Jesus was pretty critical of the Pharisees for their inability to get beyond debates about the Law of Moses to see what the Scriptures were really all about.
He told them over and over again that they were missing the point. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” He told them [John 5:39]. And “… For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” [John 5:46].
We can look down our collective noses at the Pharisees for their stubborn ignorance. But, of course, we have the benefit of the New Testament to help us understand what the Old Testament was all about.
And still we get it wrong so often…
Have you ever heard a message about “How to be a Daniel” or “3 Keys to a happy marriage from the Song of Solomon”? If you have, there is a fair chance that the preacher has missed the point too.
That’s not to say that we can’t learn important principles about life from the Old Testament. But it does suggest that the preacher is using the Old Testament in the same way as the Pharisees did – as a rule book for better living.
Rather, Jesus was insistent that the Scriptures were written about Him first and foremost. And with the benefit of the New Testament and 2,000 years of scholarship, we too should be able to see the primary meaning of Scripture.
And we have a benefit that the Pharisees didn’t have; we have the New Testament to explain the significance of those strange and obscure passages.
The great 5th century pastor and theologian Augustine said, “The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed; the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed.” He was exactly right.
A handful of examples:
- The rock that gave out water in the wilderness (Exo 17; Num 20; 1Cor 10:4; Jn 4:13-14).
- Jacob’s ladder (Gen 28; Jn 1:51).
- The serpent on the pole (Num 21; Jn :14-15).
- The flood and Noah’s Ark (Gen 6; 1Pet 3:18-22).
- Animal sacrifices (Gen 3; Gen 22; Exo 12; the Tabernacle and the Temple; Lk 22; the book of Hebrews).
- Adam (Gen 1-3; Rom 5; 1Cor 15).
There are myriads more Old Testament passages that the New Testament sheds light on. Tracing a particular theme through the Old Testament to the New gives us incredible insights into who Jesus Christ is, and why He came.
We would be infinitely poorer without the Old Testament – as difficult as it can be to read. But without it, most of what the New Testament teaches would be meaningless. It would be like trying to understand algebra when you haven’t yet learned to count.
Trying to read the Bible from cover to cover is a challenge that is often defeated when we hit only the 3rd and 4th books of it. Mind-numbingly long lists of genealogies and irrelevant laws are enough to put off most people.
But that’s at least in part because we are looking for the wrong thing there. Jesus said that even all of that was written about Him. So when we read through it, we should instead be looking for what it reveals to us about Jesus Christ.
I won’t pretend that this will make it all easy going. But you will find gems scattered through even the boring books that give you amazing insight into our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the work He has done on our behalf.
And that should result in praise and adoration of Him, in deep gratitude for His mercy towards us, and humble worship before Him. For that is what the whole Bible is meant to do – open our eyes to Jesus Christ to worship Him.
There are many great resources to help you read the Bible and see Jesus Christ on every page. Some of the better ones are:
The Bible Project: https://thebibleproject.com/
Reading plans: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/
How to study the Bible: https://www.capitolhillbaptist.org/resources/core-seminars/series/how-to-study-the-bible/
Free Biblical Theology course: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/course/biblical-theology-hamilton/