The pages of the Old Testament are like a lens through which we can see something of the lives of some remarkable men. Their lives and thoughts brought the people of their time into touch with God. Some we can see clearly, others only faintly. But what they did and said or inspired others to write are a treasure for us today.
What is being commemorated under the heading of “Holy Men of the Old Testament” is not some idea of achieved sanctity and perfection, but the fundamentally biblical idea of holiness as separation for the purposes of God. So it is a commemoration of those who in particular pointed to the way of God for Israel under Israel’s covenant with God.
The story spans many centuries, beginning with Abraham, who went out in faith, not knowing where he was going, but in obedience to God. Moses played an important part, not only in the escape from Egypt, but in fashioning the liberated Hebrew slaves into God’s people. Joshua led them into Canaan. Samuel, judge and kingmaker, provided some important new directions, and David, as king, poet, and musician, became the focus of many of Israel’s aspirations and gave them words to sing the Lord’s song.
In Israel’s turbulent history, the people found faithfulness to the covenant hard, and were recalled to their purpose by prophets such as Amos, Hosea and Isaiah, who did much to link the worship of God with the building of a just society. In the devastation of the exile to Babylon, Jeremiah and Ezekiel again reinterpreted Israel’s vocation, and the anonymous prophet at the end of the exile who added to Isaiah’s words looked beyond restoration to a new heaven and a new earth.
Haggai and Zechariah were part of the restoration after the exile, and then Israel was eventually rebuilt under the determined leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra in the next century. The story did not end there, and the later lives of the Maccabees provided stories of the heroism and endurance of those who sought to remain faithful to the covenant of God with Israel. Then came another turning point, as Jesus and the early church were seen in the Christian tradition as the inheritors of this vision and this purpose.
For Liturgical Use
The word “holy” in the title, “Holy Men of the Old Testament”, is not so much about an achieved sanctity or perfection as about particular people who played important roles in interpreting to Israel the purposes of God in the covenant. The story can be traced from Abraham, through Moses, Samuel, David and the prophets to those who, sometimes at great personal cost, kept reminding Israel of its call, and laying the foundations of our own historical faith. We are their descendants and inheritors.
We have heard with our ears, O God, we have learned from our ancestors the things you did in their time in days of old. Psalm 44:1
you bound your people to yourself in a covenant of grace,
and sent patriarchs and prophets
to keep them faithful in their journey;
grant that we who are heirs of your promise
may be true to the challenge of the gospel
and its demands of love;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Blessed are you,
God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob,
of Moses, of Joshua, of Elijah,
and of all the men your covenant produced;
we pray you grant us their faith and resolution.
Anglican Psalm 119:81-88 only
Post Communion Sentence
You that seek the Lord, look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Isaiah 51:1 (adapted)
- Liturgical Details -By Unknown(?)Holy Men of the Old Testament August 1st.rtf,downloaded 01 August 2016.
- Image attribution – By Herrad von Landsberg – Hortus Deliciarum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31440336
- Suggested Readings are from the Roman Lectionary – Catholic Online. 2016. Daily Reading for Monday, August 1st, 2016 – Daily Readings – Bible – Catholic Online. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.catholic.org/bible/daily_reading/. [Accessed 01 August 2016].