My Ten Favorite Old Testament Passages
Everyone who loves the Bible has favorite passages. Some people even have what they refer to as “life verses.” When I’m asked what my favorite passage in the Bible is, I struggle because I have a hard time coming up with just one. Recently I read an article entitled, “10 Old Testament Passages that Shape How I Think About God,” by Peter Enns. I do not always agree with what Enns writes, but I found his choice of passages interesting and was encouraged by reading them. I also gained two other benefits: 1) I learned something about Peter Enns; what is important to him and why; and 2) it challenged me to think of my ten favourite Old Testament passages. So the idea for this post is not original, I owe it to Enns, but the passages are my own. I hope you will enjoy reading them. Hopefully, they will encourage you. No doubt, they will teach you something about me, and most of all, I hope you will be inspired to draw up your own list of favorite passages.
1. Genesis 15:6–“And he believed the Lord and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” This passage refers to Abram’s trust in God’s word, when the Lord told him he would have a son. That faith was simply based on God showing Abram the stars of the heavens and declaring “So shall your descendants be.” Of course, Paul’s treatment of this text in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 has greatly influenced my life. As a young man, I frequently depended on my own righteousness, which was nothing but a “self-righteousness.” I’m grateful for the truth that I am “justified by faith apart from deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28).
2. Genesis 50:20–“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” I am greatly encouraged by Joseph’s ability to see the “bigger picture,” and to know that whatever happens in this life is under the control of an all-powerful God whose plans are good. His willingness to forgive rather than hold a grudge is liberating. Since the elected are always rejected in Scripture for the sake of others’ salvation, I know that God’s plan for my life is a good one in spite of the hardships I may face. In fact, God is so gracious that He will use my suffering in order to bring blessing to others. This is the path of the cross that my Savior walked and the path that He bids me to follow (Mark 8:34).
3. Numbers 6:24-26–“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” This passage, and one other below (1 Sam. 16:7), are also on Enn’s list (sorry Peter, hopefully you won’t mind, after all, it’s nice to have favourite verses in common with others. I’ll bet some of you really like this verse too!). This verse has been a favorite Old Testament passage ever since I used to sing it with my youth group growing up. In the Calvary Chapel church tradition, these are the verses that Pastor Chuck Smith always used to end the morning service with. Lately I have had a desire to meditate more deeply on this passage and to find out exactly what is meant but each expression. It is certainly a deep, rich, and beautiful blessing.<img class=" wp-image-1267" src="https://www.biblestudywithrandy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/shema.jpg" alt="Deuteronomy 6:4-5, also known as the Shema is quoted everyday by faithful Jews.” width=”171″ height=”128″ /> Deuteronomy 6:4-5, also known as the Shema is quoted everyday by faithful Jews.
4. Deuteronomy 6:4-5–“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” How do you not include “the greatest commandment” on a list of favorite Old Testament passages? Actually, this is a verse I have spent about 7 years (off and on) meditating on. I have preached on it a number of times. Perhaps one day I will explore it in more depth on this website. Most importantly, these verses should guide our every thought, word, and action.
5. Joshua 24:15–“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I find this to be a very contemporary verse. It is as if Joshua is still challenging us. We live in a pluralistic society. If we are not politically correct, we are not tolerated. There seems to be tolerance for all, except those who commit to the biblical standard of one God. If we quote Jesus and say the way is narrow that leads to life (Matt. 7:14), or insist that no one comes to the Father but by Jesus (John 14:6), we can be assured that our viewpoint will not be welcomed. A world that calls for a tolerance of all beliefs is, ironically, not tolerant of those who express their belief in the one true God. Joshua’s statement takes courage and faith. It also returns us to the truth that the elected will be rejected!
6. 1 Samuel 2:30–“Therefore the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the Lord says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.” When forced to name a favorite Old Testament passage, this is the one that most readily comes to my mind. It may seem like an odd verse to have as a favorite, but my love for this passage stems from my understanding of 1&2 Samuel and the integral part this verse plays in its theology. If it is true as the Westminster Shorter Catechism says that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,” then honouring God is our primary objective in life. Paul puts it this way: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This verse, however, is an explanation of how God responds to our actions of honouring or dishonouring Him, and why some are “lifted up” by the Lord, while others are “brought low” (see Hannah’s words, 1 Sam. 2:6; my post on Sovereignty and Free Will in 1&2 Samuel, or my book Family Portraits: Character Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel, which explores this idea in more depth).
7. 1 Samuel 16:7–“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” This passage is a constant reminder not to judge by the outer cover–something that I, and every other human being I know, does! The new students I meet each semester are a reminder of this truth. It is interesting how quickly I can form an opinion based on an initial meeting. By the end of the semester, however, my understanding of certain students is totally transformed by the frequent interaction and fellowship that we have shared.
8. 2 Samuel 24:24–“Then the king said to Araunah, ‘No but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.” I know, this is my third passage from 1&2 Samuel, but if I’m choosing my favorite Old Testament passages and 1&2 Samuel are my favorite books, then what can you expect? I am actually restraining myself, as I could easily add a few more! I often think of this verse during worship when I find myself mouthing the words of a song without singing them from the heart. It is easy to “go through the motions” or to allow tiredness to keep me from giving my all. This is also true of my work, my Bible study, or whatever I do. God is worthy and He deserves my best. If I am going to “honor Him” as 1 Sam. 2:30 reminds me that I should, then I should not be seeking to take the easy way out. In fact, I should find pleasure when my devotion to God costs me something. It certainly cost Jesus something to purchase my salvation.
9. Jeremiah 20:9–“Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.” When I was in Bible college, and also as a young pastor, Jeremiah was my favorite Old Testament book. I was fascinated by his story and the power of his preaching. Jeremiah reminded me that I had received a holy calling. That calling is not always easy because it inevitably brings conflict. I suppose that this was my introduction to what is becoming the theme of this post, “we are elected to be rejected.” Not that I had it as bad as Jeremiah, but there are always times in ministry when it is tempting to “throw in the towel.” Even though Jeremiah had times when he wanted to give up, yet he was faithful for over 40 years to proclaim God’s word in the most difficult of circumstances.<img class=" wp-image-1273" src="https://www.biblestudywithrandy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/jesus.png" alt="Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 on 2 occasions in the Book of Matthew (9:13; 12:7)” width=”223″ height=”167″ /> Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 on 2 occasions in the Book of Matthew (9:13; 12:7)
10. Hosea 6:6–“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” The word translated “mercy” in this passage is hard to translate with one English word. It carries the meanings of loyalty, faithfulness, and stedfast love. Like 1 Sam. 16:7, this passage reminds me that life with God is never about externals alone. Ritual only has significance in the context of a relationship. If two people are not committed to each other, they can go through the ritual of a wedding ceremony, but only in developing a relationship will they have a true marriage. When I was a young Bible College student, I read a book by J. I. Packer entitled “Knowing God.” That book transformed my relationship with God as I learned what it really meant to “know Him” in a biblical sense. Prophets like Hosea and Jeremiah have a lot to say about knowing God and this was another reason that I was drawn to them and their message.
What Are Your Favorite Old Testament Passages?
Perhaps now that you have patiently waded through my top ten favorite Old Testament passages, you will consider what yours are. If you do, I want to invite you to leave one or two of them in the comment section below with a short note on why this particular Old Testament passage is a favorite of yours. In the future I will do a post on my 10 Favorite New Testament passages and will look forward to hearing yours as well.