Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why Study the Old Testament?

I mentioned in my last post that I am preaching through Genesis. I have been going for about a year and have another 9 months to go. As some commenters mentioned, Bruce Waltke has an excellent commentary on Genesis. It is one that I refer to frequently. Dr. Waltke is one of the greatest living scholars of the Old Testament. The joke is that he helped Moses write the Pentateuch. He isn't THAT old. Still, his commentary is remarkably fresh.

Even though I majored in Greek (the language of the New Testament), and have forgotten most of my Hebrew (the language of most of the Old Testament), I love preaching through the Old Testament. One reason is, I love to show people how the gospel story is woven throughout the Bible. After all, Jesus said that the whole Old Testament is about him (Luke 24:27).

For many Christians, the Old Testament is a collection of interesting stories, enigmatic proverbs, and bewildering prophecies that have little application to daily life. Parts may be inspirational, but as a whole, the Old Testament remains a closed book of hidden mysteries and confounding tales. Yet, this clearly is not God’s intent. In writing to Timothy, the Apostle Paul said,
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 3:16-17, NIV)

The Old Testament, therefore, is useful for the believer. It is not merely a collection of archaic tales and mysterious prophecies, but an essential tool in equipping believers to fulfill their mission of glorifying God.

While there are many stories in the Bible, it is essentially one story—the story of Jesus. Jesus said that all the Scriptures are about Him (Luke 24:27). The Old Testament is not just an archaic precursor to the New Testament. Rather, together with the New Testament, it tells the story of God’s grace. In the words of Alec Motyer, the Old and New Testament form a two-act play. “If we only had Act Two, we would have to ask, ‘But where has it come from? Who are these people?’ . . . And if we only had Act One, we would say, “Yes, but where is it going? How will it develop? Will the hinted climax come and in what form? Without the New Testament, the Old is going nowhere, it is only a might-have-been, an unsubstantiated longing. And without the Old, the New lacks explanation. Its very words require Old Testament definition, and its central event, the cross, is inexplicable.”[1]

Therefore, to understand the Old Testament, one cannot read it in isolation from the New (nor can one read the New Testament in isolation from the Old). Together, the two testaments tell one story.

There are several themes that one can observe throughout the Bible that illustrates this story line. Three of these are the Promised Redeemer,the covenants, and the kingdom of God. These are not two separate themes, but different ways of looking at the same theme because the Promised Redeemer is a King who has made a Covenant with His people. I will post about these and other themes later on.

[1] Motyer, Alec, The Story of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2001), p. 10.

No comments: