It’s hard to believe that we are more than halfway through 2017. If you’re keeping up with our Bible reading schedule, we should be wrapping up the Old Testament as we go back and read through 1 & 2 Chronicles, recapping the genealogy and history of Israel before diving into the life of Jesus. If you were able to stick with it through the first half of the year and got through all the genealogies, the lists of countries and peoples who whooped on each other, and the seemingly never-ending cycle of rebellion, rebuke, repentance, and restoration, congratulations! You’ve just read the Bible that Jesus would have known, the Bible that the apostles and the early church would have known and quoted.
It’s easy for the church to focus on the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and it’s easy to focus on the rest of the New Testament as encouragement and guidance. In fact, it’s so easy, that some want to ignore the Old Testament, even avoid it. That would be a terrible mistake.
First, the Old Testament is all about Jesus. From the first words of the text, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and the first words of God, “Let there be light,” we hear Jesus’ voice and see his fingerprints, as John reveals:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5, NIV)
We find the first messianic prophecy about Jesus there in the garden; as soon as the serpent tempted Adam and Eve, God promised Satan’s defeat and mankind’s deliverance (Genesis 3:15). Before Israel was a people, God promised Abraham that through him would come blessing for all, both for his descendants and for the world (Genesis 12:3), and Paul reveals that this was fulfilled for both Jews and Gentiles in Jesus (Galatians 3:8-14). Throughout the Old Testament, there is a hope for God to make good on his promises to Abraham, and even though they didn’t know it at the time, they were hoping for Jesus.
Second, the early church preached Jesus from the Old Testament. After Jesus’ resurrection, when he met the two men on the road to Emmaus, Jesus established the model and spoke of himself, “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, NIV). Peter’s sermon on Pentecost came directly from the Old Testament prophets and history, revealing God’s plan for salvation, the hope of Israel and the world, through Jesus, and it led the crowd to respond in faith, being baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Philip the evangelist convinced the Ethiopian eunuch that Jesus saves from the prophet Isaiah. Everywhere Paul went in his missionary journeys, he started in the synagogues and preached from the Old Testament scriptures. And when Paul trained Timothy to be a preacher, he reminded him:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17, NIV)
There’s good reason for us not to ignore the Old Testament. It is all about Jesus. It helps us to accept and follow Jesus. It helps us to become more like Jesus. It prepares us for sharing the Good News about Jesus. Hold on to the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, so we might all grow in our faith and knowledge of Jesus together.