By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Curriculum Specialist
Woodland Hills Church
We all know the story that starts things off in the Bible: God makes the world and everything in and around it and finishes things off by making the first humans, but those first humans end up mistrusting God’s love and allow sin to enter the world through their disobedience, right? At which point, a lot of people skip ahead to the New Testament and Jesus. But to never look back on the wealth of history and wisdom to be found in the Old Testament is, I believe, a mistake. Sure, the Old Testament can feel a bit slow, confusing, violent, or just plain irrelevant at times, but if you can see beyond all that, you’ll find the story God was weaving throughout it all is actually beautiful and intimately connected to us as followers of Christ. In fact, Christ’s part of the story really only makes sense when you know the full history of God’s interactions with people before Jesus arrived in Bethlehem.
So, yes, we start things off with Creation and the Fall. But God does not abandon humanity the minute the proverbial apple is eaten in the Garden. In fact, He makes a promise that very day to bring forth a descendant of Adam and Eve’s who will one day defeat His enemy and bring about restoration (see Genesis 3:15). So even as the first humans begin populating the earth, God is working in them and through them to draw people, as broken as we all are, back to Himself and His love. We see it in the story of Babel, where God refuses to let people become their own gods but proves He, not they, is the only one worthy of such fame and renown. We feel His heartbreak in the story of Noah and the way in which He must deal with the immense sin of the world in order to ultimately redeem it all. We journey alongside Him as He asks Abraham and Sarah to put their lives and future in His hands. We find Him faithful to this aged couple throughout the ups and downs of the next few generations of their family. We see Him still keeping the promises He made them 400+ years later in the land of Egypt when He sends their descendants a shepherd named Moses and frees them from their slavery. We feel His disappointment as He tries to lead the newly freed Israelites into a trusting relationship with Himself only to time and again be shown their unbelief in the desert. We share His joy as He finally leads them into a good and fruitful land, and we share His sorrow when they continually turn away from Him after all He has done.
We find new hope as God raises up young David from among the Israelites and makes this faithful shepherd boy a king, and we grieve with Him as we watch David and his family fall into sin. We cringe alongside Him as king after king brings more ruin and corruption to the land of Israel and the people push God further and further away from their lives. We see God desperately crying out to them, both warning and pleading with them to turn their hearts back to Him once more and live by His love rather than their own selfish desires. And we are filled with His anguish when He must finally allow the consequences of their own sins to play out as He lifts His hand of protection to allow their enemies to invade, kill, capture, and ruin everything they hold dear.
And still, despite what things have come to, God remains faithful and does not leave the Israelites. Even as they are sent into exile, we see Him working among them, calling them to trust Him once more. We hear His words through the prophets, words that speak of hope and a Messiah, one whom He has been waiting to send since the Fall. One who will change everything and bring the restoration and forgiveness for all, something the Israelites have been struggling to find for centuries. We rejoice as we turn now to the gospels and realize He has been speaking of Jesus, His Son and the One who will make all things new for all of us.
The Old Testament is only “old” in that it comes before the “newer” part of the story. Much of its story is timeless and can help us to not only understand God better, but also our own place in His story. After all, the journey of faith we find in its pages is our journey of faith, as well.