JESUS, THEME OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
A. Introduction: Regular Bible reading is supposed to be a part of every Christian's life. Sadly, it is not for most Christians. We are taking time to discuss how to read the Bible in an effort to remedy this problem.
1. People don't read the Bible for several reasons. They don't know why they should read. They don't know where to start reading. They don't understand much of what they read when they do read.
a. Start with the New Testament. Read it all the way through and then read it again and then again.
1. The New Testament begins with the gospels, four different accounts of the three year public ministry of Jesus up to and including His crucifixion and resurrection. Acts describes the first Christians as they began to preach and proclaim the resurrection.
2. The epistles (Romans-Jude) were letters written to newly converted Christians. They discuss what Christians believe and how they live. Revelation describes the events immediately preceding and following the Second Coming of Jesus.
b. Set a regular reading time. Read as far as you can in 20-30 minutes. The next day pick up where you left off. Don't worry about what you don't understand. Just keep reading. Understanding comes with familiarity.
2. Just as important as setting up and sticking to a regular plan of reading is understanding the purpose, theme, and structure of the Bible. That is what we are working on in these lessons.
a. The Bible is a collection of 66 books and epistles, not a bunch of independent unrelated verses. 1. Together they tell the story of God's plan for a family and the lengths to which He has gone to obtain that family through Jesus.
2. Every book, every letter, every chapter, every verse somehow advances or adds to that story.
b. God created men and women to become His sons and daughters. But His plan for a family seemed thwarted when the first man Adam sinned and took the whole race in him into sin.
1. However, immediately following Adam's sin God unveiled His plan of redemption -- His plan to deliver men from bondage to sin, corruption, and death.
2. God promised the coming of a Redeemer -- the Seed (Jesus) of the woman (Mary) -- who would undo the damage done by man's sin. Gen 3:15
c. God instructed men to begin keeping records to trace the line through which the Promised Seed would come. Gen 5:1-32; Gen 10-11:10; Luke 3:36-38; etc.
1. God set aside a people group (placecountry-regionIsrael) as the ones who would receive and preserve His written record (His Word). They would also be the ones through whom the Redeemer, the Living Word, would come into this world. Rom 3:1,2; 9:3-5; Matt 1:1-16; John 1:1,14
2. God gave men this written record so that when the Promised Seed came to earth men would recognize Him and would see clearly that His coming was not a random event but rather the end result of a purposeful, loving plan carried out by a faithful God who keeps His promise.
3. In this lesson we're going to continue our discussion of the Old Testament. But we need to make one comment before we start. Perhaps you are wondering why I've told you to begin reading the New Testament over and over when we are talking about the Old Testament in these lessons.
a. The Bible is progressive revelation. By that we mean God has gradually revealed Himself and His plan of redemption in scripture until He gave the full light in Jesus. To properly interpret the Old Testament (less light) you must be familiar with the greater light given in the New Testament.
b. Because the Old Testament is so much bigger than the New it takes longer to become familiar with it. But the Old Testament is the foundation for the New. Therefore studying its structure and purpose as you become familiar with the New Testament will enhance the New as it also prepares you to one day read and understand the Old Testament.
B. The Israelites faithfully preserved and transmitted God's written record. By the time Jesus, the Redeemer, came to earth what we know as the Old Testament had been written and compiled.
1. The Old Testament is primarily a history of the Israelites from their beginning when God chose Abram (Abraham) and his descendants as the ones through whom the written and Living Word would come up until 400 years before Jesus was born into this world. Gen 12-Mal 4
a. It is redemptive history. It doesn't record everything that happened to everyone. It records people and events that directly relate to the story of redemption. The Bible is roughly 50% history, 25% instruction on how to live, and 25% prophecy.
b. The Old Testament is divided into 39 books. The first 17 books (Genesis to II Chronicles) are mainly history. We gave a summary of that history in the previous two lessons.
1. The other 22 books are poetry (Job to Song of Solomon) and prophecy (Isaiah to Malachi).
2. Those books were written during the time covered by the 17 history books and relate to events and people recorded there. That is the context in which they must be understood -- who wrote each book, to whom was it written, and why did they write. (Another lesson for another day.)
2. Rom 15:4--God's record in the Old Testament is meant to be inspirational as well as informational. Against the backdrop of the history it records we see God:
a. Preserving and protecting the line through which the Redeemer will come against formidable odds.
b. Giving types and shadows of the person and work of the coming Seed. A type is a person or thing that foreshadows or symbolizes another. A shadow gives a hint or suggestion beforehand. The Old Testament records real events that really happened to real people but they also picture Jesus.
c. Giving prophecy concerning the Redeemer and the coming of His kingdom to earth, releasing all of creation from the bondage to corruption to which it was subjected at the fall of man.
d. We also see the Seed interacting with His people before His birth into this world. And we see God helping His people deal with the challenges of life in a fallen world until the Redeemer comes.
3. Note that all of those points relate to Jesus. Why? Because He is the theme of the Bible. The Old Testament anticipates the coming Redeemer. The New is the realization His coming.
a. Jesus Himself said that the Old Testament is about Him and that He came to fulfill it. John 5:39; Matt 5:17--to complete and fulfill them (Amp); to give them completion (Weymouth).
1. I Pet 1:11--They (the Old Testament prophets) wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ's suffering and his great glory afterward. They wondered when and to whom all this would happen. (NLT)
2. Rev 19:10--Worship God. For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness of Jesus. (NLT)
b. The Old Testament must be understood in relation to Jesus, the inspiration and the completion of it. In every book we see Preincarnate appearances of Jesus or we see direct prophetic references to Him as well as types and shadows of His Person, ministry, and work at the Cross.
c. When Jesus began to call His original disciples to Him they responded because they believed He was the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote in the Old Testament. John 1:45
4. One reason people struggle with the Old Testament is that there seem to be a lot of disturbing verses about God destroying people. There are reasonable explanations and we'll address this more fully in a later lesson. But for now consider these points about the Old Testament.
a. Very few people have actually read the Old Testament all the way through one time, let alone enough times to become familiar with it. So what most people know about the Old Testament is isolated verses taken out of context. We are working on learning and understanding context.
b. When you understand that much of what you read in the Old Testament is history from a time, place, and culture that is foreign to us in the 21st century it doesn't seem as “weird”. It was a time of tribal warfare, hand-to-hand combat, revenge killings, slavery, multiple wives and concubines.
c. Context is all important. Many of the “disturbing” verses were written to Israel when they were in apostasy having abandoned God to worship idols. God, through His prophets, warned them of the coming consequences of their actions if they did not return to Him.
d. The God of the Old Testament is the same God who incarnated, walked the roads of Palestine, and went to the Cross (John 14:9,10; 5:19). When you get a clear picture of what Jesus is like from the New Testament, you become persuaded that whatever those “scary” passages in the Old Testament mean, they don't, they can't, contradict what Jesus shows us about God.
C. Luke 24:25-27; Luke 24:44-48--On the day of His resurrection Jesus used the Old Testament scriptures to explain what had happened to Him and why. He could do that because the Old Testament is ultimately about Jesus and how God obtained His family through Him. Consider what He would have said to them.
1. I am the One whom the prophets predicted. I am what they said I would be. I am the promised Seed of the woman and I am the Seed of Abraham through whom all nations will be blessed. Gen 3:15; Gen 22:18; Gal 3:16
a. I was born of a virgin as the prophet Isaiah predicted (Isa 7:4; Matt 1:22,23; Luke 1:31-33), in the town of Bethlehem as the prophet Micah foresaw (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4,5).
1. I am of the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10) and the lineage of David (II Sam 7:12,13,16; Ps 132:11) as Jacob and David prophesied. Both Jacob and David knew Me for I interacted with them during their lifetimes (Gen 28:11-15; 32:24-32; 49:16; II Sam 23:3,4).
2. I am the Star and the Scepter that has come out of Israel to destroy your enemies. That passage inspired the Wise Men from the east to search for Me when they saw a great star in the sky following my birth. Num 24:17; Matt 2:1,2
b. I am the Anointed One whom Hannah anticipated in her prayers. Her son, Samuel the Prophet, anointed the first two kings of Israel, David and Solomon, whose reigns pictured the true King and kingdom and the reign that I will establish on this earth. I Sam 2:10; Isa 9:6,7
c. I am the Redeemer of whom Isaiah wrote (Isa 59:20). I am the Messiah whom Daniel the Prophet spoke of. I was cut off (crucified) for My people to bring an end to sin and to establish righteousness (Dan 9:24-26). Daniel knew Me because I interacted with him (Dan 10:5,6).
d. I am that Prophet whom Moses said God would raise up (Deut 18:15,18,19; John 1:21). My earth ministry fulfilled what Isaiah predicted (Matt 11:1-6; Isa 35:4-6; 42:1-7; Isa 61:1-3; Luke 4:17-21).
2. I have fulfilled all the pictures (types and shadows) of Me found in the Law and Prophets concerning the reason for which I came and died on the Cross. From the beginning the Father made it clear that the remedy for sin involves the shedding of innocent blood. Gen 3:21
a. Ex 12:1-14--The Passover lamb slain the night before Israel left Egypt pictures Me. I am the innocent, unblemished Passover Lamb whose blood protects from the judgment of sin (I Cor 5:7).
1. I delivered My people from bondage in Egypt picturing what I have done for you through my crucifixion and resurrection. I have redeemed you and taken you out of the kingdom of darkness into My kingdom. Col 1:13,14
2. I led them, guided them, and provided for them on the trip to Canaan picturing what I will now do for you because you have been redeemed. Ex 13:21,22; 14:19-20; 20:20-23; I Cor 10:1-4
b. The sacrifices and ceremonies given to you in the Law of Moses picture what I have done for you.
1. Lev 16:7-10; 20-22--I am the scapegoat. I bore your sins upon Myself and took them away from you. I have removed them.
2. Lev 16:29-34--I am your High Priest. I have offered Myself and My blood as the final sacrifice for sin. My blood does not cover sin. It pays for sin, one sacrifice, once for all. No more sacrifices needed. Your sins have been remitted and I will make intercession for you and save you completely (Heb 3:1; Heb 9:12; Heb 10:10,18; Heb 7:25).
c. Through My crucifixion you have been delivered from all the penalty of sin. As the serpent was lifted up by Moses so I was lifted up to bring life and health to you. Num 21:8,9; John 3:14,15
3. My crucifixion and resurrection fulfilled everything the prophets wrote and spoke of Me and My work.
Ps 22:1,6-8,13,16-18; Ps 34:20; Isa 50:6; Matt 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19
a. Death by crucifixion was unknown to the Jews until the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.). They executed criminals by stoning them. Crucifixion was a Greece and Roman custom. Their empires did not exist when David composed Ps 22. Yet 1,000 years before Jesus was born into this world David was able to give a description of such a death.
b. The prophet Isaiah, 700 years before went to the Cross, was also able to give a detailed description of the Redeemer's death. No doubt Jesus made reference to it as He taught His disciples. Isa 53
1. I took your sins on Myself. I took your sicknesses on Myself. I took the punishment due you for your sins on Myself. v4-6
2. Griefs and sorrows in the Hebrew is sicknesses (CHOLI) and pains (MAKOB). Borne (NASA) and carried (SABAL) mean to assume a burden for the purpose of removal. Those same words are used in Lev 16 in connection with the scapegoat.
3. Jesus could say to His disciples: God saw My suffering and His justice was satisfied. Through My sacrifice you have been justified (acquitted), made as if you never sinned. v11
c. My resurrection is proof that your sins have been removed and that your resurrection is certain. Rom 4:25
1. David prophesied of Me that I would not remain in the grave (Ps 16:9,10; Acts 2:25-32). Hosea foresaw that I would rise after three days and would ransom you from the grave (Hosea 6:1,2; Hosea 13:14).
2. Lev 23:15-21--The Feast of Firstfruits pictured My resurrection. Just as the offering of the first fruits of the harvest was the guarantee that the rest of the crop would be gathered in, so My resurrection is the firstfruits of resurrection from the dead and the guarantee that all who put faith in Me and My sacrifice will be resurrected (I Cor 15:20,23).
4. When Jesus finished His instruction and admonitions to His disciples on resurrection day He was able to say: Because your sins have been removed you can now be born of God and become His sons.
a. John 20:19-22--Just as God the Father had breathed into Adam the breath of life beginning the first creation, Jesus breathed the uncreated life of God into His disciples and the new creation began.
b. The plan which was first revealed and promised in Gen 3:15 had been completed. God's family had been redeemed.
D. Conclusion: We have only scratched the surface of the pictures and prophecies of the coming Redeemer found throughout the Old Testament. But consider these thoughts as we close.
1. Many of the things that seem strange to us in the Old Testament are due to cultural differences. But many of the things recorded are written to picture what the Promised Seed would do. Once you understand that the Old Testament doesn't seem as “freaky”.
2. Jesus is the theme of the Old Testament. If you don't get hope and encouragement from the Old Testament, you aren't reading it properly. Lots more next week!