Wednesday, August 19, 2020

OT-1 Jesus Loved the Old Testament

 What do you think of the Old Testament?

This is the first post in a series on the Old Testament, laying groundwork for how we can study that part of the Bible better.

I have always loved the Old Testament. Maybe it is because of the amazing stories I learned as a child in Sunday School which forged my faith in God. I am always a bit surprised to run into Christians who say the Old Testament doesn't speak to them, it's boring reading, or they want to spend their time reading about Jesus and how to live the Christian life which is clearly spelled out in the New Testament.

I muse to myself, "Do they not realize just how much Jesus quoted the Old Testament and valued it?"


Remember Jesus was born into a Jewish family descended from King David. He was not trained as a religious leader or a rabbi as other rabbis were in those days. But His command of those writings called the Scriptures was so astute and practical, it always got people's attention.

Every little Jewish boy and girl in those days would know portions of the Word. They would sing parts of it every Sabbath, at the Passover, and other times. It was not a literary culture. Many people could not read and learned by oral tradition, that is, through storytelling, singing and chanting. If you have been watching the new video series, The Chosen, you see this illustrated in Season 1 Episode 3 "Jesus Loves  the Little Children."


We know Jesus could read. One day He took a turn at the Synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth and read out of the scroll for the next public reading (Luke 4:14-22).

That which was called "The Scriptures" with a capital S, was a collection of many books about God and His work among the Hebrew people. Jesus called them the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44).  They were Moses' books in the first five books of the Bible, Historical books, poetry and wisdom literature, and the teaching of prophets.

Jesus KNEW the Old Testament. He used it to teach, to illuminate and to verify what He did. He used it against temptation from the Devil and when the Pharisees tried to make Him trip up. He considered the Old Testament as real, not a fairy tale. He spoke of the Biblical characters as people, people He knew.

Even those books and sections that some today say are fabrications He treated as real events as a matter of course (Creation of Adam and Eve Matt. 19:4-5, Jonah in the Big Fish Matt. 12:38-41, the Flood Matt. 24:38-49 as examples). He completely trusted the Old Testament. He considered it the trustworthy authority and believed it was the Word of God. An excellent article on this is at the Blue Letter Bible website.


The method of preserving these writings was meticulously crafted and taken very seriously by men of the Old Testament called Scribes. They would count the syllables of the original text and the copied text. They read each word out loud as they wrote. To learn more check out this blog by apologist, Josh McDowell. Most of the writings were in Hebrew until the period between the Testaments (Old and New) which was about 400 years,

In the intertestamental period it was translated into Greek, which is called the Septuagint (abbreviated the LXX). That version was used some in Jesus' day. It is quoted a lot more in the post-Gospels New Testament because of the widespread church that moved into predominantly Greek speaking regions. Because the Septuagint and Hebrew Old Testament writings were used regularly as a decided unit, there was clearly a consensus among spiritual leaders about which books should be considered God's Word. Jesus seemed to validate that as He referred with authority to pretty close to every book.

There are about 300 quotes in the Gospels, mostly credited to Jesus, referring to the Old Testament. You will find it marked as "The Scriptures," "The Law of Moses," "Moses and the Prophets," and at times you read "It is written," or "It is said" and it is usually another Old Testament quote.


Jesus quoted the most from the Psalms. He quoted a lot also from Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Exodus.  He quoted from every book of the Law of Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy), and numerous prophets.

We see a lot of Scripture is quoted by Jesus to help teach people that the Old Testament pointed to Him and why He came to earth. There is a lot about His death and resurrection. The word "fulfilled" is used with reference to the Old Testament a lot. It definitely points to the fact that Jesus is a fulfillment of a lot of things written in the Old Testament.

I was at a conference once where an icebreaker question was - If you could be a fly on the wall for any Bible story, which would it be? Most in my group said what I did: be on the Emmaus Road after the Resurrection. One of the most beautiful stories about Jesus and the Old Testament comes at the end of Luke. Two disciples walked between Jerusalem and Emmaus discussing and processing the recent events where their friend Jesus was killed on a cross, buried and is missing. A man joins them and connects the dots from the Old Testament what it said about Jesus, His life, His death and His resurrection. They realized later it had been Jesus,


Luke 24: 22-27  “Some of the women of our group have surprised us and made us wonder. They went to the grave early this morning. 23 They did not find His body. They came back saying they had seen angels in a special dream who said that He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the grave and found it as the women had said. But they did not see Him.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish men. How slow you are to believe what the early preachers have said. 26 Did not Christ have to go through these hard things to come into His shining-greatness?” 27 Jesus kept on telling them what Moses and all the early preachers had said about Him in the Holy Writings.

Jesus used the Scriptures to teach about God's nature and how we should live. Many are found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 4-6) and when He privately taught His disciples. The Sermon on the Mount has a section where Jesus talked about the incredible value of the Scriptures. By keeping it and teaching it, He says you will be considered great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Pretty intense affirmation!

Luke 5; 17-19  “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

 He also underlines that He will fulfill it.  Even down to the smallest detail, the Scriptures accomplish God's purposes. He was talking about the Old Testament Scriptures here. Do you still think it has little relevance? Think again.

Pray for an open heart and mind to receive all God has for you to learn in the Holy Word of God from Genesis to Revelation.

Up Next: Old Testament: Boring Parts by Design?

Previous Post: The Simplest Prayer: Help!


For Reflection:

1. How do you feel about the Old Testament? Have you read it very much? Why or why not?

2. Does learning how Jesus valued the Old Testament give you a new desire to try to read more?

In the next few weeks we will be learning more about how to approach Bible study in the Old Testament to build up our Christian life.

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