In terms of page length, it’s most of the Bible. It covers God’s redemptive mission across a span of more than 4000 years. Many, because of it’s “Old” label, skip over it on their way to Philippians. Still, there are 39 books of history, miracles, challenges, and through it all, the love of God. Here are 5 principles to light up your study of God’s word through the Old Testament.
The maps in your Bible are to real places on earth! Jesus came here! The kings and prophets and the people of God actually lived out their interaction with their creator on the middle-eastern real estate. Knowing the basics of the Fertile Crescent provide a rich backdrop to the suspense, intrigue, and adventure among God’s people. The faithfulness of their God is recorded history. Egypt is the backdrop for the Exodus. Palestine is the setting for most of the Old Testament and the Ministry of Jesus. Mesopotamia is the setting for the journey of Abraham and the drama of the exiles. Find your way around the Bible by noticing the maps.
Exodus and Exile
The two most significant events across the 4000 year period in the Old Testament help to orient the reader to the historical context. The law of the Lord in the first 5 books are characterized by God’s great deliverance of His people. The prophets must be identified by whether they are before, during or after the exile so that their message makes sense. The Exodus and the Exile help to orient that context.
The Law is a gift from God. The people of Israel wrote and respected the first 5 books of the Old Testament as an expression of His love. The writers of the New Testament and the teaching of Jesus refer to the law as distinguished from the prophets. Noticing the distinction between the law, the prophets, and the poetic books help the reader position himself within the 4000-year history of the Old Testament.
Value the Prophecy
Jesus, Matthew, Paul, Peter as well as John and the writer of Hebrews depended on the Old Testament as they wrote their Spirit-inspired works. Consider the grand foundation of God’s promises revealed among His people for the redemptive act in the New Testament. This predictive prophecy is what distinguishes the word of God from texts of world religions.
Hope is in the Future
One of the most thrilling discoveries of the Old Testament is that it looks forward to the coming Messiah. From the prophecy of Jesus in the Garden of Eden to Jeremiah’s call for a Righteous Branch, the reader is drawn to look for a Savior. This awareness of what God is doing and will do propels the reader to the wonder and victory of the New Testament.
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