sure she had natural beauty which some of us do lack, but with the right instruction from the eunuch in charge of the harem she persevered and became a queen! Maybe my Mary Kay makeup regiment helps me look better too, though for sure I am no queen but I am a daughter of the King and that might make me a princess! Right? The point I hope you are getting from this is that there are some interesting stories in the Old Testament and we can not only learn from them but also be entertained!