About a month ago, Rachel and I decided to start a bible reading plan to read the whole bible in a year. We are using the M'Cheyne plan which is a classic plan (from 1842) that includes portions from all parts of the Bible every day. This is actually the first time that I've actually tried to do this. A month into it, I'd really like to recommend it to everyone. These are the reasons:
I realized how much of a "New Testament Christian" I have been -- by this, I mean basically ignoring the Old Testament. Though I've tried to read the O.T. for devotions, I think I always find myself reading more of the N.T. in my devotions, and I think undoubtedly in church, we hear more from the N.T. than the O.T. Why? I think it's much more difficult to teach and read the O.T. We have a hard time dealing with a God who commands Israel to make war on its neighbors, then who is so wrathful against Israel in the prophets, we have a hard time seeing anything "to apply" from the stories, and the Psalms and other wisdom literature seem repetitive to us. We love the grace and love explained in the New Testament. While it is definitely true that Jesus is the key to understanding the Old Testament and God, I think we have an anemic view of God and his love by ignoring the Old Testament. What is God's love without his wrath? In my opinion, it is not really love. We want to believe in a God who just loves everyone, who accepts everyone, without punishing people. But is that really love? Does a father love his children if he "just loves them" no matter what they do? Does he love them if he just lets them eat all the sweets they want until they get sick, go out and party and become addicted to drugs, and then later in life when they are messed up and come back to him he just tries to ignore their problems and tell them he loves them? Actually, the more someone truly loves us, the more it hurts them when we hurt ourselves: If someone truly loves us, he or she will HATE the sin in us.
If you read the O.T. with this in mind, I think you will see a God who loves Israel and saves and delivers them even though they continue to mess up their own lives. Because God truly loves them, he is wrathful against their sin. The Israelites can't escape themselves though...they keep messing up. But throughout the O.T. you see a God who promises to love Israel. And in the Prophets and some of the Psalms, he hints at how he will love a people who is always messing up. How can God love us in spite of our sin? Only through pouring out his wrath on his very own Son on our behalf. All that wrath in the O.T. was poured out on Christ on the cross so that we could be loved and accepted completely by God and truly become his children. And that changes us from the very core. The law can finally "be written on our hearts." What did it cost my God to love me? Everything. He took hell for me. I will stop trying to save myself. I will stop trying to please everyone. I am free because my Father has called me his child by dying for me.
God's love is so much more electrifying when I read the O.T. I hope you will read the O.T. too.