Monday, November 11, 2013

Balancing the Old and the New

As a whole, the modern-day church pays little mind to the Old Testament.  Sure, sermons may dip into that vast inkwell of antiquity for a random verse or two, but aside from camping in the strength and comfort of David's Psalms or delving deep into the books of prophecy for their link to and fulfillment in Jesus, the great bulk of the Old Testament is relegated to history--stored up on the high shelf and draped with a weighty quilt of dust.

I do understand the reasoning behind this choice, to some degree.  A pastor's speaking time is limited and is most likely to be in front of a diverse congregation.  Since there's no telling who might be sitting in that service or even if those persons will ever darken the door of a church house again, it seems quite necessary to present the gospel of salvation, which necessarily requires New Testament Scriptures.

As such, a sermon's primary text usually is situated firmly between Matthew and the book of Revelation.  Yet, what disturbs me is the thought that in the privacy of our own homes, Christians seeking to walk further down the path of righteousness do the same thing--they cling to studying again what they have unconsciously been led to believe is more important in the New as they neglect the "must-be-unimportant-because-the-pastor-rarely-turns-there" Old.

Perhaps my role as a K4-K5 Sunday School teacher allows me to see such a pronounced gap in the overall church congregation's continued exposure to Scripture in its entirety.  In the children's department, my young pupils are saturated with stories from The Old and New Testaments.

Yet, steeping oneself in the Old Testament should not stop once we don a cap and gown and fling wide the doors to adulthood.  These are not mere history lessons full of facts that, once memorized, need not be studied again.  Since we are adopted as sons and daughters, grafted as "wild olive shoots" into the true Vine, these pages are snapshots of our family tree  (Rom 11).  They are flickering glimpses through the veil to reveal who God is.  They are mirrored reflections of our own present-day society's coming demise if it, likewise, continues to turn its face from the Lord in pursuit of idols.

The prophet Isaiah made the importance of Old Testament Scripture clear when he stated,

"Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many" (Is. 51:1-2).

In other words, as Christians, we should have this same longing to look back to our roots, which began with Abraham and Sarah

You don't have to look far to find someone in an intense quest to determine who they are and where they came from.  Perhaps that person is you.  Tracking one's ancestry is a booming business.  Now days, all it takes is a painless cheek swab and a couple hundred bucks to one of several genome projects to tell us about our ancestors.

Yes, our nation thrives on understanding its roots, on ferreting out ancient familial and cultural connections once thought lost.  The same must be true of our pursuit of who we are in the family of God.

I challenge you as I challenge myself--to ask what percentage of time this past year you've spent pouring over the inspired words of God found in The New Testament  as compared to the time you've spent pouring over the equally inspired words from God found in The Old Testament. 

If the scales are tipped so far that one side drags the floor, perhaps it's time to "Look to the rock from which you were cut" and see what God would teach you there.

Image: Geno Chip from National Geographic's genographic project.

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