A little while back I took an Old Testament survey. For the survey, I had to read through the whole of the Old Testament over an eight-week span. If I’m honest, I found myself feeling nervous at how much I would be able to receive from it. The Old Testament is just so vast, how is it possible to truly receive when reading through it all in only eight weeks? Yet, as I read what I found was that my view of God was greatly expanded while at the very same time he looked just I’ve always seen him.
The Old Testament, from the creation account in the very beginning, all the way through the covenant of Abraham, Sinai, the exodus & exiles, Judges, Kings, and the Prophets, all point to the transcendence of our God. YHWH is so vast, so intangible, and yet he always so close. He is beyond the heavens, and yet he comes and visits, marries and is intimate with his people. There is so much about him that is impossible to comprehend, and at the same time, he is so deeply satisfying.
My purpose here is not to try to use as many oxymorons as possible. I just can’t help but see God as unknowable and at the same time supremely intimate. The Old Testament shows us the transcendence of God in a way that we could miss if we lived without it. Jesus’ coming, God taking on flesh loses its appeal, its necessity, its utter unfathomableness if we do not understand the greatness, the holiness, and the beauty of our creator God as he is described in the Old Testament.
The textbooks (Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey by Arnold & Beyer & The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis-Malachi by Dorsey) added to this view of the transcendent God through their ability to make plain the author’s intent. At times the Old Testament can be overwhelming. The cultural clash that happens when a 33-year-old, third generation Canadian father of three reads about the holy wars of Canaan or Samson’s destruction of the Philistines or multiple wives and concubines is significant. Yet, through it all when you have the help of those study tools, you can see the truth. The truth of God’s righteousness. The truth of his pursuit of a people that he could call his own and of his desire to eradicate the sin that has caused all humanity to suffer under it.
This was one of the most significant parts of my personal growth. I saw my sin when reading the story of Israel, and it made real Jesus sermon on the mount. When I read of the things of Israel, I can see the same sin in me. No longer does ‘not committing murder’ give me the space to make me think that I am more holy than they were. I do not read the stories of Israel and see myself better than they, nor do I think, well I would never do that! Thanks to Arnold & Beyer, for the first time I could see how their culture functioned, and I realized that I was calling the cultural shift from theirs to mine a type of holiness. The heart of humanity has not changed, we are all still capable of, and commit, the same sins as Israel. This is why Jesus expanded the law in his sermon on the mount. This is why he taught us that murder is not the root but hatred is. He needed us to see our sin.
God, is so gracious to all his people. The New Testament is not the Testament of grace and the Old Testament of law. I see that God has always been gracious. He has always been loving and kind. Always desiring his bride as we read about in Hosea. Unfortunately, we often refuse his love and choose adultery like Gomer did. After all of that, he comes to us in the Son. Amazing. That is what brings us to the New Testament, to the birth of our Savior it is our rejection of him.
My thankfulness, my realization of my sin, my worship of his transcendence and imminence have all grown. I am thankful for the opportunity to read and study through the whole story of the Old Testament and I hope this will be an encouragement for each of you to jump into the story of God’s redemption in a new way.