Read this and then decide for yourself! The following is a vital summary of some of the great lessons in Old Testament history. These are lessons you should have learned, but probably have not. So – read on!
How interesting is the Old Testament to you? Have you found it rather dry and dull? God intended for you to get a great deal of understanding from reading it. Perhaps you haven’t been approaching the study of it as you should.
The Bible is literally packed with ideas and principles that you need to apply every day of your life! Many people read parts of the Bible and neglect others. Certainly the most neglected portion of the Bible includes the historical books of the Old Testament. These are the books of Joshua to Esther inclusive. Yet these books are loaded with dynamite! They teach you lessons in everyday living in a rough, straightforward, and forceful way.
The whole trouble in reading these books probably lies in the fact that you haven’t been taking these lessons in a personal way. When you study these narratives, apply them to yourself.
How would you and your worldly neighbors react to situations like the following? Would you measure up any better than those fleshly, unconverted Israelites?
God is showing human nature at work in these books, and your carnal nature is just about the same! Your Creator is trying to show you the terrible results of relying on your own reason and impulse. Are you learning these lessons as you should? Probably not. Then literally put yourself into these true stories and then vigorously apply them in your own life. You are going to see “life in the raw,” but you will see it through the eyes of the Creator.
In Romans 15:4, the Apostle Paul tells us, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” So we find that the Old Testament writings were written for the instruction of Christians today. It is with this idea in mind that we point out to you some of the outstanding lessons in the historical books of the Old Testament. And we encourage you to read these books for yourself. As we shall find, human nature at work is sometimes even stranger than the imaginations of the fiction writers!
When Joshua first became the leader of Israel, succeeding Moses, God gave him certain basic instructions which, if obeyed, would have insured a successful and prosperous rule. Oh that these instructions might sink into the hearts and minds of rulers everywhere!
In Joshua 1:8, God said, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt mediate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou that have good success.” Here is the way to the happiness that everyone wants, then as now.
The way is to keep God’s law! Let us put ourselves in the place of these Israelites, and see if we would have obeyed God any better than they.
Soon after giving Joshua these instructions, God miraculously led Israel through the Jordan River, feeding them “manna” all through their journey. Israel kept the Passover as God commanded. Then He supernaturally delivered Jericho into their hands, again witnessing to them of His mighty power and His love.
But, like so many people today, Achan took God’s commandments lightly (Joshua 7). He coveted some of the gold and silver in Jericho and took some in direct violation of God’s command. He probably reasoned out in his own mind that he would just take a little bit, and that God probably didn’t mean this to apply to him anyway.
How natural such reasoning is to the unconverted human mind! The result, God punished all Israel before their enemies. God wants all men to know that He means business!
If we can’t learn anything else from these historical books of the Bible, we had better learn that when God gives a command, He means exactly what He says!
As long as Israel obeyed God, “the land had rest from war” (Joshua 14:15). There is a way to peace and prosperity, but today men will have none of it! They would rather try in vain to bring it about by their own human devising.
Before Joshua’s death, he called Israel together and reminded them that God had given them a land for which they did not labor. Then he continued (Joshua 24:15); “choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whom land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Here was a final warning to the people to serve their Creator and obey His laws. God had already shown them that His was best. Now it was up to them!
Before Israel entered the Promised Land, God had commanded them to completely destroy the heathen nations residing there (Deut. 7:2). These heathen nations were practicing a most abominable form of idolatry which was making their lives a blot and shame to mankind.
Archeologists have found the remains of many children in these ancient cities who had been sacrificed to Baal and other heathen gods. These pagans were wrecking their own lives with these vile practices, and would have drawn Israel into similar idolatry if they had not been exterminated. In view of the resurrection, God knew they were better off dead for the time being! So God’s command to kill these people was really not as harsh as we might suppose. It was really for their own good, and the good of others.
But fleshly Israelites thought, like many today, that they were more wise and righteous than God! They spared the lives of many of these idolaters because, to their human reason, this seemed best (Judges 1).
Soon, “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim” (Judges 2:10-11). How many times does the “younger generation” depart from the right ways of their fathers? We poor humans seem to be so perverse that we can’t learn anything without suffering by traveling the wrong way first! Yet God has given us this history so that we have ample opportunity to see where our own way leads.
After Israel forsook God, He delivered them into the hands of their enemies to punish them. When they repented, God would raise up judges, which delivered them from their enemies. Then the obstinate Israelites would once again go a whoring after their gods and their Creator would be forced to punish them again (Judges 2:13-19).
What a lesson written in human suffering! When Israel served God, they prospered. But when they turned to idolatry and other sins, they suffered terribly. Read this vivid account for yourself! Is our nation obeying God any better today?
The very last verse of Judges gives the reason for all this suffering. “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” God is forcefully showing that conscience and human reason just cannot be relied upon! We need to seek the Eternal and walk in His ways.
All thru the books of Joshua and Judges, we found that Israel refused to obey God or the voice of the judges that He set over them. They all wanted to do what was right in their own eyes. They refused to submit to the government of God.
The books of Samuel begin with a God-fearing woman, Hannah, praying to God for a boy. If her prayer is granted, she promises to give her boy to the service of God (I Sam. 1:11). In I Samuel 3, we find that God had called Samuel to serve Him, and that “all Israel from Dan even unto Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.” So the people really understood that Samuel was a called servant of God. But did they obey him? We shall see! When Israel was in trouble, Samuel commanded them to repent and turn to God. His prayer was heard, and God delivered them from the Philistines. But when Samuel became old, his rebellious sons began to pervert judgment. The people began to clamor for a king “like all the nations” (I Sam. 8:5). They wanted human government instead of God’s rule!
Samuel was displeased and prayed about the matter. “And the Lord said unto Samuel. Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (I Sam. 8:7).
They had rejected the rule and government of their very Creator! These carnal-minded Israelites had decided that they wanted to have human government so they could run things to suit themselves!
Do you realize that most professing Christians feel the same way today? They do not want to submit to God’s government or His laws! Yet Jesus Christ came proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God or the Government of God (Mark 1:14). This is the very essence of the true gospel! That is the message of the Church of God New World Ministries.
Revelation 19:15 shows that Christ is coming to rule all nations with a rod of iron. I Corth. 10:4 tells us that Christ was the one who dealt with the children of Israel. So they were then rejecting Christ’s rule just as most people are doing today.
Perhaps they thought that they could just “accept Christ” like many so-called Christians today. It is time to wake up and realize that Jesus Christ is to be your King as well as your Saviour! An empty faith or belief will avail you nothing. As Christ said in Luke 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every wordof God.”
Study these historical books, then, and see what a mess man makes when he tries to govern himself without obeying God’s directions! The prophet Samuel warned Israel that they would have to obey God if their kingdom was to last (I Sam. 12). Saul, who had been made king, immediately overstepped his bounds and offered sacrifice. This was an exclusive function of the priests, and Samuel reproved him for the wrong act (I Sam. 13:8-14). After making some more blunders, Saul disobeyed God’s command to destroy all the animals and goods of the Amalekites. He claimed that they were spared in order to sacrifice to God. But regardless of that, he had once again used his own human reason and directly disobeyed God’s command!
The prophet Samuel then informed Saul (I Sam. 15:22-23): “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” What a powerful message for people of all ages! God requires implicit obedience of His Word above everything else! When will people realize this fact?
After rejecting Saul, God had Samuel secretly anoint David to be king. Note that Samuel and Jesse (I Sam. 16:6-7) both would have chosen one of David’s older brothers to be king. Human beings often disagree with God’s selection of a leader or ruler. But God knows best, because He looks on the heart. Keep that in mind when you think about criticizing a true minister, a servant of God.
From the time of his anointing, David went through many trials and tests. But as he wrote in Ps. 34:19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” In Ps. 119:97, David wrote, “O how love I thy law, it is my meditation all the day.”
How many Christians today love and mediate upon God’s law, and keep as close to God in prayer as David? No wonder he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).
Many atheists and scoffers ridicule the Bible account of David’s sin with Bathsheba (II Sam. 11). They seem to forget that David bitterly repented of it when he was made to realize what he had done (II Sam. 12).God did not condone his action, but took the life of his son and caused him to be involved in wars the rest of his life as a lesson to teach us all how terrible sin in.
None of us are worthy to condemn David for his great sin, but we can learn from this account that if we sincerely and bitterly repent of our sins, God will forgive us. The very fact that David himself had to write the story of this wicked act in a book for all generations to read should prove to anyone that the Bible is no man-made book!
In his old age, David appointed Solomon as his successor. He instructed him to keep God’s law “that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest.” Solomon’s first request to God after being made king was for an “understanding heart” to judge the people. God was pleased at this request, and granted his wish (I Kings 3:7-12).
Israel then began to prosper under Solomon’s wise and peaceful rule. The Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s wisdom and fame and came to prove him with hard questions (I King 10). After meeting Solomon, she confessed, “thy fame which I heard” (I Kings 10:7). This shows the results of one who will follow God and ask Him for wisdom and guidance (James 1:5).
But shortly after this, “king Solomon loved many strange woman” (I Kings 11:1). He broke God’s commandment against marrying the heathen and “his wives turned away his heart” (v. 3). From then on, his heart was not perfect with God (v. 4) and he and Israel were on the way down. Compare this with the admonition in James 4:8.
After Solomon’s death, one king after another took over the reigns of government in Israel and Judah. The nation, remember, split into separate kingdoms which warred with one another.
In Israel, the people and every one of the 19 kings followed the worship of the Golden Calf! Many of them served Baal. And how dearly the people paid for rejecting God and wanting human government! The kings of Judah also tended to serve idols, but at times there were great reformations. God witnessed mightily before the people and sent Elijah, Elisha, and other prophets to warn them to return to God. But for the most part, Israel and Judah remained rebellious and refused to turn whole-heartedly to God.
About 721 B.C., Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians (II Kings 17:6). God’s warnings had been to no avail and He was forced to punish them. The temporary reformations in Judah did not last. Judah followed Israel into captivity, beginning 604 B.C. Sometimes it takes a lot of suffering to make us humans realize that our own ways are wrong!
The book of Ezra tells us the Jews’ returned from captivity under Ezra. They rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem under the protection and guidance of God. They began to keep God’s annual feasts (Ezra 3:4 and 6:19-22) and to keep God’s commandments.
Some of the men violated God’s command against marrying foreign wives and were commanded by Ezra to forsake them (Ezra 10). Compare with II Corth. 6:14, by that time those Jews recognized the power of God, and “all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter.”
People today don’t fear and tremble before the word of God! Prophecy tells us that we, too, are going to be punished until we learn to fear and respect the authority of God. Why not study God’s word and learn these lessons without having to suffer in order to learn this precious knowledge?
Human nature is still at work! The people have not yet learned that the way to genuine and lasting happiness is to fear, obey, and love God. Yes, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction! In spite of all its suffering, the world hasn’t learned this simplest of all lessons. Have you?