Why Read the Old Testament?

Sometimes when Christians start reading the Bible they wonder why we even read the Old Testament. After all, if Jesus is the focus of our faith, he is not even born until the gospels! We often forget that even though the Bible is made up of many books (66 to be exact) with many styles of writing written over the course of over hundreds of years, it is also one BIG story.  Our story of faith does not begin with Jesus the Christ but comes to its fullness in Christ.  But without the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament), we cannot even understand who Jesus is let alone understand many of the references in the gospels and the epistles (letters).

Over the last two weeks of reading through the Bible, we had many references and illusions that only have meaning if we have read the stories of faith from the Hebrew Bible.  Below are just a few examples to get you thinking of the importance of knowing the stories of faith to understand the gospel better:

  • Galatians 4: 21-31 only makes sense if we know the whole of Abraham and Sarah including Hagar’s role.
  • Hebrews 3 only makes sense in light of the Exodus story
  • Hebrews 5- 7 points us to a minor character in Genesis but would be completely baffling without the story of Melchizedek (See Gen 14)
  • Hebrews 11 is a litany of Old Testament characters which would be meaningless without reading their stories.
  • 1 Peter 3 makes reference to both Abraham and Noah
  • 2 Peter 2 depends on our knowledge of both Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah to make any sense

I hope these are enough to help you realize the importance of the Hebrew Scriptures of our faith.  If you start to see all of the references to the prophets, it gets even more complex.  Even the language of our New Testament depends upon knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures. 

The whole story begins with God creating a good creation which falls away from God.  The story continues with God continuing to reach out to the human creation to return to the close relationship with us, the creatures.  A covenant is made with Abraham and his descendants.  This covenant continues through generations and with the kings of Israel. But often the people of God forget their relationship with God and do not live as God desired them to live.  Prophets are raised up to remind God’s people of whose they were.  Finally, God came into the world as Jesus the Christ to return all people to right relationship with God.  Even though there are times in our world when it seems that Christ has been forgotten and that evil is winning, the Bible assures us that in the end, good wins.  To get the whole story, read it!  But please do not just read from Matthew on or you will miss most of the story!