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The Blessings of the Old Testament

June 23, 2016

The preaching of the Old Testament seems to be dominated by two methodologies. The Historical-Redemptive method of interpretation sees every passage in the Old Testament as ultimately being about Jesus. The Moralistic method views the Old Testament stories as lessons to teach the Christian learns how to behave. Both incorporate that which is commendable but their narrow focus misses other significant benefits of the Old Testament.

One benefit of the Old Testament is its vivid depiction of the doctrines of God. Through the histories, commands, psalms and proverbs the reader is given a picture of the character and activity of God, particularly of God the Father. The theology of the Old Testament is taught through proposition and experience. The reader of the Old Testament sees the character of God as He works in the world and with His people. The proposition that the Lord is holy becomes plain when God destroys Nadab and Abihu for offering strange fire. The proposition that God is merciful becomes real when He repeatedly delivers rebellious Israel from her captors. The Old Testament is a practical theology that teaches through illustration. In the Old Testament the doctrine of God is developed through the experiences of the saints.

The experiential theology of the Old Testament helps to shape a worldview. The reader of the Old Testament is given a sense of how things should be and of how to think about world events. Reading the records of how God has worked in the past, how God responded to the nations of the world and how God has dealt with His people molds a person’s thinking about how to live in this world. Though not every account can be boiled down to a simple moral the weight of the narratives gives the reader understanding of what is right and wrong. The New Testament teaches through principle. The epistles are filled with doctrines and the application of those doctrines to the Christian’s way of life. The historical narratives of the Old Testament show doctrines and commands worked out in the affairs of this world.

Some warnings need to be remembered when reading the Old Testament. Israel is not the church and Israel is not America. One cannot immediately apply the Old Testament commands to the New Testament Christian. Old Testament commands must be read through the lens of the New Testament and Jesus’ completion of the Mosaic law (Ephesians 2:15). The Old Testament reader cannot claim the promises given to the Jews as if they are promises to the church. One cannot view the judgments and blessings of the nation Israel as if God is going to do the same to America. Read the Old Testament looking for the major principles of how God dealt with His people, the standard of obedience which is acceptable to Him, the sovereign providence of God in the world, God’s judgment of all the wicked nations of the world and the Divine promises to bring redemption to Jew and Gentile through the Messiah. The Old Testament is a vast horde of treasure that molds the believers understanding of God and this world.

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