While studying at Liberty University, I remember reading an article or blog that started with a quote from William Shakespeare comparing history to “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
The Messianic view of history is a contrast of normal, scholastic history; we know the Lord ordained it (past tense), organizes it (present tense), and moves it towards a meaningful, certain, and definite purpose (the future). Some believers in Yeshua, our Messiah Jesus Christ have a negative view of the Old Testament, of its usefulness and even of its accuracy. It is often regarded as irrelevant chronologically, geographically, socially, and theologically. “How is it relevant to me?” and “Why do I need to know it?” are common questions.
The Old Testament contains 39 books that are categorized as books of the Law, Prophets, and Writings. The Writings include poetry, parables, and history. The two books of Chronicles and the combined book of Ezra-Nehemiah tell a historically accurate account of the history of the Children of Israel.
There are five major reasons I love to study the Old Testament
- OT History is True History
- OT History is Selective History
- OT History is Relevant History
- OT History is Purposeful History
- OT History is Redemptive History
The Old Testament is True History: Israel’s neighbors expressed their beliefs through myths. Old Testament history describes real events in real time involving real people and a real God. Israel’s faith rested on the reality of Israel’s history. If we give up the truths of the Biblical record, we lose and give up the Truth. Our faith is founded not on disconnected theoretical conjecture but on God’s acts in our history.Recognizing Old Testament narratives with confidence builds up faith.
The Old Testament is Selective History: No matter how much they deny it, every historian has an agenda. Often unspoken, an agenda can be inferred by reviewing an author’s resources. Old Testament writers had an agenda that guided their selection and editing. Their selectivity was divinely inspired. The selection and editing in no ways diminishes their truthfulness. When reading Old Testament history, consider why the author selected these events. It is also important to consider the original audience.
The Old Testament is Relevant History: Old Testament teaching often faces the accusation of being extraneous.There are differences between ancient Israel and our modern world. Attempting to disregard the Old Testament may make the lesson relevant but it makes the Scriptures irrelevant. A correct understanding of Old Testament history enables us to understand the message to the audience at the time and place it was written
The Old Testament is Purposeful History: Many history books simply relate the who, what, when, where, and how of each event. Not many attempt to answer the “Why?” question, and those that do usually prove laughably unreliable. Biblical history has a clear purpose. God is the subject and the hero of the Bible. We have to ask:
- What does this story reveal about God?
- How is this intended to help needy sinners?
- What role does this story play in the larger and longer biblical story?
The Old Testament is Redemptive History: God actively directs human history for the purpose of redeeming sinners to Himself. The Apostle Luke (24.27) records that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Old Testament to record what would reveal God’s redemptive purpose. Paul repeatedly explained that the Biblical history is not only facts to teach us theology. These historical facts serve to bring in God’s elect. In his second epistle to Timothy, he reminded his own student that what greater motive do we need to study it than that these Scriptures to make us wise even to salvation.
Someone somewhere said that history is written by the winners. Our Lord does not see history in linier progression. Knowing the truth helps us to see what is fiction. Understanding how to spot an agenda helps us to see the truth. Relating historical incidents to today helps us to avoid repeating mistakes. A love of history gives us purpose to better ourselves. Our Lord has redeemed His children, and in knowing why we can appreciate this truth and history.