For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
A lot of us misunderstand the Old Testament.
Some of us think it records the story of a vengeful, unmerciful, wrathful God, whereas the New Testament talks about a God of love and grace…even though the Psalms sing repeatedly of God’s everlasting love and mercy and Acts 5 informs us of him killing a husband and wife on what we would perceive to be a minor offense.
Some of us think that some of the Old Testament commandments and practices are still binding today…some of them, but not all of them, in spite of what the apostle said (Gal. 5:3).
Some of us recognize the truth that the Old Testament foretold of its replacement with a New Testament (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:7-13) which took place at the cross (Eph. 2:14-15; Col. 2:13-17)…but as a result hardly study the Old Testament and resent it when sermons are preached from it, thinking a study of Genesis through Malachi to be irrelevant.
Yet, even though the Old Law was taken out of the way at the cross, the Holy Spirit still inspired Paul both in today’s scripture passage and also in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 to declare to Christians that they need to study it. The Old Testament (“whatever was written in former days”) was written “for OUR instruction.” Ours. Christians. The Old Testament instructs us. To see how, read the book of Proverbs alone. In addition, take note of how God reacted when men disobeyed the laws he had for them in that covenant (e.g., Nadab and Abihu, Uzzah, Adam and Eve, Saul, Moses, David). See how patient he was with them while they sinned and how quick he was to forgive them when they repented (David comes to mind when he repented of the sin with Bathsheba.) See these great men and women of faith shine as examples of faithful obedience (Noah building the ark, Eli’s charitable taking in of Samuel)…and yet still sin in terrible ways at times (Noah getting drunk, Eli being a terrible parent). The Psalms teach us not only about God’s mercy and blessings, but also how to praise him and pray to him in good times and bad. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, has 176 verses, all of which extol the virtues and blessings that surround studying and obeying the Word of God.
All of these examples and more are found in the Old Testament, and when we read them and commit them to our hearts and minds…what happens? We learn more about God and his will for us. We learn how to endure through difficult times, and we are encouraged to keep on keeping on. In short, we get hope.