I love reading the Old Testament. I really do. I’m on my third trip through the Old Testament … this year. I don’t mean that to sound boastful, but I love reading—and I love reading the Bible.
The reason I keep rereading the Old Testament is because, every time I go back over the familiar territory of the history, the laws, the poetry, and the prophets, I discover new things. I catch things I didn’t catch the last time. Maybe I’m a slow learner, and I should’ve seen these things ages ago. I don’t know. I just know that God opens my eyes each time I read His words.
The 39 books that comprise the Old Testament would just be a collection of ancient history and old laws if it wasn’t for Jesus. Sadly, Jesus is the reason some people don’t bother to read the Old Testament. A pastor’s wife told me years ago that she avoids the Old Testament; she just likes the New Testament because it’s about Jesus. That’s an unfortunate sentiment, because the Old Testament comes alive when you read it through the lens of the New Testament. And you really need to know the customs and history of the Jewish people to fully appreciate the gospels. After all—news flash!—Jesus was a Jew living in a thoroughly Jewish culture.
I’ve comer to appreciate what Jesus said about the teachers of the law. No one knew the Hebrew Scriptures better than these men. They were intensely devoted to knowing it and interpreting it. Unfortunately, most of them tended to give their interpretation as much weight and authority as the Scriptures themselves. Now consider what it was like for one of these teachers of the law to encounter Jesus. While most of them rejected Jesus because He didn’t fall in line with their interpretations of the law, there were others who realized Jesus was the Messiah.
Nicodemus was one such teacher of the law. John 3 records his encounter with Jesus. When Nicodemus wasn’t quite getting what Jesus was saying, Jesus asked him, “Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?” (John 3:10). If anyone should have seen that Jesus is the Messiah, it should have been the experts in the law. Jesus is there in the Scripture they prized so much.
“You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, and yet they testify about me” (John 5:39).
Nicodemus did eventually get it. He became a follower of Jesus (John 19:38-39), and I imagine every time after that when he read the law and the Hebrew Scriptures, he read it in a new light. That’s why I said I’ve come to appreciate what Jesus said about the teachers of the law.
“Every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom treasures new and old” (Matt. 13:52).
There are wonderful treasures in the Old Testament. Don’t be afraid to jump into its pages. We see a law that ought to make us righteous, but we are incapable of keeping it. We see our need for a Savior, and we see prophecies pointing to that Savior. We see examples of what it looks like to be “wholeheartedly devoted to him” (2 Chron. 16:9), and we see examples of how not to live! The Old Testament is full of love and grace.
To borrow from Jesus’ analogy of “treasures new and old,” the Old Testament may be the “old” part of the Bible, but it still has many treasures to discover. And those treasures help us appreciate the treasures found in the New Testament.
So don’t skimp on your Bible reading. Make the Old Testament an equal part of your time with God.
Related post: Are There Two Gods in the Bible?
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