In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

I thought to say a few words about the Old Testament this evening. We read from the OT frequently at Vespers, and even more during Great Lent. I’ve often heard confusion about the OT – some in the Church, more from Christian groups outside of the Church, and even more from secular society. Many struggle to even recognize that the same God is at work in the OT as in the NT.

God in the OT, to these people, seems to many very harsh, vengeful, unfair, mean – and then Jesus comes along preaching love and forgiveness. Looking at the Scripture through eyes of secular society’s reasoning may in fact leave that impression (if you read very selectively and on a shallow level). But we look at the Scriptures through the eyes of Faith – remember that Christ used selections from the OT to teach people about His ministry.

The whole of the Bible is what we may call the “record of salvation history” – a story beginning with man’s creation and fall, stretching throughout human history, and ending with the coming of the Kingdom and the end of the age in the Apocalypse. Tonight we consider the OT – which we must remember is also a book about a particular people, the Jewish people. These are God’s chosen people – not to the exclusion of all mankind, but chosen as the vessel to be prepared for the eventual coming of the Savior of all mankind. The OT is this story – God growing a people.

When God comes to Abraham, He initiates a relationship with a heathen, pagan people – this is the reality of the history that we often forget. I’d like to touch on a few of those “confusing OT issues” briefly. Remember that God tells Abraham that He will be HIS God – the notion that there is only one true God is introduced slowly, as the people grow to be able to receive it. Monogamy, a touchstone of Christianity, again is slowly introduced to the Jewish people – moving them from pagan polygamists to God-fearing monogamists is done slowly, in the wisdom of God. He never gives more than we can bear. We can consider also something that is often pointed to as particularly brutal in the OT – the people being told to kill the inhabitants of the lands they inhabit. God is slowly teaching them (in a way they can understand) purity of faith, not to mix and mingle or allow the Truth to be watered down – and the practice is quickly abandoned. We can also consider eye for an eye – that law of equal requital (which was very carefully spelled out and of which eye for eye was one representative phrase) was a far cry from the time when you would kill your neighbor for any transgression against you.

So, in brief, this is how we receive and read the OT – as a love story between the Creator of the world and His creation. We watch as He reveals Himself to us and grows us to Himself, and we watch as we continually rebel, and He continually comes to retrieve us and to forgive us and to love us. What a blessing we have to watch this story unfold every time we open and read from the Old Covenant.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Matthew Jackson