For Christmas 1942, my parents gave me a book, “Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible.” For the first time, I could read the Bible for myself. You can well imagine a first grader would have difficulty reading the Bible. This book was written with children in mind, and I could read and understand.
The “Story of the Bible” is written chronologically, so the first biblical records I read for myself were from the Old Testament. The accounts of the Garden of Eden, Noah and the flood, Joseph forgiving his brothers, Daniel and the lion’s den and others made a vivid impression on my young heart. During the months that followed, I felt the first stirrings of God’s call into the ministry. As you might expect, I love the Old Testament!
In college, I took a required Old Testament class. Early on, a bright, brassy student challenged the professor, “Why do we need to study the Old Testament? It’s the New Testament that tells about Christ, and we are Christians.” The wise, kind professor replied, “If you do not know the Old Testament, there is much of the New Testament you will not understand.” He was quite right.
Many times, those Old Testament lessons have blessed and guided my life. In the early 1960s, I was pastor of my first church following seminary. The civil rights movement was gaining steam. African Americans were testing our faith by attending our churches. There was a discussion in our deacons meeting about what to do if they came to our church.
For some time, I listened to some very unchristian rhetoric. As I listened, I realized I would have to take a stand that would not be popular. It might even result in my dismissal. I remembered the words of three Hebrew boys — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. When faced with bowing down to an idol or being thrown into a fiery furnace, they said, “We don’t know if God will protect us from the fire or not, but we must do right. We will not bow down to your idol.”
When the deacons finally asked my opinion, I was prepared to say, “I believe your attitude as well as your theology is quite wrong.” After that, I suspected I might be asked to resign. The rest of the meeting went as follows, “Pastor, tell us what you think.” I replied, “I will, but you are not going to like it.” That was as far as I got. They knew they were wrong. The subject was quickly changed.
That is one incident when the Old Testament blessed my life. I could tell you more. I repeat — I love the Old Testament.
Wade Paris writes a weekly syndicated column, “The Shepherd Calls.”