Have you ever done a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan? I’m reading through it now, and I’m reading through some of the Prophet books… Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, etc… Sometimes it’s hard to know what to make of them. How do I interpret this? Is it even applicable to me?
Coincidentally, our pastor has been teaching on Amos, which is this tiny book in the Old Testament that is categorized by smart Bible scholar people as a “minor prophet.” What he has to say is anything but minor though. The book’s main theme is How God feels about injustice. Summary: God takes justice very seriously. Appropriately, the title of the series is “Let Justice Flow.”
*update: you can listen to the whole series HERE.
Something our pastor said during this Amos series helped me understand how to read Amos, and these prophetic books of the Bible in general!
Early on in the series, he said that the Old Testament was written under the old covenant with God’s people. Today, we live in the new covenant. Jesus has come and paid the penalty for our sin, so that we can be reconciled to God by believing that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. John 1:12 says, “To those who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” So, if you are a believer in Jesus, you are God’s child. (reference: the entire New Testament).
However, God’s covenant with his people was different before Jesus came, which is when the events in the Old Testament take place. They were held accountable to the law God gave them through Moses. Understanding the law and the various covenants is a whole separate study in and of itself. But the point here is that when reading the Old Testament, we need to learn to ask how is this applicable to me living under the new covenant?
There are lots of answers to that question, depending on what you’re reading. But one answer that might help you no matter what part of the Bible you’re reading is:
GOD IS UNCHANGING
While He has a new covenant with his people, the way He feels about these issues doesn’t change.
For example, Amos 1:11-12 says “Thus says the Lord: ‘because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all compassion and his anger tore perpetually and he kept his wrath, so I will send a fire upon Teman and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.’”
So, it would be wrong interpretation to conclude that God is going to pour out fire from heaven upon us if you are against your brother or have perpetual anger. [Side note – Let’s beware of when people misuse scripture to say that such and such natural disaster is God judging you. That is NOT how God operates under this new covenant. Let’s also beware of judging all Christians by those incorrect Christians who misuse scripture. End side note.]
It would be correct to remember that God does not change. And therefore, if he didn’t want people “pursuing their brother with the sword” or “casting off all compassion” or living in perpetual anger then, he doesn’t want that now. And if he felt strongly enough about it to threaten complete destruction then, he feels that strongly now. What broke God’s heart 3,000 years ago breaks God’s heart today. And it should break mine too.
WHAT ARE YOU READING?
Does viewing the portion of scripture you’re studying through the lens of “God is unchanging,” bring any clarity to the passage? What are you reading? And how does it apply to you under the new covenant? This tidbit really helped me in Bible study this week & I hope it helps you.