Lessons from the Law: How to Get Into the Old Testament for Yourself

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The Old Testament is so important for us to read if we are to grow as Christians. I hope that in this series I’ve convinced you of that with my few examples (sacrificesworshipsocial justice), but there is so much more to learn! That’s why I want to encourage you to get into the Old Testament yourself, to dig deep and seek to understand and appreciate this often-overlooked part of Scripture.

Here are four tips to help you:

1. Pray for guidance and understanding.

Prayer is always a good idea when you read the Bible, since you won’t be able to understand anything without the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart. But it’s especially important when you’re struggling to understand something.

Pray that God would open your eyes to see how the Old Testament, especially the law books, apply to you. Pray that He would teach you through them, teach you about Himself and about the gospel and about the Christian life. Pray that He would help you to understand the parts that you just can’t get through.

2. Don’t read too much at once.

If you read too quickly, skimming through the “boring” parts, you won’t get anything out of it. Don’t try to read more than a chapter or two at a time, and really focus your attention on that chapter or two. The less you read, the more time you have to think about each part of what you read, and being thoughtful as you read the Old Testament is incredibly important.

3. Make notes, journal, or something…don’t just read.

If you’re having trouble being thoughtful, write things down!

My understanding of the Old Testament shifted dramatically when I started reading with pencil in hand. The physical act of making notes and writing down my thoughts got me out of skimming mode and into thinking mode relatively quickly. You can write directly in your Bible (what I do), or use a separate notebook or journal. Whatever you choose to do, writing down the things you are learning will prime your brain to learn even more.

4. Look for application in everything.

And what are you supposed to be thinking about? Applications. Whenever you read the Old Testament, think about how it applies to you. What can you learn about God that will affect how you worship Him? What can you learn about yourself that will affect how you live? How does what you are reading connect with the New Testament, with the gospels? Why did God include this particular chapter in the Bible?

Everything in the Bible is there for a reason, and there is always something you can learn from any section. Read slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully, and search for the purpose of the text. In doing so you will discover the beauty of the Old Testament.

What do you think? How have you been able to find meaning in the Old Testament? Share in the comments below! 

love, grace

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Lessons from the Law: God and Social Justice

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I hit 100 blog followers this week…what?? Thank you so much to all of you wonderful followers! It means so much to me that you take the time to read what I have to say, and I hope it continues to be an encouragement to you!

So far in this series, I’ve covered the sacrificial laws and the building instructions. There’s another major category I have yet to talk about: the social laws, the laws for justice and equality. To get a sense of what I’m talking about, read Exodus 23:1-9.

These are the laws that provided for order in the community, for justice and fairness. They seem mundane, addressing issues like being a court witness, lost animals, dealing with bribes. After talking about the glorious symbolism of the sacrificial system, what’s the point of these? After all, the civil law of the Bible is kinda obsolete. It’s not the civil law of the modern world. Why do we need to know it?

Because of what it teaches us about God’s character. There’s one big thing we can learn from all of these social laws: God cares about justice. 

In fact, the only hope for true social justice lies in God. All the people in our world today who are trying to cure world hunger and get rid of poverty and everything else? Those are noble goals. But they can never be accomplished by fallen humans.

Christianity is the key to true social justice: because being a Christian means loving others, treating them better than ourselves, and believing in the dignity and worth of every human being.

What better foundation for social reform could there be than that? 

Christianity’s social reform is perfectly consistent. Christianity’s social reform is based on eternal things. Christianity’s social reform will succeed when all else fails because it has God behind it. And when it doesn’t succeed in this world, there is always the hope of heaven to look forward to.

In these social justice laws of the Old Testament, we see the foundation of Christianity’s belief in loving others and caring for others. God is justice, and nowhere do we see that better than in the law books. That’s what laws are all about, after all; protecting the innocent and prosecuting the guilty. And that structure ultimately came from God, not men.

That’s why we read the civil law of the Old Testament: because it came straight from God, and it shows us what God values and cares about. And our goal as Christians should always, always be to learn more about the character of God.

love, grace

What do you think? What else have you learned about God’s character from the law books? Share in the comments!

 

Lessons from the Law: 2 Truths About Worship

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Sorry I didn’t post last week! I was in a show all weekend and just didn’t manage to get something up. 

I think the hardest passages in the entire Bible to get through, besides the genealogies, are the passages with building instructions like the ones in Exodus 25-28. Why do we need to know things like the measurements of the altar or what kind of wood it was made out of? What could that possibly have to do with the message of redemption or instruction for the Christian life?

But God put everything in the Bible for a reason, and there are things to be learned from even the longest passages of measurements and materials. Here are two of them.

1. God cares about how we worship.

The sheer volume of details in the Old Testament about worship rituals and the appearance of the temple should say something to us about our worship. God takes it seriously; therefore we should take it seriously.

Worship is not something to be glossed over, or done however we feel like it at the time. Our worship time is sacred. We are in the presence of God! Worship is a gift, and we should have a sense of the privilege and the gravity of that gift and take the details of it seriously.

In Christ, of course, we no longer have to follow a specific set of regulations and rituals, and there are many “right ways” to worship God. But the principle still stands: we are to put time and thought into how we worship.

2. Worship may not make sense to outsiders.

Sometimes I was reading along in these passages and came across something that sounded really ridiculous. (For example, the ritual described in Exodus 29 where the priests were consecrated by having blood put on the tips of their ears and their thumbs, etc.)

If you think about it, these sacrificial rituals that we read about and are familiar with might have seemed really strange to nations looking in from the outside. But everything God commanded had symbolic significance and a purpose. The same is true today. God’s commandments and the way we live our lives in worship to Him may not always look normal in the eyes of the world. But everything God commands has a purpose, and is for our good and His glory.

Those are just two truths I gleaned from reading about the worship of the Old Testament. I’m sure there is much more to be discovered if you prayerfully do a little digging!

love, grace

What do you think? What has God taught you about worship lately? Do you agree with my points or have anything to add? Share in the comments! 

Read more:

A Day of Rest, Joy, and Worship

A Day of Rest, Joy, and Worship, part 2: My Experience

 

Lessons from the Law: The Sacrificial System

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Can you imagine having to kill an animal every time you sinned? Each angry word, impatient attitude, selfish action. Every time you worried. Every time a lustful thought, a jealous thought, a prideful thought entered your mind. Every time you put something else before God in your heart.

One of the most prominent features of the Old Testament law is the sacrificial system, taking up a good portion of the beginning of Leviticus as well as some scattered passages elsewhere. It can be difficult to read through all the specific requirements for offerings, when to sacrifice a goat and when to sacrifice a dove, and which parts of the animal to burn, and on and on.

But this is meant to make us realize how much more difficult it would have been to actually carry out these instructions, and to point forward to the One who released us from this burden once and for all.

The Sacrificial System

In Israel, overseeing offerings was one of the most important duties of the priests. Offerings were given for many occasions, such as festivals and the Sabbath (Numbers 28-29), but especially to atone for sin.

What did this offering look like?

It always required the shedding of blood, unless the guilty person could not afford an animal (Leviticus 5:11-13).

It had to be done in a particular way, with the help of a priest.

It was temporary, a way to atone for one particular sin. Therefore, it had to be repeated over and over, and could never fully remove the reality of sin from the life of the Israelites.

(If you want to read more about it, look at Leviticus 4-6.)

The Depth of Our Need

So why did God give us all of this incredibly detailed information about the Israelites’ sacrifices if he doesn’t expect us to sacrifice in this way ourselves?

To show us how desperately we needed Christ.

Here’s the thing: all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament had to be without blemish, that is, as perfect as possible, the best of what the guilty person had.

“When any one of the house of Israel…presents a burnt offering as his offering…if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats. You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.” (Leviticus 22:18-20)

Lame animals? Not acceptable. Sick animals? Not acceptable. Injured animals? Not acceptable. God would only accept the best of the best.

That’s bad news for us. Because the sacrificial system was not meant to be permanent; it was meant to point forward to a time when our debt could be settled for good, when our sin could be paid for permanently. And the only kind of permanent sacrifice God would accept was going to have be the best of the best, perfect.

Who was there in the world who could meet those standards? None of us could. The Bible is very clear that every single human being is sinful. There was no way for us to save ourselves.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The Glory of Easter

Once we see the complex demands of the Old Testament sacrificial system, we see our great need, and we see the glory of Christ’s death and resurrection, the only thing that could permanently pay for our sin.

None of us could meet God’s sacrificial standards, so Christ came and met those standards. All of us are sinful, but Christ lived a life without sin. We couldn’t save ourselves, so Christ came and saved us, because he loved us too much to leave us where we were. 

See, that Romans passage goes on. It doesn’t leave it at that horrible truth.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25)

The writer of Hebrews explores the idea of Christ as the final sacrifice:

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption…indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins…

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come…it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near…for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins…

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

(excerpted from Hebrews 9-10; I highly recommend reading both those chapters in their complete form, as they pull this idea together very well)

This is why God gave us all the details of the sacrificial system for sin. He wanted us to see the absolute necessity of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and how glorious those truths are.

Because it is glorious. Christ, in one final sacrifice, did what centuries of animal sacrifices could not do.  He came, died, and rose, and in doing that he paid it all. 

That’s what we celebrate tomorrow, Easter Sunday.

love, grace

What do you think? Have you looked at the sacrificial system this way before? Are there other passages in the Bible you can think of that complement the ones I shared? Tell me in the comments! 

Read more:

Advent Reflections, part 4: Love

A Day of Rest, Joy, and Worship

Why Be Good if Jesus Died?

Lessons from the Law: Don’t Ignore the Old Testament!

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What Bible verses do you see quoted most often?

John 3:16, perhaps. Psalm 23. Jeremiah 29:11. 1 Corinthians 13. I’m sure many others come to mind, verses that every Christian falls back on. And it’s true that those verses are the Word of God, wonderful, beautiful, and greatly encouraging in hard times.

But you know what else is also the wonderful, beautiful Word of God?

Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers. Deuteronomy.

If you cringed as you read that, this series is for you.

Why Read the Old Testament?

Many Christians dread reading the Old Testament, especially those first few books that are full of Israel’s laws. So we float around in the New Testament, with maybe some Psalms thrown in for good measure, and somehow never get around to truly reading and understanding the Law.

It’s true that Jesus fulfilled the law of Israel, that we are under a new covenant after his death and resurrection. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important for us anymore.

As I read through the law at the beginning of this year, I tried to come to it with an open mind, and God taught me so many amazing things because of that. The purpose of this series is to share them with you, to help you see the purpose of the Law and its place in the Bible.

Because nothing in the Bible is junk. God gave the entire Bible to us, every single word, for a reason. It is ALL meant to encourage, convict, instruct. I want to fall in love with the entire Bible, and I want you to fall in love with it too.

What We’ll Learn

Over the course of the next few months, we’ll learn about:

The Old Testament sacrificial system and how it points to Jesus

The cleansing laws and how they point to Jesus

Worship in the Old Testament and what we can learn from it

Equality in the law and how amazing it is

How to get started reading the law for yourself

I hope you’re as excited for this series as I am! I can’t wait to share the things I learned as I read through the law, especially Exodus and Leviticus, and to explore how this often-ignored part of the Bible is full of wonderful truth.

love, grace

What do you think? Do you avoid reading the Old Testament? What has God taught you from the law books? Is there anything you want me to cover that wasn’t listed above? Let me know in the comments! 

Read more:

How I Enjoyed Reading Deuteronomy

24 Resolution Ideas for Christian Teens

How to Take Sermon Notes

How I Enjoyed Reading Deuteronomy

A little while back, I decided that I wanted to read through the whole Bible. No schedule, no obligation, no finishing date, just me reading straight through, as much or as little as I wanted, finishing when I wanted.

I started in Genesis, and was happily reading along. Then I hit the middle of Exodus and things started to get rough.

It must have taken me several months to get through Leviticus and Numbers. I struggled, often simply skimming the tedious passages of Hebrew law just for the sake of having “read” them so I could move on.

And then, as I began Deuteronomy, I decided to try and find passages that I could apply to my life, even when it seemed like there was nothing. And guess what? I found tons of them! Little tiny nuggets of truth that could mean something to me.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Guess what? This verse applies to all of Scripture, not just the things that seem like they directly apply to us. These verses apply to Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy too.

There will always be something to learn from the Bible, but you have to be actively engaged in reading, looking for the connections and lessons. You can’t just skim.

Something that has helped me with this is starting to write in my Bible, underlining things and jotting my thoughts in the margins. I love going back and looking at things I’ve written, and it helps me to stay focused on reading.

So, don’t give up on the hard passages of Jewish law. Just because they’re challenging doesn’t mean they aren’t worth reading. There’s always more to learn! And when you find those things that apply to your life, you will discover that the reading is much more enjoyable.

love, grace

This post was originally published on my old blog, Me, You, and God, on June 4, 2015.

 

February 2017 Month in Review

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Love. It’s what makes the world go ’round, or so they say, and in the month of February it seems like love is all everyone talks about. Candy, flowers, romantic comedies, and those adorable “relationship goals”. It’s all light, fluffy, happy, and wonderful.

This is the world’s brand of love. Have you bought into it? Is it really all that it seems to be from the outside? Or is the inside of the world’s love rather shallow and empty?

There is another kind of love: a love that truly makes the world continue to spin. Without this love, we would all have no hope. This love never ends, never fails, no matter what we do. It is infinite.

This is God’s brand of love. And when you believe in it, it changes you, and when you strive to emulate it, it changes the lives of others. When the love we talk about is a deep, everlasting love, there is nothing empty about it. It is the most full thing in the world.

Bloggings of the Month

the-relationship-series4 developing  your convictions on dating; hope for those who have already done things they regret

the-relationship-series5 an action plan for contentment in singleness

Image result for sherlocka review of my new favorite TV show

Truths of the Month

I’ve been reading in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers this month, as well as some in the New Testament. Inspired by this post, I’m dropping the daily plan and simply reading a few chapters every morning, with the goal of getting through the Bible at least once this year, if not more than once.

A few truths from my reading:

*Just as the sacrifices of the Israelites were to be “without blemish”, so Christ was the only one who could possibly die for us, the only one who could meet God’s standard of perfection.

*Even though the Old Testament law is no longer fully in effect, we are still called to remain clean and holy, just in different ways, staying away from sin and darkness.

*Jesus didn’t spend the night before His death doing anything world-changing, but something very common, having dinner with his disciples. Yet God worked in that just as much as something bigger.

*Cleansing after touching something impure was a lengthy, involved process, symbolizing how hard it is for us to purify ourselves outside of Christ.

(A few of these are a bit of a preview for a series I’m going to do soon about what we can learn from the Old Testament Law. I’ve been learning so much as I’ve read it alongside the gospels, seeing so much parallelism and cool things like that. More to come!)

Favorites of the Month

Image result for the reason for god Reread The Reason for God by Timothy Keller and was just blown away by it all over again. If you are having doubts, you don’t know how to defend Christianity, or you just want to strengthen your faith even more, you must read this book! 

Image result for newsies live So, um, this happened…and I got to see it in the theater!! Oh my goodness, it was amazing. If this version ever comes out on DVD or Netflix or anything, I highly recommend!

 It’s a Wonderful Time to Be Christian: Five Reasons for Optimism in America is the last article you would expect someone to write right now, but despite what you might assume it’s not sarcasm. From Desiring God, this article is so encouraging and brings a unique perspective to the political and cultural atmosphere right now.

 Kill Sin or Sin Will Kill You, also from Desiring God, is a jarring reminder of the seriousness of sin and what it will take to kill it in our lives.

 On Faith and Fashion was a wonderful article about what fashion can mean for the Christian girl. As someone who loves clothes and makeup and is just generally very girly, I loved this way of looking at it!

Coming in March

  • Struggles with perfectionism; excellence vs. perfection; finding balance
  • Lessons from the rain
  • A book review of something to be determined

 

How was your March? What did God teach you? Did you read or watch anything amazing this month? Also, do you like this new format for these posts or do you prefer the old one? I’m experimenting a bit. Tell me in the comments below! 

love, grace