Question: There are many passages in the Old and New Testament that appear to be conversations between individuals or groups of people many, many years ago. I don’t always understand how a conversation between people hundreds of years ago is also supposed to be for me as an individual today. When Jesus was talking to others giving instructions etc., were his words not directed to that particular circumstance or person? How can I understand that all the passages or written words in the Bible apply to me today? I hope this question makes sense to you, because it doesn’t sound like I’m communicating very well. I guess you can see than I’m confused.
Answer: Just because something is old doesn’t mean it can’t help us today. Some of the most profound wisdom about love, relationships, and basic human need was written by people like Plato, Cicero, Shakespeare, and Lincoln hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Yet we don’t say, “Well, since the Declaration of Independence was written more than 225 years ago, all that stuff about human rights and freedom doesn’t really apply to us today.” No, we treasure those documents because they transcend time. A truth about freedom or justice is true no matter when it was written.
This especially holds true for the Bible, the greatest book ever written. Even people who don’t accept what the Bible says about God and Jesus and the condition of the human race will agree that it is the most influential book ever written. The conversations recorded between real historical characters are some of the most memorable in all of history. When you consider the fact that the Bible is about God, the creator of the universe, and Jesus Christ, God’s only Son sent into the world in real time, then the Bible becomes even more remarkable. Think of it. The Bible is God’s word to humanity. Even more, it’s His personal message to you, someone he created and knows intimately and loves extravagantly.
Now, we will admit that the Bible can sometimes be overwhelming. The events happened so long ago in a different culture and a different part of the world. Yet there is much we can learn. The thing is, it takes effort. Yes, you can read the Bible without knowing anything about the background of a particular book or passage and get something out of it. But when you know the history, the circumstances, and the reasons behind the writing, then it becomes much more clear and enjoyable. Not only that, but you can better apply the message to your life.
You are very wise to be concerned about applying the Bible to your life. The Bible isn’t just a book to read and admire. Because the Bible is the inspired word of God, it is intended to show you how to live. Here’s what the apostle Paul wrote to his young disciple, Timothy:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do (2 Timothy 3:16).
So whether you are reading a story about Abraham in the Old Testament or the words of Jesus in the New Testament, you can apply what you read to your life.