The Bible is full of stories of people, their triumphs and their failures. Although they lived thousands of years ago we can still learn from them. But what about those of pre-Christ era? How can the Old Testament be relevant to us today? There are many answers I could give you, but I’ll focus on three main reasons. In my opinion these are the most important ones.
The first one is “who we are” and “who they are”. As mentioned above God’s Word is filled with tales of triumphs and failures of God’s people. We are all humans and so were the folks in the stories. How often do we think before we act? Or try to do something our way instead of God’s way? These are but a few traits we have in common with the ancient Middle Eastern tribes and nations.
The essence of who we and they are is this: we are all human and we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, HCSB). The reason we need to read and study the Old Testament stories is to understand that the problem of sin was just as ramped back then as it is today.
But what is its importance to the Gospel message? Can’t we just learn from the Apostles and the New Testament churches?
That’s possible, aren’t we then missing out on two-thirds of God’s Word?
This brings me to the second reason. If we want to learn from the New Testament churches or be like them (as a new trend in today’s church circles claims) then we need to read the Bible they had. The writers of the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) as well as the Apostle Paul all knew their Scriptures, the Torah, what we call the Old Testament, quite well.
The Old Testament is the backbone of God’s Story. How can one understand the reason for Jesus Christ’s first coming? Or many concepts found throughout the New Testament: temple, sacrifice, glory of God, etc. Many times the gospel writers speak about fulfilment of Scriptures. “But all this has happened so that the prophetic Scriptures would be fulfilled” (Matt 26:56, HCSB). The backbone of the Gospel message is the history of God’s people and His creation.
God. He is the third and most important reason for anyone devout Christian to read and study His Holy Word. Who shows up in every book, in every chapter of the Bible? (Esther and Song of Songs we see God indirectly. These are the only two books where God is never mentioned.)
“In the beginning God…” (Get 1:1a).
“God saw the Israelites, and He took notice,” (Ex 2:25).
“What more can David say to You? You know Your servant, Lord God,” (2 Sam 7:20).
The main character is the entire Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, is God our Heavenly Father. What more reason do we have to read the stories that the first church would have read? God is the protagonist; the humans are the supporting cast. This reason is this: by reading the Old Testament we can see God’s character being revealed. To know the Bible is to get a better understanding of Who our God is.
So why should we read the stories of the Old Testament? 1. The supporting cast are dealing with sin and struggles just like we are in today’s culture. 2. The early church only had the Old Testament as their religious texts. 3. It’s God’s Story. He is the same throughout and it is part of “God’s Holy Word”.
Keeping the Bible in context while we study each passage is important. And when we understand Who the passage talks about and what commonalities we have with the secondary characters then we have a better grasp of personal context that we looked at last week.
The reason why we read the Old Testament can vary from person to person. But we need to keep God at the centre of the Bible and allow Him to do likewise in our daily lives.