A lot of times Christians tend to avoid the Old Testament, and only read the New. After all all, isn’t that where all the important stuff really is?
While it is true the ideas of Christ’s work on the cross, salvation by grace through faith, and other things are more clearly spelled out in the New Testament, I think it’s important to point out that the New Testament writers didn’t just chuck the Old Testament as unimportant. Rather, time and again, they keep pointing back to the Old Testament. They quote from it, recall stories from it, and draw application from it. Jesus did this, and so did his apostles.
My point? So should we.
Paul starts this chapter by recalling Israel’s journey through the desert on the way to the promised land. He then tells the Corinthians,
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. (6)
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. (11)
In particular, Paul was talking about idolatry, sexual sin, and failing to trust in God. And he said, whenever we read these kinds of stories and the consequences the Israelites incurred because of them, we should take warning and “instruction” (NASB) from them.
For that matter, that’s true of any “Bible story” we read. We are not to read them simply as fairy tales as unbelievers often do. Nor are we to read them as we would read a history book. But as we read them, we are to pray and ask, “God, what are you trying to teach me here? What are you trying to say?”
And when we come to these stories with that kind of heart, God will teach us. It’s the one thing I’ve tried to do throughout this blog. Not simply to relate the facts, but to relate the application to our lives as well.
But as much as we are to read this way for ourselves, we are to do this for our children as well. It’s great, of course, to read Bible stories to our children at night. My wife and I try to do that every night with our daughter. But one thing I always try to do is put in some application, no matter how simple it might be (and it needs to be simple, since my daughter’s only 5 years old). It might be, “God can provide our needs if we ask.” (Feeding of the 5000, or God feeding Elijah in the desert). Or, “It’s important to obey God.” (The story of Adam and Eve).
In short, remember that these are not just “stories.” God meant them for our good, for our instruction.
Do you read them that way?