As we approached 2022, I felt worried and intimidated. After the last three years studying Come, Follow Me, I felt a close connection with those books of scripture that I simply did not think I would have with the Old Testament. To add to this, I was asked to give a talk about the importance of the Old Testament.
When reflecting on my experiences with the Old Testament, a story came to mind. It was told by M. Russell Ballard in the April 2011 General Conference. A young gold miner came to California and was feeling discouraged by his lack of success. When an older miner told him to keep trying, the young man responded by saying that he wanted the kind of gold nuggets he saw bulging in the experienced miner’s pouch. The older miner laughed and opened the pouch to show, not nuggets, but flecks and flecks of gold that together made a sizeable amount. As I pondered about the Old Testament and my experiences with it, I realized that my testimony is much like these flecks of gold–small moments and scripture verses that together make a grand culmination of spiritual experiences and insights that help me draw closer to God.
I first love that the Old Testament has connections with people across religions and culture, as well as time and history. The story of Moses parting the Red Sea is in all four of our books of scripture, multiple times. It’s like a touchstone for humanity reminding us that God is our Savior. Furthermore, the prophecies and words of God shared within the Old Testament are quoted throughout other books of scripture, especially by our Savior. The same stories that I tell my children, the early Saints and pioneers told their children, and the Nephites told their children, and Christ was told by his parents, and so it is for generations.
The Old Testament gives us names for Jehovah that teach us about his relationship with us. Jesus Christ is identified in the Old Testament as “Immanuel” (see Isaiah 7:114). I love the name Immanuel–God is with us. The following scriptures remind me of how Christ is with me, always.
“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Another name that has personal significance to me is Adonai El-Roi–The God Who Sees Me. This name was spoken by Hagar in Genesis 16:13. She was frightened, alone, and felt invisible. God gave her the courage that He was with her. She was seen. God sees us, even when we don’t feel seen or even see ourselves. God sees where we’re going, even when we feel like our faith is taking us into the darkness. The following scriptures remind me of how Christ sees me, even as I feel invisible.
“Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.” Jeremiah 29:12
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10
“Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” Isaiah 43:1
In the Old Testament, Jehovah loves individually and personally. I find connection with the women in the Old Testament more than any other book of scripture. For example, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah all struggled with infertility. As I struggled to have a baby, I turned to these women and their stories. I could feel their pain, hope, joy, and sorrow. And through it all, the Old Testament reminded me that God has a plan for us.
Another time I am reminded of God’s love for each one of us is in 1 Kings 19. Elijah was sad. He sat under a tree and told God he was done. So God sent an angel to comfort him, to give him food and water, to have him take a nap, and to just be with him. I’ve seen the same thing in my life. I’ve had some dark times. After my second son was born, I was almost hospitalized for postpartum depression. There have been angels on both sides of the veil to help me. To comfort me. To bring me physical and spiritual food. And to literally tell me to go take a nap and they waited with me.
There are two specific aspects of the story of Moses that are poignant to me at this point. When he was called as a prophet to lead Israel out of Egypt, he told God, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent….I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue.” I’ve felt similarly in many church callings. And as God essentially told Moses, He’s told me: I made you. “Now therefore go and I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Exodus 4:10-12). Later, when he was leading Israel in the wilderness, he was overwhelmed. His father-in-law said “Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.” (Exodus 18:18) I have felt similarly as I’ve served in some capacities throughout my life. God has shown me how to delegate and rely on Him.
I appreciate that the Old Testament can be valued as is. And even more if we know some of the history and word choice. For example, after everything else had been created, God created a “helpmeet” for Adam. This can sometimes feel diminutive–like a child, a helper. The Hebrew word is “Ezer.” This is used in all of scripture to describe 2 people–Eve (twice) and God Himself (16 times). Ezer means strength, power, rescuer, and protector. Each instance of God was of Him sustaining life of His human creations: preserving during periods of trouble and keeping alive in famine and battle (I learned this in the Meridian Magazine podcast). To me, this sheds light on the role of women and their divine nature.
One last fleck of gold for me is Joshua, 24:15, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15. This was my family’s motto growing up. It reminds me that good choices have good consequences, and bad choices have sad consequences.
At first, when I thought of the Old Testament, it seemed difficult to access and better suited for a scriptorian. However, studying this year has reminded me that my testimony of both this book of scripture and God’s role in my life are built by small and simple things. God’s love for us is infinite and His Son, Jesus Christ, is central to helping us truly access that.