by Natasha Smith
Why do antiques captivate a collector’s imagination? Why do people pay so much for someone else’s old “junk”? The answer is simple. Antiques have histories. They represent bygone eras that many of our contemporaries find fascinating. They connect us with memories of what has been that inspire what still may be. We might even connect ourselves to a glorious legend by preserving antiques, visiting ruins, and studying artifacts of legendary events.
I recently strolled through an antique store in southern Colorado. I thoroughly enjoyed tracing the curves of old wooden furniture and feeling the weight of cast iron pans. My imagination leaped from Old Western to newer Victorian eras as I pondered the lives of these artifacts’ owners and their connection to my own life and time. Though our lives are indeed quite different, unbounded history binds us together with an eternal cord that cannot be broken by the sharpest sword that the future might ever wield.
Since I first announced my intention to pursue Old Testament studies at Denver Seminary, the question most people asked was “Why?” “Why study that?” Even during student orientation, I faced odd looks from puzzled students struggling to make sense of my choice. Yet that puzzled face and those odd looks are precisely what draws me to the Old Testament. If even Christians cannot comprehend how valuable it is, then I am all the more determined to learn whatever I can to help others appreciate its incalculable worth.
In this post I just share just a few of its most endearing features.
Only God knows God
If we truly want to know God, we need to pay close attention to how he reveals himself. Philosophy can get some people to agree that there must be some sort of god-like force or ultimate power. Still, who is this God? Philosophy simply can’t get us all the way there, but through the narrative of Scripture God reveals himself to us time and again. Yet when we start only in the middle of his revelation (that is, in the New Testament), we pass over some wonderful realities and fail to grasp the fullness of what God has shown us.
What is more, the Old Testament reveals God’s emotional heart toward humanity. We see anger, frustration, grace, hope, love, joy, heartbreak, and desire for relationship and forgiveness in just about every story.
The New Testament doesn’t cover nearly as much turf. That’s because its authors assume that most readers are aware of the Old Testament. And the latter shares so much more of the daily, practical life of people who are called to live differently from other nations. It is uncommonly raw and honest about the realities of a broken world and its need for a savior.
I am in this story!
In 2016, I taught an Old Testament survey in Tanzania. After discussing Genesis, a man named Elijah sat in his seat, bent over his Bible, and ran his fingers along each sentence. He then looked up with a depth in his eyes that I hadn’t seen before. His smile grew wider and wider until he rejoiced, “I am in this story!” He saw how his life was similar to that of Abraham. Just like Abraham, he was learning that God is faithful enough to trust completely. Just like Abraham, he failed to fully trust God on multiple occasions only to experience God’s consistent faithfulness.
My experience has been very much the same. The more I read the Old Testament, the more I find themes and scenarios that are not so different from my own. I find myself resting in the same hope that Israel had. God will fight for us and be victorious. He provides for his creation. He sees and will not let the unjust thrive forever. God will bring justice and make all things right.
The Brilliant Lie
I think it is one of the most brilliant lies to say that the Hebrew Bible is irrelevant, unnecessary and old. All of God’s word is alive and active, holding power and authority, and as relevant today as in the past. Yes, we are in a different season of history. Our culture is quite different from that of ancient Israel. However, we remain inextricably connected.
Just like experienced collectors value ancient antiques far more than Ikea furniture, we should invest our intellect and energy into understanding the treasures that lie as if hidden in the unopened books of our Bible. They are there for a reason. Untold value saturates each story, and we need to take time to learn their history.
Some may look at the Old Testament like outdated junk we should throw away. It is coated with dust on account of disuse. Yet the Old Testament is well worth dusting off and using again. For it remains immeasurably valuable to our lives and faith.