How much have you read and explored the Old Testament?
I don’t mean just reading the typical stories you see in a children’s Bible storybook, but actually reading through entire books?
I personally haven’t read the entire Old Testament, but I’m currently on track to with my Bible reading plan.
It’s fair to say most Christians prefer the New Testament – why read about the Israelites wandering in the desert when you could be reading about Jesus walking on water?
However, the Old Testament isn’t pointless. It’s not just boring laws and genealogies and prophecies; it’s an essential part of the story of God and his people. In 2 Timothy it 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 in every good work” (3:16).
All Scripture is important, not just the New Testament. So today, I’d like to give you four reasons to start exploring the Old Testament.
1. Understand the New Testament
First of all, reading the Old Testament helps bring a stronger understanding of the New Testament. For example, in John 8:48-59, Jesus is talking to the Jews. In this interaction, Jesus tells them that he has seen Abraham. Now read this:
“So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8:57-59)
This passage could be a little confusing if you aren’t familiar with the Old Testament. Who is Abraham, and why are the Jews making a big deal about him? What would lead the Jews to stone Jesus?
By reading the Old Testament, we can learn these things and more easily understand that Abraham was the father of the nation of Israel, so he would have significance to the Jews. (Genesis 17:1-14)
The name ‘I AM’ is the name God gave Moses in the wilderness for himself (Exodus 3:13-17). By claiming to have that name, Jesus is claiming to be God, which the Jews saw as blasphemy. We know, of course, Jesus is God, but they didn’t see that back then.
It’s helpful to be familiar with these stories in the Old Testament so that we can understand the reasoning of the Jews against Jesus.
2. Understand the Meaning of the Gospel
Reading the Old Testament also helps us understand the meaning of the Gospel. The idea of a sacrificial lamb was not a new concept. In Leviticus, the priests of Israel had to follow specific steps in preparing animal sacrifices for God as the atonement of their sins (Hebrews 9 further explains).
Knowing this makes the Gospel even more real. Jesus is called the Lamb of God, and was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He never sinned, and gave up his life willingly for us and took our place.
3. Understand God’s Plan
Third, reading the Old Testament helps us know God better. We see his plans from creation to redemption. From Abraham to King David to the prophets to Jesus, we can see his plan unfolding across the stories of the Bible. We can learn more about who God is and learn that even when things look hopeless God is still working.
An example of this is Ruth.
Ruth, a Moabite, was married to an Israelite for ten years and never had children. When her husband died, she decided to go with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Bethlehem. Things were pretty bad; they were widows with no one to provide for them.
But God was still working. Ruth went to glean for food at a field where she met Boaz. After a while, Boaz ended up redeeming and marrying Ruth. Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David of Israel. Many years later, Jesus would come from the line of David.God can take the worst situations and use them for his will and purpose. Click To TweetThere are plenty of other stories in the Old Testament that explore this as well.
We can also read about prophecies of Jesus’s coming. In the 2nd Psalm, it says:
“I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:7).
This is another example of how we can see God’s plan at work from the beginning. There are hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus, and the chances of one man fulfilling them all is extremely small. But Jesus did it, and it’s amazing to look back and find these prophecies and how they came to pass in the New Testament.
4. Jesus Himself Knew The Scriptures
I’m sure we’ve all heard about the story of Jesus being tempted. In Matthew 4, Jesus is in the wilderness fasting when the devil comes to tempt him. Three times the devil tempts Jesus, and three times Jesus replies with Old Testament scripture from Deuteronomy.
In Ephesians, Paul calls us to be imitators of God. Thus, if we want to become more like Jesus, reading and studying all of the scriptures, both Old and New, is important.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Reading the Old Testament can be hard. Laws and prophecies can be difficult to understand, and our attention may waver when reading them.
Should we give up? No! We clearly have reason for reading the Old Testament—we just have to commit to it and ask God to sustain us. I recommend doing it with a friend or getting some accountability to get started.
Remember the words of 2 Timothy as you go embark on your new quest: all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for your growth as a Christian.