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Old Testament Stories That Shape Our Lives

Right after Easter Sunday I would like to embark on a journey with you through the sacred texts of the Old Testament, the scriptures to which Jesus and the early church turned. We’ll look at Biblical characters over a five month period that some of you grew up with in children’s books, in Sunday school, and in church camps. We’ll visit Jonah in the belly of a whale, Samson and all of his strength, Gideon and his trumpets, and Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones.

These were the stories that shaped Jesus’ early life, the life of Paul, and lives of the earliest Christians. In fact, for the New Testament Church, the Bible was the Old Testament.

I worry that we’ve come to believe that in the Hebrew Bible God is legalistic and demanding, while in the New Testament, thanks to the teachings of Jesus, God is presented as a loving Father. Some of you have grown up with sermons depicting the Old Testament deity as an angry God, and Jesus as the soothing, forgiving,   loving one. This is both untrue and very one-sided.

During Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness, a time we now mark with our present season of Lent, he responded to the temptations of the Devil by quoting the Scriptures, the Hebrew Bible. As we’ve found from Jesus’ final words from the cross, he turned to the Hebrew Bible for words of prayer, as he did with Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “Every scripture [that is the Old Testament] is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.”

May we find a new appreciation for these Hebrew scriptures that helped to form who Jesus was and can help to form who we are today. They will also help to enrich your love of the sacred text that follows them in the New.