This week marks the start of our incredible journey into the Old Testament. Your book, Beginnings, contains the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in their pure, narrative (or story) form.
It’s important to realize, as you begin this journey, that you are reading a story. It is a story that reflects real history. There are those skeptics who see these extraordinary narratives as far-fetched. They read such fantastic accounts of paradise-like gardens, talking snakes, life-giving trees, global flooding, gigantic animal- bearing boats, burning bushes, plagues, and parting seas – and chalk it up to myth, or at least, allegory. By allegory they mean, that these stories are not history – they didn’t really happen because they couldn’t have – but rather they must be ancient fairy-tales that serve as fanciful wrappings of ancient moral values or beliefs.
But I urge you, don’t buy in to the skepticism. Such skepticism is based on the idea that these kinds of fantastic stories could not be grounded in fact because they “are scientifically impossible.” But, if you believe in God, the supernatural being Who created the universe “out of nothing”; Who made Man in His image; Who found a way to not only design and build paradise, but restore and recover it after it had been marred by sin; even if you’re not sure what you believe, but are toying with the possibility of a Supreme Being – then talking snakes, gigantic boats, and parting seas are relatively miniscule matters in comparison.
To deny the historicity of the Old Testament is to deny its divine inspiration, something Jesus believed in unequivocally and pointed to as proof of His identity as the Son of God. The first five books of the Old Testament are history. They read like history. They offer first hand accounts, genealogies, geographical and anthropological realities of past cultures and civilizations. But more importantly, they give us a glimpse of the beginnings of not only our world and mankind, but of the nature and character of God and the relationship He fashions and facilitates with human beings.
The timeless and universal value of these stories can only exist because of their authenticity and realness. Real men and women wrestling with God, and finding their way to Him through His redemptive, merciful plan. That’s why Paul writes, “the things that were written beforehand were written for our leaning…that we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). They were also written so that we would be warned to not make the same mistakes as they did – repeating history all over again:
…As examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come (1 Cor. 10:6-11).
The Old Testament is, indeed, a collection of authentic stories of messy lives. They resemble our lives – struggling to be lived out daily, interacting with God and the world around us. They have become an invaluable teacher for us, a “tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we could be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).
Make no mistake; you are reading history – the ancient Story of stories. And your story intersects with this Story, becoming more a part of it everyday. So jump in, and enjoy it in all its epic glory, confident that you are reading the Truth about God, about you, and about your relationship.