This one I heard after we had studied the Minor Prophets on Wednesday evenings several years ago. Why should we be studying all these old stuffy hellfire and brimstone preachers when they aren't even talking about us anyway?
Aren't they? The biggest mistake we can make is to assume that things in the Bible do not apply to us. Why in the world do we think God saved them for us? For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Rom 15:4). By studying how God dealt with those people we can learn the character and nature of God. We can learn what pleases and displeases him. Sadly, we can learn that we aren't really any different from those people and our nation is going the way of that one. That makes those passages a warning we need to heed if we hope to survive where they did not.
But sometimes I hear from young women teaching my own Bible study material in other places that they not only hear that question, they also have people actually becoming upset because things are being taught that they never heard before, and that their old view of a specific Bible event was inaccurate. Never mind that these "new things" are solidly supported by scripture or other documentation. If they didn't know it or never heard it, it can't be true or if it is, it can't be important. That is exactly what our friends and neighbors do when we try to teach them the truth of the Bible. Any excuse is good enough if it gets us off the hook.
But why would anyone want to find an excuse not to learn something new? Yes, it changes a lot of preconceived notions and wrong pictures we have in our heads about Biblical narratives when we do a little study of culture, when we carefully read and reread the scripture and actually find things we have missed all these years. And that means we have probably been teaching our children wrong things, too. Check those Bible story pictures we put out for them to color. A lot of them are just plain wrong! Don't we want to teach our children correctly? We had better because God will hold us accountable for what we teach. Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness (Jas 3:1).
"But it's such a little thing," I often hear about some of the things that I point out. Well, it may be, but what about the next thing and the next? As one of my newer students said in class one day, "You keep getting the little things wrong and soon the whole thing is wrong." As another one put it, "Knowing things like ages [that take time and math to figure out] can help you understand motivations better. Suddenly it makes sense that Rebekah would follow her husband's instructions about pretending to be his sister when you know he was old enough to be her father and she was very young." It might not make it right, but you can see how it would happen much more easily.
And really, how can anyone ever say about the Word of God, "Why do we have to know that stuff anyway?" Doesn't that display an attitude we should abhor? There may be deeper things that we can learn over time because they do not affect the "now" urgency of salvation, but that doesn't mean we ignore them forever. It should mean we are more eager to get to them than ever before.
Give instruction to a wise person, and he will become wiser still; teach a righteous person and he will add to his learning. Prov 9:9