I was never one for soccer. Games going on forever without a break + few goals scored =completely boring. Then, in the summer of 2010, I didn’t have much going on, so I joined some friends for the televised World Cup matches. And since we’d be watching at a bar, at least I wouldn’t stay thirsty.
The rest of the group was pretty amped for the matches—none of which included the US team. They knew the major players, the teams’ strengths and weaknesses. I watched the ball volley up and down the field.
At some point, my friend Tom, who had played soccer in college, explained the major rules and pointed out what was good or bad in the plays. When he did, the whole game opened up. Now I actually understood what I was watching, and this allowed me to develop an appreciation for the game that casual watching didn’t provide.
In some ways, the Bible is like soccer. For me, anyway.
I read a few lines here and there, saw re-enactments of key scenes (birth of Jesus, for example), sat through films that have adapted its stories, and even read lines held up on handmade signs at demonstrations (like those who picket Pride events) or at Baseball games (I can’t wait to find out what John 3:16 means).
So I figured I’d had enough of an impression to form an opinion. But what I read in the Old Testament didn’t really fit with that impression. Sure, some of it did—a small part, actually—but most of it is either glossed over or completely ignored when the Bible surfaces in conversation. It’s a shame, for what is often not held up all that often—at least where I would come into contact with it—is pretty interesting at times.
What makes these parts interesting? The stories and the messages imbedded in these tales.
Moses – You probably know his story already so I won’t rehash it here. However, it’s worth posing this question: Has there ever been a man who took on so much while getting so little in return? (Well, in the Old Testament, no.) Sure, he had God’s help, but it took a lot of faith to trek to Egypt and confront Pharaoh and then hold his band of Israelites together as they made their way to the promise land—and as the Old Testament makes clear, this was the hard part. These people complained the whole way, and, in general, made his life difficult.
David – As a boy, he placed himself in harm’s way (against Goliath) because he felt like it was the right thing to do. And then, he shunned celebrity and retained his loyalty to a king (Saul), even when the king tries to kill him. Says a lot about one’s devotion/loyalty to one’s community.
Esther – She puts her own life in jeopardy for the sake of protecting her people. And she does so without God’s help (one of the few Old Testament books without God’s explicit presence).
Noah – And talk about faith. This guy builds a massive ship and loads it up in order to avoid the flood that no one else believes is coming. The aftermath of the flood—as he releases the dove to search for confirmation of receding waters—comes to symbolize peace.
Ezra – Out of all the strong messages, this Bible book contains the real chestnut. Ezra is to escort his people out of Babylon and back to the ravaged/sacked Jerusalem. The king has had an epiphany of sorts: religious tolerance. Just because the Israelites believe something different than the king doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be respected and allowed to live their lives freely. Should this not be one of THE messages one should take from the Bible?
I may never plow through the Old Testament again—just as I may never spend marathon days following the World Cup. But just as I appreciate soccer now, having had the game explained, I now appreciate the Bible in ways I never could had I not read it all the way through. I probably won’t remember every passage or detail, but I will remember these strong people and the messages their journeys convey.
The people who rely on others to tell them what’s in the Bible miss out on some of this richness.
Up Next: Homosexuality in the Old Testament