2017-03-10 - Exodus Study
Why Study the Old Testament?
As we prepare to look at Exodus, the first question that needs to be asked, is: Why a study of the Old Testament at all? Now it would seem obvious; after all it’s part of God’s word, and therefore by definition, should at least be looked at in passing. But why would anyone want to spend any time with it? Unfortunately, from the state of the church in general, one would come to the conclusion that while all believe in the study of Scripture–they mean by this the New Testament, excluding Revelation, of course. After all, there is much more to be gained from a study of the New, and so time can be better spent there, for the New Testament tells of the life of Christ, the birth of the church and practical day-to-day living for the Christian, while the Old is only stories of the Jews.
But actually, there are a number of reasons why we should study the totality of Scripture which means both the Old and the New:
- God is the author of the entire work.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
- God speaks to us out of the entire Bible, and therefore all has something of importance to say to us. Paul noted this, speaking of Old Testament accounts, when he said:
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
I don’t know how those who are opposed to Old Testament events get around this one.
- We are commanded to study Scripture.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
Also we find similar comments in 2 Timothy 2:15 and Matthew 4:4.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” … “But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’””
- God uses the Bible to carry out His will.
- Sinners are saved through its words.
“ For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:13–17).
- Sanctification comes through God’s word.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalms 119:9,11).
- The Bible is incomplete without the Old Testament. It is complemented by the New, i.e. Messianic prophecies given in the Old are fulfilled in the New. Consider the following example.
Prophecy: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).
Fulfillment: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1).
- The Ministry of Christ would be an enigma without the Old Testament. The Old Testament provides the background necessary to understand many of the words of Jesus. For example:
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”” (Matthew 15:24).
- The historical setting of Christianity is furnished by the Old Testament. The New is the record of the continuation of God’s working with humanity, started in the Old.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5).
- Key revelations of God are to be found in the Old Testament. It is God’s sacred history, redemptive history. Therefore, the writers of the Old Testament have much to say about such crucial facts as:
- God is the sovereign Creator
- Man is a sinner in need of Salvation
- God is holy and He judges sin.
- God is love and He offers salvation to sinful men.
- A Saviour would be born to die for the sins of men.
- Man is saved by faith, not by works.
- Israel was sovereignly chosen to be God’s channel of the redemptive message to the world.
- All history will culminate at the throne of the sovereign Lord.
We will be looking at many of these themes as we go through the book of Exodus. The important point to remember when studying scripture, both Old and New is that the focus is Jesus the Messiah to the Jews, the Christ to the Gentiles. This is why all of scripture must be studied, not just selected portions.
- Finally, while all of this seems to be fairly scholarly and in many cases theoretical, what comes as a surprise to many Christians is that the history of a people, some thousands of years ago is very applicable to our own lives as believers.
As we look at God’s word, in addition to an understanding of the text itself, the focus will also be what we can learn about Him and how to apply what we learn to lives and witness.
There is a real tendency among evangelicals to take Bible study as a spectator sport. We go to church, Sunday School, we listen to Christian radio, MP3s, etc. Then we say how great the message was. But then what do we do with it? The emphasis here is going to be on application.
To be continued.
All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.
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