Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you try to read the Old Testament? Do you wonder whether or not it is even important for us to read it?
The New Testament teaches us that the Old Testament is indispensable and relevant for Christians! Here are 6 reasons why we should embrace reading the Old Testament:
1. The Old Testament is profitable for Christians today.2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Not only is ALL Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament) the very voice of God speaking to us, but Paul says that it is also ALL profitable for our growth and maturity. Without both the Old and New Testaments, we are ill-equipped to walk in the good works that God has called us to do.
2. We cannot understand the New Testament apart from knowing the Old Testament.The book of Hebrews demonstrates this truth better than any other New Testament book that I can think of. For example, in chapter 11, the writer presents various Old Testament saints in a beautiful, encouraging chapter that we call “The Hall of Faith.” The stories of the men and women listed in The Hall of Faith are found only in the Old Testament. The power of this chapter, and much of the rest of the New Testament, loses its might apart from our knowing the Old Testament.
3. The Old Testament drips with symbolism and realities of Christ.Jesus is present from the very first chapter of the Bible (Genesis 1:26). When Jesus wanted to reveal himself as the risen Christ, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” The “Scriptures” at that time that Jesus used to tell of Himself consisted only of the Old Testament. In John 5:39, referring to the Old Testament, Jesus said about the Scriptures, “It is they that bear witness about me.” As we begin to delve into the Old Testament, we not only see Christ in a few cameo appearances, but we will begin to see Him on every page.
4. We cannot adequately understand and share the gospel apart from knowing the Old Testament.This may be the most crucial reason why we need to read and understand the Old Testament. The Bible is a story of redemption, but if we only read and cherish part of the story, we will never fully grasp the whole thing. We need to step back and see the big picture, and we can only do that by reading all of the chapters in the story.
Right after Adam and Eve distrusted and disobeyed God, God promised that one day He would send a Savior to rescue them and their descendants from the consequences of sin (Genesis 3:15). From that point on, the glorious story of mercy begins down the long road to Calvary’s grace. As we see Jesus on every page, we trace that scarlet thread of redemption throughout the entire Bible, and our understanding of the gospel grows and our faith is strengthened.
5. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.There is no such thing as a “God of the Old Testament” that is different from the “God of the New Testament.” Praise the Lord, He never changes! It is important for us to see certain aspects of God’s judgment and anger in the Old Testament so that we worship God for who He really is. He is a God who judges sin and who will someday destroy the world with fire.
Peter tells us that, by remembering God’s past judgment on the world (The Flood in Genesis 6-8), we understand that there is a future judgment coming. Knowing God in this way affects how we live as Christians, as Peter writes: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God… Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Peter 3:11, 14).
6. The Old Testament was written that we might have hope.Paul says that “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” (Romans 15:4). There are so many ways that we can have hope through the Old Testament, but here are two ways that I trust will encourage you:
- Prophecy. I hear so many people shrug off prophetic books, saying things like, “It’ll all pan out in the end!” or “God says no one knows the day or the hour, so we’re not supposed to understand these things,” or “I don’t want to reduce God down to a bunch of end-times charts and graphs.” Friends!, over 25% of the Bible is prophetic in nature! That 25% of God’s word is profitable for us. When we read prophecies in the Old Testament that have already been fulfilled (i.e., prophecies fulfilled during the 70 year captivity, or fulfilled at Jesus’ first coming, etc.), our faith and confidence grows that ALL the promises of God are yes! He will fulfill every single one, and so we read prophecy and rest in His sovereignty over the future.
- The Law. Have you ever gotten bogged down in the books of Numbers or Leviticus? I know I do! But the glory of these books is Christ Jesus. Have you ever wished you were an ancient Israelite and could live under such strict laws about morality and sacrifice? No, we long for freedom! And that freedom is found in Jesus. Galatians 3:24 says that the Law is our schoolmaster, our teacher, to bring us to Christ, in order that we may be justified by faith. So we read the hard, long books of the Old Testament, rejoicing that Jesus satisfied the requirements of the Law.
I encourage you to mine the riches of the Old Testament! It can be hard work, but with every chapter, look for Jesus, rejoice in the gospel, rest in God’s power and sovereignty, and praise God that Jesus kept the whole Law perfectly in your place. His righteousness is credited to the account of all who put their faith in Him.
(This article originally appeared at ArabahJoy.com)