"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Romans 15:4 (KJV)
Many Christians tend to shy away from some of the greatest Christian teaching available. They focus on the New Testament and specifically the writings of Jesus Christ and tend to place more weight on those portions of God's Holy Word. However, the whole of the Bible is a CHRISTian teaching. Yes, every Old Testament book points to the Christ. An old (now with the Lord) favorite Bible teacher of mine used to say that you had not cleaned the kitchen until the pots and pans are done. He then continued and explained that the pots and pans of God's Word are found in places like first and second Chronicles and other seemingly non-critical books of the Old Testament.
You see, every book points to Jesus Christ - the anointed one. We find from the very beginning God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. These passages (as pointed out in the text reference) "were written for our learning." We must learn to view the Word of God as a whole and not many parts. It is really one book with 66 chapters and numerous sub-chapters. In fact, even in the New Testament the chapter and verse divisions are man-made centuries after the manuscripts were first written. They originally had no chapter or verse breakdown but was rather a single writing or letter. We tend to forget that all of God's Word is there for our instruction. The Bible is a manual for life to be used during this life. Yes, it paves the way for eternal life but it also provides the road map for this life.
After nailing down the fact that these "former" writings are done for our learning then Paul mentions the fact that patience is required. That subject is difficult for many Christians - including this writer. Oh how easy would patience come if it only came quickly! The promises and certainties of God's Word are real but sometimes their fulfillment does not occur as fast as we would like. We first must read and study and pray that God enlighten us to the scriptures but then we must learn to develop patience. This may very likely mean that we don't always get our way and we don't always see "things" happening as we thought they should. Remember, Isaiah teaches that our ways and thoughts are not the ways and thoughts of God Almighty (55:8).
Next Paul mentions the "comfort" of the scriptures. We must learn to view the commands and precepts of God as benefits not burdens. We find comfort in them rather than fear. The closer we become with God in our daily walks the more we appreciate the comfort in knowing His laws and commands serve our best interests. Do we look forward with positive anticipation times spent in worship or Bible study? If not, perhaps we have missed some vital element of our relationship with the savior? If we find the commands of God as something churned out from a dictator we likely will also fail to see the comfort or joy in God's Word. Attitude certainly plays a part.
Lastly Paul mentions the blessing of "hope." So many millions of people on the earth today have no concept of eternal hope. They have no expectation that "tomorrow" might produce joy or comfort. That is a tragedy. God's Word outlines very clearly the "how to" of gaining comfort and joy. It is sad that countless people have no understanding or saving knowledge of God's Word. However, what about those who do have a saving knowledge of Christ yet seem to have missed the joy and comfort of the Lord? That is a double tragedy. They have no excuse because the Word of God so clearly promises joy and comfort. God offers but it is mankind that must either accept or refuse.
Look around at your life. Do you rest in the comfort and assurance of knowing God? Do you regularly include the Old Testament in your spiritual diet? Have you learned to be patient in seeing the promises of God? None of us are perfect and indeed we make mistakes daily but let us strive together to find everlasting comfort every time we pick up the supernatural Word of Almighty God - from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21. May God continue to bless your study of His Word.
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