Question About the Old Testament
One of the good things about working with young people, is the questions they have! This morning, Steph received a message from one of the YP we have connected with: “When you read the Old Testament, what sort of things do you keep in mind?”
Hey Steph, So I am writing something for the youth of my church, but have a question. When you read the Old Testament, what sort of things do you keep in mind? Like context? Knowing that it was before Christ? JP
Reading the Old Testament is a vital part of reading the New Testament too – so depending on how deeply you want to study will depend on how you read it.
The first thing to keep in mind
is that it is still the Word of God! It’s surprising how many people write off the OT as being irrelevant, when actually they are the very Scriptures Jesus read, and both He, and the NT writers often refer to and quote from the OT. An interesting way to read the OT is to read through one of the NT books, and every time there is a quote, find it in the OT and read the quote in context.
Jewish people learn whole portions of the Scripture, so Jesus and His disciples used a technique where they quoted the first line of something, and their listeners recite the rest of the book/chapter/portion etc. For example, when Jesus quotes on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me.” Those who heard Him knew this was a direct quote of Psalm 22 and would have caught the rest of Jesus’ message – which makes verses 7 & 8 interesting when you read them in that context!
So in order to fully understand the NT we need to read the OT which gives us a clearer more definite idea of what Jesus means when He said, “I didn’t come to destroy the Law but to fulfil it”!
It is also interesting to note that when God decreed something in the OT, it still happens today – so for example, God decreed the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles etc… in Exodus / Leviticus and so Jewish people still observe these Biblical festivals. Not only that, but at the end of the book of Esther, Mordechai decrees that from generation to generation the Jewish people shall remember God’s protection of them from Haman’s desire to kill them all, and this is still a Festival observed today – Purim. Jewish people take it seriously when they know God has established something from Generation to Generation. So Jesus would have practiced the same Festivals back then, as we observe today! Ohh… and when you read the end of Zechariah, God talks about one of the Festivals there which will be observed after Jesus returns!
Jesus practiced the same Festivals back then, as we observe today!
The second thing to understand is
how the OT is laid out – it is, the Hebrew Scripture. The Jewish people still read from the same books as we do today. Although, the books in the Hebrew Bible are laid out differently to the OT:
We start with the Torah: the Law – the first five books.
Then we have the Prophets: which are split into two groups based on whether they are before or during /after the Jewish exile: Former prophets: Joshua, Judges, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings Latter Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel.
The final section is the Writings: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah (which is classed as one book), 1&2 Chronicles.
This isn’t chronological order – neither are written in chronological order – but it makes sense when the Prophets are read in the right order – maybe alongside the books of the Kings / Chronicles – as we follow the warnings God gave His people, and the exile following their disobedience.
The other interesting way
to read the OT is with a Messianic mind-set – ie – look at the prophecies of the Messiah, and then at how Jesus IS the Messiah based on what the Hebrew Scriptures say – Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39) – so search the Scriptures to understand Who Jesus is and how He really is the prophesied Messiah.