OK - the truth is most people don't read the Old Testament at all. But those who do often view the stories in the OT as isolated instances - stand alone stories with moral lessons almost like Aesop's fables. Therefore, many people know the story of Noah's ark, Jonah and the whale, Joseph and the coat of many colors, David and Goliath, and on and on. Don't get me wrong, there are some lessons to be learned about faith from these individual stories.
But over the last year or so as I've read through the Bible again with a group of guys, I was reminded that the far more beneficial way to read the OT is as a historical narrative. A story of people and generations that are all woven together as part of the same story of God's redemption.
Today was the last week of our SHAPE class at Grace that I had the privilege to teach with Mike Hartle. What a great class! This is the day we talk about experiences and how God often uses our past experiences in life to shape the way we do ministry. I used several scriptural examples of how God does this and I want to post a few of them as reminders of the importance of our experience and at the same time a reminder to read the OT as a historical narrative.
First is the story of SOLOMON. He's famous for answering the big question correctly! God told him he could have anything he wanted and he asked for wisdom. Have you ever wondered why he asked for wisdom? If we view this as a stand-alone story we could come up with all kinds of potential reasons. Maybe he was more spiritual than the rest of us, maybe God inspired him in the moment to respond with this model response. Or maybe we need to think about the backstory for a moment.
Remember who Solomon's mother was? Bathsheba. Yes - that Bathsheba. The one who gave in to the advances of Solomon's dad - David. Solomon was the king that succeeded David on the throne - and I wonder what his growing up years were like listening to the stories about the inappropriate relationship his dad and mom had. He had a front row seat to see how the aftermath of his father's decision affected his ability to lead and rule. Maybe Solomon asked for wisdom so that he wouldn't repeat the mistakes of the past. One of my great desires is to be a student of the past - both my own past and my ministry past - so that I don't repeat the same mistakes again. In the words of a young pastor Steven Furtick:
I don’t mind those I lead making mistakes. In fact, I prefer it. If they’re not making mistakes, they’re probably not playing to win. I just want you to make new mistakes. Different mistakes than you made last time. Mistakes that reveal a new level of effort, or a new frontier of endeavor.
Most leaders don’t mind mistakes. They just can’t stand to see the same mistakes over…and over…and over again. Mistakes are fine (even mandatory) as long as we’re cruising down the open highway. But they make me car sick if we’re simply circling the cul-de-sac.