Encountering God in the Old Testament

I didn't know what to expect when I signed up for the Origins track at our summer InterVarsity camp. I wanted to study and understand more about the Old Testament, but encountering the living God caught me by surprise.

As a child, I had learned some of the Old Testament stories in Sunday School. I even had a keen interest in the stories of the Israelite monarchy. However, as I jumped into the Origins track, I realied that I had very limited knowledge about the entire Old Testament. I began to see that without wholeheartedly loving and knowing the Old Testament, the New Testament and all of its references to the Old Testament wouldn't make sense the way it was supposed to.

Learning and Growing

As our study sessions went by, I got more and more excited about learning, but what I did not expect was to encounter God in a different way − growing in the knowledge of the LORD, as found in Isaiah 11. As God revealed his character to me, I left each session in awe.

Nothing affected me more than learning about the Exile of the Israelites. I was asked to read aloud a passage from Joel as if I really were a prophet. During the role-play that followed, my peers jeered at me like Israel rejecting the prophets. I felt so sad!

Then, in the very next sessions, we wrote out the names of our own idols on wooden blocks, and that made me examine myself really hard. I felt a lot of weight writing down each idol. We placed these idols in a makeshift temple in the room. Even though it was anonymous, this was a bold step for me, and I felt completely transparent in front of my peers.

My heart was in turmoil and I struggled to be completely honest. I realized there were many times when I was tempted to find a way to twist around God and his Law. I knew this was something I didn't want to do anymore.

Commitment to Change

This compelled me to commit to a renewed covenant with God during Origins. I signed an 'Ezra Pledge' with fellow students in the track. We committed ourselves to being part of a generation that is revolutionary, starting with each person taking a place in God's nation and wholeheartedly loving the Lord.

For me, this unique commitment means that I want to be part of this new, God-centered generation − asking for the Holy Spirit to work through me in the circumstances I am placed in, especially through my campus ministry and church. By examining myself, I was able to see clearly how knowing God gives me hope. 

Through the Origins study, I found how my spiritual identity is crafted and that I am a part of the Israelite story because I am a part of God's family. This made me feel connected to a greater picture that surpasses time and space. Working through my confusion and guilt, I saw where I needed to ask God for his guidance, and recieve peace with who I am.

Studying the Old Testament is different than you might expect! Personally, I always avoided really diving into the Old Testament simply because I did not understand it very well. At times during the Origins study, I felt confused and challenged, but I asked the Spirit to guide me and help me to have a heart that is fully committed and remembers the Lord our God!

And so, along with the history of God's people and the sense that this too is my story, being in the Origins track brought me great joy, which is why I encourage everyone to explore the Old Testament. It's a great place to encounter the living God.


Origins: A Journey through the Bible Jesus Read is an Old Testament survey curriculum for InterVarsity staff to strengthen biblical literacy and theological formation in college students. Its thirteen two-hour sessions are designed to be used at chapter camps. Origins aims to provide an environment for students to encounter the living God, grow in their discipleship, learn the big picture of God’s work of redemption, and deepen their desire to read and study the Old Testament on their own.

About the Author
Student Leader at University of Illinois
My name is Valerie Wong and I am an exchange student from Sydney, Australia. I was born in Indonesia but raised in Australia, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of AFES in Australia, and now being a part of InterVarsity at the University of Illinois. I am currently in my third year studying Finance and Business Law, and I look forward to how much more God is going to work in my life, since my year abroad in America has taught me so much.