Y’all, I have hated on my seminary education long enough. Time for me to give a shout out to what I love about it.
This semester, one of my classes was on the first half of the Old Testament, Genesis – Esther. I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t looking forward to it. The mere thought of reading through Leviticus had me eager to abandon what little devotion to seminary I had remaining – i.e. not much. However, I had heard good things about the teacher so at the risk of abandoning seminary altogether I decided to give the class a shot.
This class rocked my world every Monday morning. I actually found myself looking forward to Monday mornings *gasp* because I knew I would go and get my thoughts on the Old Testament blown wide open for the first three hours of the morning. And here I thought the Old Testament was fairly irrelevant and old school and backwards and couldn’t we just forget it and move on to the Good News of the New Testament.
Let’s be serious, the Israelites pretty much sucked at life and obeying God, meanwhile God seems a little harsh in his list of rules and his treatment of other nations. All that talk of war and rules and sacrifices never made sense to me, nor did it warm my heart, so it was much easier to just skip over it. I didn’t understand the culture of the Israelite people, and to be completely honest, I didn’t understand nor really like the God of the Old Testament. And yes, I just verbalized what many of you have thought about the Old Testament your whole life.
What I have found this past semester is that all those things I have skipped over in the Old Testament my whole life have severely limited my ability to understand the New Testament, Jesus, and the good news of Salvation. Only when I can understand God’s gracious choosing of the Israelite people, his covenant with them, their continual faithlessness, and his never-ending faithfulness, can I even begin to comprehend who Jesus was meant to be to his people. Just as God was faithful to the rebellious Israelites of the Old Testament, He is faithful to our rebellious hearts even now.
I find that as Christmas approaches and I listen to songs such as “O Come O come Emmanuel” – [and here I’ve been getting death threats since my last post for my dislike of Christmas music. Shame. Shame.] – yet another layer of depth and significance regarding Christmas has opened up to me. I haven’t studied the second half of the Old Testament yet, so I don’t have the full story (Does anyone really understand Habakkuk? Anyone?), but I know enough to know that the Israelites were disobedient one too many times and were exiled to foreign lands, just like God told them would happen if they didn’t follow Him and Him alone. Now they are just hanging out in a foreign land in captivity with no leader, no savior, and no king to deliver them from the hands of these foreign nations. And for years, 400 years actually, they hear nothing from God. It seems he has abandoned them. What has happened to their God and to the deliverance he promised? Hence the first verse of my favorite Christmas song:
“Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!”
The arrival of Jesus was the fulfillment of their promised Savior. Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. True, they thought he was going to come with political and military might, and he came as a humble baby in a manger, yet He was the long-awaited savior. He was the fulfillment of all the prophecies and promises to the Israelite people. He had come to deliver his people from captivity. He delivers our captive hearts still today.
Thank you seminary education for teaching me this. I’m sorry I was so hateful about you last semester. Although I’d still rather be out working with cattle than sitting in a classroom philosophizing, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn new and deep truths about my Savior.