August 20, 2012
AJ Jacobs attempts to step into the shoes of an Old Testament Jew. He dresses like one, acts like one, and tries his best to follow every rule that God set before the Jews. This quest proves to be quite a struggle and changes his life for an entire year. “A Year of Living Biblically” is an entertaining read but also very enlightening. Though Jacobs is an agnostic before and after he writes the book, Christians can benefit from reading it. Firstly, Jacobs refers to many obscure laws that one may overlook in one’s personal study of the Bible. By watching Jacobs follow the bizarre rules, they become more interesting and easier to learn for the reader. Secondly, Christians can develop a greater appreciation of what Christ did to establish the New Covenant in which those rules are no longer enforced.
OOne way a Christian can benefit from reading this book is by becoming more familiar with Old Testament rules. For example, if a Jew saw an adulterer, he was commanded to stone him, even in a public place. In one instance, Jacobs tells a man in the park about his quest and some of the rules he is required to follow. Jacobs mentions that he must stone adulterers, and the stranger, an adulterer himself, challenges him. Out of obligation, Jacobs tosses some pebbles at the man, which greatly infuriates him. To a Christian reader, that rule now has a story to accompany it and is much easier to remember. It is important that Christians know the law of the Old Testament, and this book is a great way to be familiarized with it.
Secondly, a Christian can profit by reading this book by gaining a greater appreciation for the Jews following the Old Covenant but also by being thankful that it no longer applies. It was a huge sacrifice for Jacobs to take the Bible literally, even for just a year. Old Testament Jews lived that way for their whole lives. By seeing what a modern day Old Testament Jew looks like, Christians today should develop a sense of appreciation for the Jews who followed the Old Covenant- it was not an easy lifestyle. Even more, Christians should be grateful for the ultimate sacrifice Christ paid on the cross, establishing the New Covenant which no longer requires sacrifices for sins.
On the other hand, there are parts of the Old Testament that should be taken more seriously. Honoring the Sabbath is a law that can be easily overlooked. Obviously, Christians no longer treat the Sabbath as Old Testament Jews did, preparing their food the night before and restraining to even pluck a grey hair from their heads. But there are more practical ways Christians can make the Sabbath day restful, such as turning off electronics on Sunday and completing work or homework on Saturday.
A question that arose in my mind as I read this book was, “Why would God require his people to follow these very particular laws?” Some of the laws seemed to have no spiritual value. However, these laws set apart his people. When outsiders looked at Israel, they noticed they were different. Their strict law-following expresses their love for God. Just the fact that the Jews made sacrifices regularly showed how serious they were about their sin. It also showed the beautiful way God bridged the gap between his sinful people and his holy self. Then he permanently bridged the gap when he sent his Son to be the ultimate and perfect sacrifice. “A Year of Living Biblically” is a great read to learn more about the Old Testament rules and religion. More importantly, it should give Christians a greater appreciation for the sacrifice that Jews made to follow God and the incredible sacrifice Christ made to give us easier access to God.