The Old Testament can be confusing – it has places we can’t locate, names we can’t pronounce, nations that are extinct, customs that are foreign, and regulations that are strange. The Old Testament can also be boring – it has laws, genealogies, boundary lists, and other dull material. On top of that, the Old Testament is long – it takes up three-fourths of the entire Bible! It can seem like the Old Testament is outdated and has no meaning or value for us today. This is probably why few Christians read it and few churches teach or preach from it on a regular basis.
A Flawed Trend
Many Christians and churches find the Old Testament hard to understand and decide to ignore it. They even try to justify it because, “We’re a New Testament church!” All the books of the New Testament were written during the first century, but they weren’t put into a single volume until the fourth century. That means the Old Testament was the Bible that was read and used by Jesus, His disciples, and the early church! So let me ask you – how can we hope to be like Jesus or the early church if we decide not to read their Bible?
What the Bible Says
The Old Testament is about Jesus. In fact, Jesus interprets the entire Old Testament in light of Himself! He says to unbelieving Jews, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39). He walked with two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, “and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). So it’s only fair to ask – how is the Old Testament about Jesus?
The Old Testament contains many prophecies about a special person called the “Messiah.” The Messiah would be anointed with God’s Spirit in order to accomplish God’s purposes. He would be both God and man in order to mediate between God and His people. God set apart Israel to be the nation from whom He would bring forth the Messiah. He also gave Israel prophecies about the Messiah so they could put their faith and hope in Him. These prophecies came in two forms:
- Predictions. God inspired prophets to predict details about the Messiah’s life and ministry. These include details about his birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Jesus meets the requirements set forth by these predictions.
- Previews. God used people, events, objects, and institutions as previews of the Messiah’s identity and ministry. Israel’s entire religion and social system pointed forward to Him. Jesus conforms to and surpasses the patterns set forth by these previews.
Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. After reading a prophecy at the synagogue in Nazareth He declares, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). He is the answer to God’s promises to Israel.
What It Means For Us
You should read the Old Testament because it is about Jesus. It will bring new depths of richness to your faith as you see His life and ministry predicted and previewed throughout its pages. It will confirm your faith in Him as the unique Son of God, and make you more persuasive as you present and defend Him to others.
Will it be confusing? Yes. Will it be boring? Yes. Will it be long? Yes. Will it seem outdated, irrelevant, and useless? Yes. But will it be worth it? Yes. If we strive to be New Testament Christians and a New Testament church, then we must devote ourselves to reading and using the Old Testament.
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