Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Uncomplicating The Old Testament

Have you heard sermons that use Old Testament stories as allegories to Christian life? How about Bible Study groups that do so? I remember attending a women's Bible Study group back in the early 1980s, in which we used Alan Redpath's book, Victorious Christian Living as a study guide for the book of Joshua. According to Redpath, the book of Joshua illustrates the progression from salvation (crossing the Red Sea with Moses) to sanctification (possessing the Promised Land).

For instance, Redpath compared Joshua's victory over the five Amorite kings in Joshua 10:16-27 to our triumph over various sins as  Christians. As Joshua executed the king, so Christians must slay our sins (never mind that Jesus already put sin to death through His death on the cross, as Colossians 2:14 explains). By minimizing Joshua 10:16-27 into an allegory, Redpath soothed our post-Vietnam War sensibilities as he assigned us an unscriptural responsibility for our own sanctification.

The Old Testament certainly has lessons that the Lord expects Christians to apply, as Paul asserts in 1 Corinthians 10:6, but it is really an historical book, not a series of analogies. Through the various accounts, we see man's depravity, and we also see the Lord's patient determination to have a holy people. Joshua killed Canaan's inhabitants, not to symbolize a Christian response to sin, but because God didn't want them to lead Israel into idolatry.

Redpath, and teachers like him, encourage us to liken ourselves to Joshua. Scripture, on the other hand, simply presents Joshua as the historical leader who led Israel into the Land that God gave to Abraham. Reading the entire Old Testament has the  value of revealing the Lord's character through His relationship with Israel (and Judah), but we shouldn't fabricate analogies out of every story. The New Testament writers tell us when Old Testament events serve as allegories, and we can leave it there as we appreciate the Lord's wonders in the narrative.

1 comment:

  1. I think perhaps it is a tendency of the flesh to want to read too much into things. My husband is a very simple man who grew up on a farm, I say simple, but not to be confused with stupid, far from it. He just likes to keep things simple and straightforward. I, on the other hand, always seem to complicate everything. Often he will say something to me and in my reply he recognizes that I'm delving deep into murkiness which obscures everything of the meaning of what he said to me. Then he has to laugh, after scolding my silliness, and after explaining that what he said is what he meant and that there was no reason to try to find other meanings.

    Wasn't that what got Eve into trouble in the garden in the first place? Why didn't she stay content with the simple and straightforward? Why did she want to seek after more and the hidden or higher wisdom? What did that bring? The "higher" wisdom of murder, envying, and strife....and every conceivable departure from the good blessings of God. And the devil is still up to his same old tricks I see....


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