"For everything that was written in the past
was written to teach us, so that through the endurance
taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement
they provide we might have hope."
I am constantly amazed at how many people who call themselves Christians do not feel the Old Testament has any relevance to us modern Believers. I hear arguments such as, "That is the old Covenant with the Jews; we are under the new Covenant of Jesus Christ as expressed in the New Testament." Sometimes this opinion is expressed as, "The Old Testament was under the Law. It has no significance to us because we are under Grace." While both viewpoints are correct on a certain level, they miss the bigger picture.
The Old Testament gives the history of our "spiritual family." The emphasis of the New Testament is the life, teachings, and gift of salvation from the central figure of the whole Bible, Jesus of Nazareth. Just because His name is not mentioned in the Old Testament, does not mean He is not there. Remember in Luke 24, as the men who were walking to Emmaus encountered the risen Christ? They explained that they were trying to figure out just who this Jesus had been. They knew he was a prophet, "powerful in word and deed before God and all the people." They just couldn't understand who he really was. His crucifixion and his disappearance from the tomb mystified them. They had hoped he would be the one who was going to redeem Israel.
And what did Jesus say to them? How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory? He was trying to tell them that their hearts should have instructed them as to who He was. He probably wanted to shout, "Don't you remember what the Prophets told you would happen to Israel's Redeemer? Don't you recognize me?!?" Scripture goes on to say And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. You can't make it much plainer that that!
And because Jesus is the central figure of the New Testament, wouldn't you want to know everything about Him? Wouldn't you want to know what God instructed Moses and the Prophets to impart to God's people about Him? Jesus taught his disciples to open their minds and see how every part of the Old Testament was profoundly about Him. And it is so much more than the obvious prophecies of His coming in Isaiah and Daniel. Throughout the Old Testament, we see analogies of Jesus in people such as Joseph, Moses and David. Joseph was sold for pieces of silver; yet forgave his brothers for their grievous sins against him. Just as Jesus brings us into the Kingdom of God, Joseph brought his family into the kingdom of Egypt and saves them from certain death in the famine.
Moses, like Jesus, was a mediator between God and His children. Moses was a priest, just as Jesus is our High Priest. As a priest, Moses instituted the first Passover; while Jesus served as both priest and sacrifice for us. David became the King of the Jews, and indeed Jesus's earthly ancestry is traced back to David. Jesus will return not only as the King of the Jews, but the King of Kings. And there are many more examples of people in the Old Testament who point us to Jesus: Job, Deborah, Ezra, Jonah, Joshua. But perhaps one of the most important purposes of the Old Testament is to prepare us for the coming of Christ. And that occurs on two different levels.
The first level is the historical accounts of the First Coming of Christ. The Old Testament gives us an accounting of history and God's plan of redeeming the world and bringing us back into the relationship with Him we enjoyed in the Garden. Through the Old Testament writings, we learn that everything finds its fulfillment and conclusion in Jesus. The wandering in the desert; the Jews' repetitious rejection and embracing of God's ways; and their discipline and purification by God all point to the salvation that is ours in following Jesus. The Old Testament tells the history of the ancient people of God, how God related to them, and how He offered His Son as a sacrifice for the world's sin. Yes, it talks about Jesus of Nazareth, who walked the earth over 2000 years ago.
But the Old Testament can also be read as preparing us for the Second Coming of Christ. So many of the ancient writings exist for our current generation, too. Indeed, many of the prophecies that were spoken over 2500 years ago apply equally to ancient Hebrews and modern Christians. The writings also point the way to the return of Jesus, just as they reveal His first advent. To think that the Old Testament doesn't speak to us is just as foolish now as it was to the men on the way to Emmaus.
It is no coincidence that so much of the New Testament Book of Revelation finds its meaning in the Books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Joel and Zechariah. And it is no coincidence that many modern churches ignore the Book of Revelation because they either don't know its significance, or refuse to consider that it points back to words of encouragement and perseverance that are meant to strengthen our faith in these latter days. The Old Testament instructs us, warns us, inspires us, and pushes us to persist until the Great Day of the Lord. I receive my hope and endurance from ALL the inspired Word of God.