The Paul (1 Corinthians 3:2) and writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 5:12) told their readers that they weren’t mature enough for meat, so they had to feed them milk.
Daniel didn’t want to make himself unclean with the world’s meat, so he ate only vegetables for a time in his youth (Daniel 1:12). Does that seem like a strange choice?
When I was old enough for meat, my parents figured I was old enough to eat vegetables. Like many other children, I didn’t like them. My parents had to make me eat them anyway.
Some passages of Scripture are like that. Many Christians don’t want to read them. But all Scripture is inspired (2 Timothy 3:16). Be mature. Learn to eat your heavenly vegetables!
When Jesus gave the two greatest commandments, the first came from Deuteronomy and the second from Leviticus. He quoted from Deuteronomy many other times. He carried on a running controversy with the official religious leadership about what the law really meant. It’s obviously important.
But Leviticus begins with instructing priests how to carry out various sacrifices. It doesn’t offer any explanation of when or why someone would offer any one of them until the fifth chapter. It makes awfully heavy reading.
A whole big plate of Brussels sprouts. Who likes Brussels sprouts? Or more to the point, who likes them the first time they have them? Clearly an acquired taste. The psalmist developed it.
But in these sacrifices, we see that everyone sins. We see that God does not strike sinners dead, but accepts an animal as a substitute. On Calvary he accepted Jesus as a substitute. So we see God’s holiness, which requires atonement, and his grace in offering it.
On closer look, we see that the priests ate a part of some sacrifices. Worshipers also ate a part of one of the others. People offered animals and grain to God, and God gave some of the offering back to them. What a beautiful picture of both judgment and grace!
I love history, mostly because I had such a good history teacher in high school. Chances are, though, that you don’t love history. A lot of people find it boring, especially when it comes to remembering names and battles and such.
And so it’s easy to pass over vast stretches of the Old Testament. It’s not only easy for lay people, but also for preachers.
Biblical history begins in Genesis. You probably know something about the creation and fall; something about Noah and the flood; and something about Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph. But Isaac? Joseph’s brothers?
Likewise, you have probably encountered some stories involving Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Gideon, and Samson, but certainly not all the judges.
You have probably heard sermons about kings Saul, David, and Solomon. You have probably not heard sermons about any of the later kings. For that matter, long stretches of the narrative of the last years of both David and Solomon remain little known.
Why does it matter that all of the little-known stories are in the Bible in the first place? Because once we look past the unfamiliar names, places, and customs, we find people very much like ourselves and the people we know. Because they show the consequences of godly living versus ungodly living. Because they show God at work.
Jesus spoke in parables in part because he knew that a good story could make dry principles come alive. The Old Testament is full of good stories that illustrate the outworking of New Testament teaching.
The first ten chapters of 1 Chronicles are devoted entirely to genealogy—the begats. What good are they?
For one thing, they clarify family relationships. Knowing, for example, that some of the characters involved in stories about David were his relatives, or that one of his counselors who turned traitor was the father of Bathsheba, with whom David committed adultery, helps us understand the stories better.
A friend of mine told me of the time he visited a dying friend in the hospital and offered to read from the Bible. The man told him to start with 1 Chronicles 1. Why? Because God loved all of those men enough to mention them in Scripture. It became a comfortable reminder to the man that God loved him, too.
Imagine! Spinach and carrots as comfort food!
After the law and the historical books come the book of Job, also heavy reading, Psalms and Proverbs, which most Christians love, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, which are much less known. Then come the prophets.
There are four major prophets and twelve minor prophets. Major and minor don’t mean more important and less important. They mean large and small. Again, some passages are well known and many are not.
We get the idea that a prophet is someone who predicts the future. Most of them did, but that’s not their only role, or even the most important.
Prophets spoke what they heard from God. God’s message is never congenial to any society. After all, society is what the New Testament calls the world. The world is always indifferent to the ways of God at best and often hostile. And the world has infected the church from the very beginning.
And so the prophets often seem to scold. The message of judgment comes across so strong that it’s hard for worldly people to see the grace, even though judgment and grace are inseparable.
Obadiah is addressed to Edom and Nahum to Nineveh. Many of the other prophets addressed part of their message to surrounding Gentile societies.
People who don’t like history can easily get lost and lose interest.
But the prophets, like all the rest of the Old Testament, look forward to the ministry of Jesus. The New Testament frequently quotes the prophets. We can’t fully understand it without understanding not only those quotations, but also the surrounding context.
The Old Testament has spiritual vitamins for sharpening your spiritual vision and hearing. It has antioxidants to take care of your heart, which according to an often-quoted prophetic verse is deceitful above anything (Jeremiah 17:9).
We have all sinned. Therefore, we all have heart disease. Eat your veggies!
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