Why do we need to read the Old Testament? It is old right? Well aside from the fact that even the New Testament is now 2,000 plus years old, I think there are a few reasons why we should turn back a little deeper in our Bibles every once in a while. First…
Watching the sequel without watching the first movie is always frustrating.
I remember watching one of the Captain America movies not too long ago (I don’t remember which one, sorry to all Captain America fans out there!) and feeling very frustrated because I had to keep leaning over and asking my friend clarifying questions (I’m sure my friend found it a bit frustrating as well). I was struggling because I was missing parts of the story that built up and gave significance to the sequel.
In a similar way, the Bible is a book which aims at telling one overarching story, best summed up in four parts: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. The Old Testament majors on helping us understand the first two parts and gives light on how the third and fourth will take place (with Jesus coming as Redeemer). In essence, it provides the backdrop for virtually everything else we read in the New Testament! So when we neglect it, we are missing key parts of the story and may find ourselves frustrated. This helps explain why…
The Old Testament helps us interpret New Testament passages.
The writers of the New Testament knew their Old Testaments well, and if we really want to understand what it was they were trying to communicate, we should too. Scattered throughout the New Testament are references to the old, and in order to interpret them we need to know our Old Testament. The first few chapters of Matthew’s Gospel are littered with passages from Old Testament prophets. Jesus told His disciples He was the center of all the Old Testament writings in Luke 24:44. Stephen gives a summary of the Old Testament in Acts 7:1-53. Paul uses Adam and Abraham to help us understand justification through faith in Romans 4 and 5. 1 Peter talks about the priesthood of all believers, Abraham and Sarah, as well as Noah and 2 Peter even talks about Balaam and his donkey. And it is absolutely impossible to interpret Hebrews without the Old Testament. What I want you to see is that these are just a few of several examples we can find of the New Testament referring back to the old. So if you want to interpret the New, study the Old.
The Old Testament enables us to see even more of God.
The Christian’s life should be marked by a hungering after God. And the New Testament certainly offers beautiful pictures of the holy God Who saves. But why neglect what the largest portion of the Bible also has to offer?
Now contrary to popular belief, the entire Bible presents a consistent picture of God’s character throughout. So I’m not saying you’ll necessarily find anyhting new. But you will see His eternal attributes from different angles…much like turning a diamond to admire all the different ways it shines.
For example, the story of Noah and the Exodus underscore both God’s judgment and His grace. The Psalms help us to see God’s beauty and mercy, as well as His justice. Leviticus brings us to the feet of His unapproachable holiness. The historical books give us a chance to survey God’s patience and faithfulness to His people, even when they aren’t to Him. The prophets remind us of how serious God is about our sin. Job refuses to let us go until we admit God’s sovereignty over our suffering. Brothers and sisters, I’m just scratching the surface here! Which leads to my final point…
The Old Testament can stir our hearts to worship.
With everything I’ve said above, plus the thousands of other examples I didn’t mention, the entire Bible provides an ample supply of fodder to keep the flame of worship burning strongly in our hearts. We go to the Bible, all of it, not to find fixes to our problems, but to see Him…the exalted Lord of heaven and earth…and to be moved by Him and stirred to awe and wonder over Him. This is our aim and this is why we read and immerse ourselves in both halves of the Bible.
I heard someone say that it may be better to stop thinking of the testaments in terms of old and new, but rather, first and second. I kind of like that. But whether or not you adopt that idea, let us be a people who love and hunger for all of God’s Word!