Let’s face it, we are, by and large, illiterate when it comes to the Old Testament. We get lost reading it, we neglect it, or else we dismiss it as unimportant. Others see it as just another strand in history—one that has little bearing on our world today.
But the Old Testament is not just another strand in history. It is the strand by which we are to interpret all other strands. It is the story by which we interpret all other stories, and it is the foundation for understanding our world as well as the New Testament.
Some people have been taught that only the New Testament matters. But the New Testament is not a new story. It represents the final chapters of a story that began before God created the world.
And so, the Bible is all of a piece. It tells one story, chapter by chapter. It has characters, plot, drama, love, and war and is the true story of the acts of God. It reveals who He is, what He is like, and it explains the world the way it really is.
It uses symbols, metaphor, poetry and more to explain the universe along with all of its characters and events.
The western mind is a scientific mind. It wants everything chopped, diced and delivered in neat little packets. But reading the bible this way is like reading Wimbledon statistics without ever watching a match.
Most of us were raised this way, and it is hard not to use our slice and dice tools when reading the Bible. But Hebrew literature—and the Bible in particular—is not written to accommodate such tools.
God does not come to us with two ways to live, or the three steps to effective evangelism, or the ABC’s of creation, or the five love languages, or the keys to effective prayer, or four spiritual laws.
God is beautiful, and beauty cannot be summed with a list.
Instead, God comes to man as one who walks beside us in the cool of the day. As one who overshadows us in the wilderness. As one who opens eyes as we travel the Emmaus road.
And even when He does give us the occasional list of do’s and don’ts’ it is given amidst peels of thunder and flashes of lightning at the foot of a great mountain during a wedding ceremony.
This is messy business. It means living with loose ends. It means wrestling with poetry and
interpreting the symbols that God has created in order to reveal His nature and His purpose.
It means standing in wonder and awe.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
This verse explains so much. It tells us why God created Man and why God created the honey bee. It explains how He would overcome the infinite distance between Himself and Man and what it is that prevents all the stars in heaven from crashing down on top of us.
God created this world to display the infinite value, beauty, goodness and perfection of His Son. God created the world to extend His glory by revealing and sharing with others what is His chief joy. His Son Jesus.
God could have accomplished this by creating any number of alternative worlds. But He didn’t. He created this one.
Ultimately, we cannot answer the reason why except to say that it was His pleasure to do so.
Romans 1:20 tells us that this world reveals God. Like any artist, God’s handiwork reveals something of His character and nature. Through the created world, His invisible attributes became visible.
Most especially, this world reveals the character and nature of God in Christ so that in all things, He, Jesus, would have pre-eminence.
But that is not all.
While all of creation bears some reflection of the character and nature of God, Man stands above all creation as unique. Man was made in the image of God.
And so it follows that because man is the image of God, all of creation is not only speaking to man about God but is also speaking to man about Man.
It teaches man who he is, how he is to live and grow and think as God’s image. And so, Solomon is not just being poetic when he says, “look to the ant …and learn her ways”, and Jesus is not just being eloquent when He says, “consider the lilies,” or “Consider the birds of the air.”
The purpose of ants and sparrows is to teach a man how to reflect God’s image in His labour.
Ants and lilies, along with mountains, rivers, snow, grapes, stars and geese, speak to man and reveal the nature of God and, therefore, the character of true humanity made in His image.
It’s here we see the cash value of this truth for ourselves. Nothing is without meaning. Both scripture and the created world teach great and glorious truths. But unless those truths filter down into our everyday experience, they remain abstractions and mere intellectual curiosities.
But the bible and the Old Testament are not written in philosophical, scientific language but the language of imagery and appearance.
God is present in the midst of the storm as one who thunders from heaven to scatter those who would harm His children (1 Sam 2:7-10; Psalm 77:16-20). It’s in the creation of the world and its furniture that man discovers God as a Father, and afterwards, all that His children, made in His image, are to be.
And because Jesus Christ is the exact imprint of the Father’s nature (Hebrews 12:3), above all things, the Old Testament teaches us to look and long for the Perfect Man, Jesus Christ, to not only know the Father but to understand who he himself is before the Father.
As we shall learn: Jesus is a Rock, and so must you be. Jesus is the light of the world, and so must you be. Jesus is a fountain of living water to thirsty souls and a fruitful tree for the hungry—and so must you and I be.