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Through the Psalms

Ashlea MassieFaith

Sometimes people wonder what the purpose of the Old Testament is if we have the commands God has given to us in the New Testament. We take our beliefs from the New Testament, so what's the point of the Old Testament?

Psalm 78 gives us a good reason why God wants us to pay close attention to the Old Testament. This Psalm is a Psalm of Asaph, and in it, Asaph says this:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have hard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell them to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

Asaph then explains why the generations to come must know about what God has done for the past generations:

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Asaph gives four reasons on why it was important for his generation to recite the works of God to the younger generations. First, recalling to mind the things God has done in the past helps us to trust in God. The ability to call to mind all the times God helped us in the past gives us hope that God will do the same, even when the future seems bleak. These reminders help to direct our focus on a truth that God will come to our aid, just as He has done in the past. So the first two reasons go hand in hand, recalling to mind the works of God helps us not forget what He has done for us.

The third reason Asaph gives is so that we will keep God's commandments. This might seem like an odd reason for recalling the past, but there are two ways this can be viewed. The first is that remembering how God worked in the past ellicits a response of wonder at God's power. When we remember who we are and who God is, we are better able to keep God's commands, recognizing God deserves our obedience to Him. The second reason could be taken that in recalling what God did for Israel, they also remembered what God did to their enemies. It's a scary thought to think about what happens to those who oppose God.

The fourth reason Asaph gives is to ensure that the younger generation will not repeat the same mistakes their forefathers made. There was a purpose behind knowing all of this historical information.

So if Asaph urged the Israelites to recall the deeds of the Lord from the past, how much more should we as Christians do the same? It seems like that's the reason for the Old Testament. It serves as our guide of how we should not behave, how we should fear God's punishment upon the Israelites, and it also gives us hope of how God led His people through the wilderness with the promise of an even greater hope of the Messiah to come. They couldn't see the fulfillment like we can; all they could see was one side of the picture, and yet God still led them.

That's the way it is with us. We can only see half of the picture, this side of Heaven. We cannot see the fulfillment of our eternal life in Heaven yet, but we know God is guiding us toward that. We are better able to understand this when we see how God led His people and still continues to lead us today. So take some time to reflect on the Old Testament. Don't dismiss it as pointless information irrelevant to today. It's very relative to today, serving as a reminder for all of us!

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