“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Brevity and profundity are hallmarks of Scripture. Paul’s statement above is a robust demonstration of these two telltale traits of God’s revealed will. This single sentence (brevity) contains four pertinent, profound points about the distinctive characteristics of divine revelation.
The “things written before” (i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures) are:
Relevant. Even though the generation of every Old Testament penman has passed, their writings are profitable for our learning. We can benefit immensely from their instruction.
Specific. God’s hand can be seen throughout all of His creation (Psalm 19:1-6). His invisible attributes of eternal power and sovereign superiority are clearly on display therein (Romans 1:20). But, even more specifically, He has expressed His will in writing. “It is written” is the watchword of Scripture, not “The Lord has placed this on my heart”.
Instructive. Growth in knowledge through divine teaching is an expressed purpose for Scripture. This is not utopic babble; rather, it is intended to be a continual reality for you and me.
Practical. Paul lists three practical blessings a diligent Bible student can glean from a sustained study of Scripture—patience (endurance to persevere in trials), comfort (renewed strength in times of loneliness and difficulty), and hope (confident optimism about the future because of God’s nature and promises).
What blessings permeate the “things written before”!