The first 39 books of the Bible, referred to as “the Old Testament,” record God’s dealing with the beginnings of humanity and mainly His dealings with the Nation of Israel.
Adam and Eve knew God well, but when they sinned their relationship with God changed. Then they had kids, one of whom killed the other. Presumably, they had never been told not to kill. There is no record that Cain had any dealings with God before killing his brother.
Thus begins God’s progressive revelation of Himself to a people who did not know Him. The OT shows that God is a person with feelings, actions, thoughts and desires. There is no doubt that God takes what we do very seriously.
At the same time, there is no doubt that God is willing to forgive and be patient, merciful and gracious. If He wants to be with people, He kind of has to be!
Many today relegate the OT into oblivion. It has nice stories, we can gain principles, but mostly it’s just there for illustrating lessons for kids. Cain and Abel–be nice to your siblings. Abram and Lot–let old people choose land first lest God turn your wife into salt. David kills Goliath–with God you can do anything, even defeat giants, and other trivial, non-sensicals we pass off to kids as “Bible lessons.”
But the New Testament (everything between Matthew and Revelation) tells us that the Old Testament was written for us.
Romans 4:23-24–“it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;But for us also,”
Romans 15:4–“whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,”
1 Corinthians 10:11-“all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition,”
When wilderness Israel whined about God’s menu choices, many were killed. They weren’t killed for their instruction, they were dead! Dead people can’t learn. They are dead for us to learn.
Are we to sacrifice animals then lest God kill us? Should we build a temple? Should we take over Jerusalem? Should we build an ark?
The answer is “no.” God’s progressive revelation involves shifting programs and different groups of people He’s dealing with. This seems fairly evident and is admitted by all believers, if not in word then certainly in deed.
So what’s the point of reading Leviticus? What’s the point of reading Jonah? What’s the point of reading genealogies in Chronicles? Why bother reading the wackiness of Judges?
If you’re looking for tell me how to pay off my mortgage quicker, or how can I have better sex in marriage, or surefire ways to raise good kids, you will see no point in reading the OT (except Proverbs for the raising kids bit).
In other words, if you’re looking for how the OT makes you a better you, there won’t be much point in reading much of the OT and I think that’s why it gets neglected–we just don’t see what this has to do with me, me, me like everything else in my life.
But if you want to know God, if that’s your desire, the OT is a treasure trove! And you will very quickly learn that God desires our obedience, no matter what age we are in or what people group we belong to.
The God of the OT is pretty straightforward, and He’s the same God we have today.