Is the Old Testament really relevant to my life as a follower of Jesus today?

The simple truth is this: our understanding of Jesus – who He was and what He was about – is directly linked to our understanding of the Old Testament! Jesus Himself said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35), echoing the message of Isaiah from 700+ years before: “the Word of the Lord will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

Further, Jesus declared, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I came not to abolish them, but to fulfill them!” (Matthew 5:17). The life, death, resurrection, and purpose of Jesus’ advent into the world are all only fully realized within the context and understanding of the Jewish Bible – namely the Old Testament!

Also, if we are following Jesus – that is to say, if we are following His example, wanting to live like Him, do the things He did, etc. – then we can simply observe His behavior to see the enormous value of the Old Testament to our lives.

The Old Testament was the Bible that Jesus

  • studied,
  • meditated upon,
  • memorized,
  • quoted in times of anguish and temptation,
  • prayed back to God,
  • discussed with His friends,
  • sang in worship to God,
  • respected as the authority of His life,
  • commemorated with feasts, festivals, rituals, and celebrations…

His weekly and annual calendars were determined by it. He lived in accordance with it, referred to it constantly… It was in every sense (and then some!) the functional, working, applicable “Word of God” for Jesus that the complete, 66-book, combined Old & New Testament Bible on my bedside table is for me today!

As followers of Jesus, it is essential for us to understand that the OT and the NT are inseparable. They are one volume – one book – one story – one continuous unbroken narrative of God’s redemptive work among mankind. They are Act I and Act II of the same play.

The NT is not the just an Epilogue to the OT, or the lost “alternate ending” in the “Director’s Cut” of the OT. It is the continuation of the story of God’s redemption of creation back to Himself. The original story never stopped, and it didn’t need to be replaced by a new, different, plot-altering sequel. The NT – and indeed, the Person of Jesus – is the beautiful culmination and satisfaction of every bit of the OT.

Dr. Sandra L. Richter, professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary writes this:

Two-thirds of our redemptive history as Christians is in the Old Testament! And the Church’s lack of knowledge of this heritage renders much of the wealth of the New Testament inaccessible to them. The end result? The Church does not know who she is, because she does not know who she was.

What do you think? Does the OT have any relevance in your life today as a 21st-century follower of Jesus? If so, please describe. If not, why do you think that is?

4 responses to “Is the Old Testament really relevant to my life as a follower of Jesus today?

  1. Good blog and question Cash. When I was a kid the OT was the comic book part of the Bible, with heroes and villains, acts of wonder and maybe even some supernatural superpowers. Once upon a time Baptists affirmed that Jesus Christ was the criteria through which all Scripture was to be interpreted. Thats really been a doozy for me from college until now because Jesus is big on peacemaking and turning the other cheek and yet the OT is eager to show Yahweh as a mighty warrior, leveraging all sorts of pain and anguish on Israel\’s enemies, and, at times, at Israel herself. I stayed in a place of rejection of the OT for a long time. I thought then that it was merely the recollection of a people who needed an explanation as to why God had allowed and/or caused their history to be so, well, complex is probably the nicest word. That takes God off the hook for all the nasty stuff and hangs it on the writers who would rather use God\’s wrath as an explanation for crushing defeat and ultimate captivity, giving the people of Israel a narrative that gives purpose to the suffering. And somewhere fter that (which I confess is totally reductionistic and is very difficult to preach or teach) I realized that even if all of that was true–that all that fire and judgment was really the authors projecting a voice onto a God who most often responded to their wandering hearts with silence instead of agression–even if all of that was true, it is still remarkable that we get this portrait of the faith of an entire people over thousands of years of history-and its not all sunshine and roses. These aren\’t hieroglyphics showing the glorious triumphs of a noble race-they are, in fact, a warts and all realism that shows even the most heroic of figures to be tragic, flawed leaders who varied between zealous devotion and rebellion of the most base impulses of sin. In this light, the OT for me has become something more than the prologue to the main event of JC lighting into this world and more like a compendium of viscerally real characters who regularly lived somewhere in the space between belief and unbelief and were loved by a God who always maintained Gods side of the covenant even as the people \”went astray\” like sheep to use Isaiah\’s language. And as a person of deep belief-and equally deep unbelief given the day or situation-it has been profound to know I am not alone in struggling to accept that that which I may constantly reject, both willfully and unconsciously, refuses to ever let go of me-which strangely is exactly what Jesus was talking about.

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    • Thanks for this vulnerable, transparent reply, Trey. I respect and admire you deeply, and your willingness to honestly describe your own wrestling with God throughout your life is a big part of that respect! Your reply reminds me of another quote from Richter’s Epic of Eden: “The ‘heroes of the Old Testament’ were real people who lived in real places in real time and struggled with real faith, just as you and I do. We are their offspring, and their story is our story. We can see our own rebellion in Adam’s choice, recognize our own frailty in Abraham’s doubting, and hear the hope of our own salvation in Moses’ cries for freedom.”

    • I also struggled with these thoughts since it was never revealed to me the true impact of the whole Word bring Christocentric. I came across a video with Dr. Timothy Keller from Redeemer Church in New York and he stated some of the literary differences between the Old and New Testaments. Much of the New Testament, of course, is letters therefore much of it is literal recording of events. The Old Testament, however, is more of a narrative form of writing so you have to approach the text differently. For example, we follow the story of the Israelites and see a roller coaster of events. But it is so easy for us to be concerned with the earthly consequences of the people and forget that this isn’t just their (our) story. It is all about and pointing towards Christ, every iota and dot. Only once Christ comes in the picture can we see God’s provision through so much that. For example, the story of Joseph. His brothers are evil and try to destroy him but we see not only God’s provision over Joseph but over all the people that Joseph saves from famine. It isn’t just about Joseph but preserving the people from which the Christ will come from. Especially when reading through the lineage of Christ can we see the provision of God through some of the most “sinful” people. The article below is some more insight from Dr. Tim Keller and echoes much of what Nick said. I wish I could remember the video from Keller but cannot right now. It’s on YouTube though.

      http://www.redeemer.com/news_and_events/newsletter/?aid=363

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