Read the Old Testament

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

In yesterday’s devotional word we looked at forgiveness, and in doing so I used the illustration of the scapegoat that was sent into the wilderness. This came from Leviticus chapter sixteen. Just for today I am going to digress from John’s Gospel to talk about the importance of reading and understanding the Old Testament.

Very often people have said to me that they don’t read the Old Testament, as it is hard to understand. This always saddens me. So much of what is written in John’s Gospel is linked to the Old Testament. Let’s look at just a few examples. John 1:1-4 is directly linked to Genesis chapter 1. John the Baptist points to Jesus as the Lamb of God. This has its roots in the sacrificial lamb that was offered for each Israeli household in Egypt [Exodus 12:21-23]. In speaking about the new birth Jesus referred to Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness [John 3:14-15]. The background to this is in Numbers 21:4-9. In John chapter 4 Jesus offered living water to a woman of Samaria. To fully understand the background to the story it is helpful to read about the rift between the Jews and the Samaritans that followed the death of Solomon, in 1 Kings 11:41-12:43. The background of much of John’s Gospel is found in the Old Testament.

There are several reasons why it is important to read and study the Old Testament. Firstly, in the Old Testament we learn much about God’s work in history, including His plans purposes. Secondly, the Old Testament teaches us a great deal about the nature and character of God. Thirdly, the Old Testament was the Bible that Jesus used and He frequently quoted from it. For example, at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus quoted directly from Isaiah 61:1-3 [see Luke 4:18-19]. Fourthly, the Old Testament and the New Testament are bound together. There are literally hundreds of Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in the New Testament [and some that are yet to be fulfilled]. There are many Old Testament types that point to the teaching of the New Testament. The writer to the Hebrews says The Old Testament was a shadow of the things that were to come [Hebrews 10:1]. Finally, the Old Testament gives us many examples of how to walk in the ways of God and not in ways of evil [1 Corinthians 10:1-6].

I recognise that some people genuinely struggle to read the more difficult passages of the Old Testament, and especially books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy, or long lists of names in a genealogy. For these people there are really helpful books and study tools. As a young Christian I was greatly helped in reading “What the Bible is all About” by Henrietta Mears. Another great help is “Unlocking the Bible” by David Pawson. There are also many on-line helps and studies of the Old Testament.

Other people have different reasons for not studying the Old Testament, but whatever the reason might be I want to encourage you to make a systematic study of the Old Testament. You will find that the greatest treasures in God’s Word require effort in digging and studying, but you will never regret it. Will you make a decision to do this today?

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