How well would you say you know the Old Testament? Does your knowledge of the Old Testament stem mainly from Bible stories back when you were in Sunday school? Do you know it relatively well… enough to ace a Bible trivia, or have you spent years poring over those 66 books in some intense theological studies?
Most of us probably fall into the first two categories. We know enough to get by, and remember enough to Google search a passage we may vaguely remember. But when it comes to understanding the depth, meaning, and importance of the Old Testament, many of us have a rather foggy idea of it as a whole.
We tend to be of the impression that the Old Testament is all about the Law and the Israelites and has nothing to much to do with us modern day Christians because everything in the Old Testament became obsolete when Jesus came to Earth in human form and basically contradicted everything in the Old Testament… Well, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Old Testament has everything to do with us Christians today because the Old Testament is all about Jesus. In a way, you could say that the Old Testament is a very, very long prologue to the New Testament.
It demonstrates God’s love for His people—His persistence and patience, as well as His anger and wrath. It paints a picture for us of this God we serve that is all loving and gentle, yet so full of righteousness and holiness that He burns as an all-consuming fire.
The Old Testament reveals God’s heart to us. It shows us how He is grieved when we rebel, and how He rejoices when we obey. If we think about it, the Old Testament is really thousands of years worth of an epic love story between God and His people. It is a story of a relentless lover who continually pursues His bride despite her repeated rejection.
And so we agree that the Old Testament is not just vital to the Christian faith, but compulsory, right? We literally have nothing to build on if not for the Old Testament. We won’t know where we came from or have any knowledge of God’s power or mercy. We wouldn’t understand our fallen nature or that we are all guilty of sin. God’s love wouldn’t really mean anything to us, and His Son would mean even less.
I mean, some guy who lived some 2000 years ago who claimed to be the Son of God…? It’s a pretty far-fetched story. Without the 300++ historical prophecies from the Old Testament that Jesus fulfilled, and without even an introduction to His apparent “Father” who “loved the world,” why would we have any reason to put all our faith and trust in Him? What does redemption and forgiveness even mean? Why do we need it?
Without the Old Testament, the New Testament would be irrelevant. It would be nothing more than just a bunch of books compiled by a council of old people from a long time ago who then fooled our forefathers into believing to be God’s inspired and inerrant Word.
But we do have the Old Testament. And because of the Old Testament, the New Testament is so much more valuable to us. Not just because it validates and justifies the New Testament, but because of the extent to which God went to bring us to Him. And this is the part where it gets a little tricky. Although our Christian faith is built on the Old Testament, and although removing it from our doctrine would be as good as dilapidating Christianity itself, the Old Testament was not written for us.
Not exactly the most encouraging realization, is it? Well…lol. Too bad. That’s just a fact. The Old Testament—The Old Covenant—The Law… They were written for God’s chosen people. That’s not us. That’s Israel. And so when it comes to the Law, and the Jewish practices and their culture, it is imperative for us Gentiles (non-Jews) to understand, recognize, and accept what does and does not apply to us.
Just because the Old Testament is the foundation of our faith does not mean that everything in it should be taken to refer directly to us. God’s laws and commands reflect back on His nature—His wisdom and His righteousness. None of that has changed. He remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore, it would be right and wise for us to keep the laws that are in line with His character so that, as His children, we do not dishonor Him.
But when it comes to Jewish rites, we need to be careful not to claim the promises and covenants that were not made to us. We need to bear in mind that before Christ died on the cross at Calvary, a relationship with God was not even an option for us—not unless we converted and became Jewish in every way. It is only because Christ lay down His life on the cross and became the bridge to the Father for all of mankind that we now have access to God.
This should not leave us feeling bleak or of lesser value. In fact, it gives us all the more reason to praise and thank God for the New Testament! When we read about all the Israelites had to do just so they could approach God’s holy presence, Christ’s atonement on the cross for our sins carries so much more weight. How much more apparent is God’s immense grace for us when we understand the magnitude behind the torn veil!
Through our redemption in Jesus, we are able to come to God just as we are. We have no need for a priest to act as a mediator between us and God, because Jesus became our high priest when He gave His life up for us and then overcame death. Not only did He cleanse us of our sins so that we may stand righteous before God, He also gave us His Holy Spirit to dwell in each of our hearts.
So know your Old Testament. It may not all apply to us personally, but it reveals God’s heart to us, and it amplifies His love for us which He demonstrated in full through Jesus in the New Testament. It is through the treasured Old Testament that the New Testament is worth cherishing.
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