I had many preconceived notions before I began reading and studying the Old Testament. Ideas and opinions I had heard from others. That it was the difficult and hard to understand section of the Bible. That is was for more historical knowledge. That it had parts of it that were okay to skim right over (lists of names, lists of places, the non-“spiritual” stuff). That this is the part of the Bible where it is okay to pull out a motivational verse even if you don’t understand the surrounding content. I’ve had several conversations with people the past few years where they have said they feel this is the section where God is “mean”, this is the part of the Bible that theologians need to study but not everyone has to. All of these false and deceptive influences on my mind kept me from the Old Testament. Until God showed me that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
All scripture. So with this conviction to read and dig into the Old Testament I began a slow and eye opening journey into God’s Word that is yielding an overwhelming understanding of God’s love for me. I’ve heard some say the New Testament is where we read the gospel and as long as you get that and understand the gospel and the work of Jesus, then you are good. Yet without the Old Testament we can’t see the fuel behind this great act of sacrifice. The gospel fire blazes in the New Testament, it spreads like wildfire but the fuel behind it is God’s immense, never-ending, relentless, love and pursuit of His people. The Old Testament shows us from the first word that Christ was there! In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) and we know from John that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:1-3). The Old Testament shows us God’s plan to save us from the moment sin entered our flesh and our hearts. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15 ) Christ fulfilled this victory over Satan. As I read the Old Testament I see so much of the gospel story. More and more examples and glimpses of the gospel emerge. God is preparing His people and our hearts as we read it for the coming fulfillment of it all! I was reminded in a Bible study this month of one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament that showed us the coming of Christ as our Savior.
“From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.”(Numbers 21:4-9)
When I first read this I remember crying. I was “getting” it finally. God was showing me the beautiful plan and story He was sharing with us in the Old Testament. Since the fall of man, we have been bitten by the fangs of sin, dripping with the venomous promise of comfort, fun, ease, and exaltation of self. This has made us slaves to pride and ego, making humility and trust foreign and unattainable, as the Israelites in this passage displayed. The bitten flesh leaves us with holes filling up with the poison of the world. But God made a way. Any part of us that is sick, ill, lacking or diseased (all of our heart!) can only be healed by the clean, pure, righteous blood of Christ. His blood replaces the poison running through our veins. His blood which was spilled when He was lifted high on the cross is the antidote to the lies and deception and lust and pride our flesh cries out for. We WANT the bite. We want to taste the rancid poison disguised in sweet treats and temporary fulfillment of our desires. Just like the Israelites in this passage though, God brings us to the point of repentance, admitting our sin, kneeling before the Lord asking for the way… The answer… Look to the Savior. When you see Him you will live. It’s that simple. We don’t have to write a dissertation on the cross. We look to Him and follow Him. We don’t have to memorize the Old Testament law. We trust Christ to fulfill it. We don’t have to strive and try our way into the grace of God. He gave us Christ. The free gift we are to simply trust as our Savior. Trust Him to get us out of the pit of sin laden serpents biting at our heels, tempting us to look away and trust our own desires and the world’s answers. Christ defeated our sin when He was lifted up on the cross!! We can be tempted but not slaves to it. We can be disobedient but not condemned when we know Christ as our Savior and God WILL complete the work He started in us. He will show us our sin, bring us to repentance, and lift our eyes back up to the one lifted up for us as we await His return and our eternity with Him.
The Old Testament has been a sweet time with my God. I am doing other Bible studies but when I get back to where I left off in the Old Testament Word I am always excited to see what I am going to learn about my Father. It has created an excitement in me, an anticipation. All of God’s Word should do that for us and it can! No matter where you are reading, it is the living Word of God!! If you ask Him, He will show you His splendor, His power, His place of safety, His character, His will, His wisdom and His love that is big enough for all the world, and intimate enough for you to personally know it. Let our mind and heart be filled with the whole of God’s Word so we can “let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the Lord our God, to walk in His statues and to keep His commandments…” (1Kings 8:61).