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KickStart vocational skills training and Bible study programme

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02. Understanding the Old Testament
 
3. OLD TESTAMENT THEMES

Human Wisdom and Godly Wisdom
The third part of the Hebrew Bible, 'the Writings' is more miscellaneous in content than the other two major sections of the Bible (the Torah and the Prophets). It is the part of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) in which wise counsel is most prominent. It includes Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, the Psalms and the Song of Songs. While great philosophers throughout the ages grapple with the purpose of life and try and make sense of our world which includes so much beauty but also so much that is evil, the Wisdom writings of Scripture tackle human problems differently. They deal with very human issues (such as money, sex, war, power and our place in eternity) but find meaning in the Lord God (Yahweh) in and through it all.

We are created for God's glory and ultimately to be part of his family in eternity so we choose not to reject this privilege. When we start from this point we can make sense of the challenges that arise in this temporary body of flesh blood.

Messianic Expectation
We have already looked at the foreshadowing of Christ through the Torah (such as the Passover lamb) and through the prophets (such as Isaiah 53). Another important theme relates to sacrifice. If we understand God as a sort of benevolent grandfather figure we have not understood that he is completely righteous. It is for this reason God cannot overlook sin. Sin always has a consequence and as a result the practice of sacrifice and the shedding of blood pervade the Old Testament. When Christ came on earth he would pay the ultimate sacrifice. Our sin can only be forgiven if we are willing to accept the price he paid.

Why is there so much violence in the Old Testament?
The wrath of God against sin and His righteous judgement of sinners are important biblical principles. Without understanding that God must judge sin we cannot understand the wonder of Godís forgiveness and grace or the amazing truth of the cross, where Christ endured the wrath of God for our sin. Unless we grasp this we will also struggle with God's judgement on the Canaanite cultures who were driven out before Israel. Note that God's judgement on a culture that was a consequence of detestable religious practices (eg Deut 9:4-6; Lev 18:24-25) and such judgement was always preceded by long periods of opportunity to repent.

Salvation through faith
People who had faith in God and were innocent before Him were always provided with a means of salvation. Their families were saved with them just as the children of those who were judged died with them.

Why is it such a big deal that 'Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness'? (Gen 15).

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How can a God of love allowing war and suffering
It takes various forms, but this question seems to be common. Firstly we need to understand that generally when people speak about love they mean it in terms of a feeling. The limitations of the English language are to blame here. Most Biblical references to love, including those relating to the characteristics of God, use the work 'Agape' in the Greek and 'Hesed' in the Hebrew.

The important thing to say about Agape is that it is an action. God loved and gave His Son in self sacrificial action - to save us from our own sin. The important thing to say about Hesed is that it emphasises God's mercy and favour. Neither definitions of God's love exclude suffering, judgement or discipline.

Secondly, the question assumes that if there is a God who created life, then it should be pain-free and comfortable for everyone. However, a worldview which understands this (temporary) life as part of a bigger (eternal) existence can make sense of difficulty by applying faith in the reality of an eternal purpose which is connected to the challenges faced in this life.




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