Are you Neglecting the Old Testament?
Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
What are these “Scriptures” that Paul is referring to in this verse? I thought the term “Scriptures” was a term designated only for the 66 books of the Bible? Since the NT (New Testament) was not yet complete, Paul refers to, what could only be a reference to the OT (Old Testament) when he calls them “Scriptures.” This is important for us to consider because I fear that we are living in a time when so much emphasis is placed on the “new” to the neglect of the “old.” After all, it is old. Really old! But the age of these “sacred writings” (2 Tim. 3:15) is exactly why we should place great emphasis on, not only reading the OT, but treating these Scriptures the way the NT authors did. Have you read every book in the OT? I imagine, if you are like me, you have read Matthew’s gospel more than Hosea. My question is, why is this? Here are 3 reasons you should read the OT.
- The God of the NT is the same as the God of the OT
One of the reasons people neglect the OT is because they do not like the God of the OT. After all Jesus is so nice in the NT and God is so mean in the OT right? Let’s look at this a little deeper. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” God does not change. He is the same in the old as he is in the new. This is so comforting. Also notice in this verse that the immutability of God is the reason why the people are not consumed. The notion that the OT God is only a God of wrath and the NT Jesus is only a God of love is…well…just not true. The grace and compassion of God spew out of every page of the OT and there are plenty of “woes” cast from Jesus in the NT. Consider Jonah’s confession about God when he says, “I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” The character of God is exactly why Jonah fled! He did not want those wicked Ninevites to meet the real God who relents from disaster. You say, “But what about all the foreign armies God sent to destroy Israel, God’s chosen people?” You are forgetting about the years of warnings God graciously gave Israel to turn from their sin. The loving thing for God to do was discipline his son Israel. Even in the mist of their discipline Lamentations records that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” If you have the impression that God is only a mean-spirited God in the OT then you need to read it again or perhaps for the first time with a new set of lenses.
- If you neglect the Old Testament you are neglecting Jesus
The whole of the 66 books of the Bible is about Jesus. The OT speaks of a coming deliverer and the NT looks back on his life and explains the significance of it. Jews spoke of the OT in three main parts; The Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets. Recall Jesus words at the end of the Luke’s gospel when he told his disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Lk. 24:44). Did you catch it? The Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets were all written about Jesus. Just a few verses earlier Luke tells us about Jesus talking to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and says, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” In John 5:46 Jesus says, “if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” To the degree that you neglect the OT is the degree that you are neglecting Jesus.
- The NT explains the OT
What is the best commentary ever written on the OT? You answered correctly if you said the NT. This is not to demean the NT to a level that is not scripture. It absolutely is. This is my simple way of making the point that the NT explains the OT. You would have a lot of questions if you watched The Two Towers before you watched The Fellowship of the Ring, wouldn’t you? Why read book two before book one? The new does not replace the old. It fulfills it. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Mt. 5:17-18). Read the old stuff my friends. Your passion for Jesus will increase if you understand the stage that was set for him by God the Father. By reading and understanding the OT you will gain a greater appreciation for NT.