Saturday, June 1, 2013

Meet the Old Testament

Hebrews 9:1 "Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary."


Yesterday we did a flyover of the New Testament through the aid of the thoughts we gathered from Hebrews 9:14-28.  In that chapter we spring boarded into a survey of all the New Testament books by following the following thoughts and outline:

1. Foundation of the New Testament is the Gospels, which portray Christ.  Hebrews 9:11-12

2. History of the New Testament is in Acts which records the preaching about Christ.  Hebrews 9:13-14

3. Epistles of the New Testament serve to explain Christ.  Hebrews 9:15-26

4. Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, prioritizes Christ.  Hebrews 9:27-28

So in short, Christ is portrayed in the Gospels, preached in Acts, explained in the Epistles and Prioritized in Revelation.  In today's blog we are going to utilize the first half of Hebrews 9 to aid us in thinking through the first part of the Bible that is called "The Old Testament".  

Why the Old Testament is important

According to H.L Wilmington, the Old Testament contains 39 books, 929 chapters, 23,214 verses and 593,493 words.  If you were to compare the Old and New Testament by their lengths, you would discover that The Old Testament occupies over 75% of the Bible.  Sadly Christians by and large neglect the Old Testament.  Our lack of desire stems not from it being harder to understand than the New as it does with sheer lack of familiarity with its contents.  My prayer is that this blog post today will whet your appetite to study the Old Testament.  

Briefly comparing Old and New Testament

Much like the New Testament, the Old Testament in our English Bibles can be subdivided into the same four categories that we used yesterday.  Below I have included a comparison of both Testaments to illustrate what I am saying:

Old Testament        

Foundations: Pentateuch or Torah or Law                
Genesis-Deuteronomy  (5 books)                            

New Testament
Foundations: The Gospels
Matthew-Luke (4 books)

Old Testament History: Joshua through Esther (12 books)              

New Testament
History: Acts

Old Testament Writings: Poetic Books or Books of Poetry               
Job-Song of Solomon (5 books)  

New Testament
Writings: Epistles
Romans-Jude (21 books)

Old Testament Prophecy: Isaiah - Malachi (17 books)                    
New Testament
Prophecy: Revelation

Encountering the Old Testament through Hebrews 9:1-10

1. Foundations: Genesis - Deuteronomy illustrated in Hebrews 9:1-5

Christ Pictured
Hebrews 9:1 reads - "Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary."  The focal point of Hebrews 9 is the worship center of Israel called "The Tabernacle".  God's promise of salvation began back in Genesis 3 with the institution of the Covenant of Grace to Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Ten generations from Adam, God would reveal to Noah the Ark of salvation wherein he would save he and his family from the world-wide flood. (Genesis 6-9; 1 Peter 3:18-20).  Another ten generations from Noah's son Shem would lead to Abraham, to whom God would call to be saved and become the first patriarch of the Israelite nation in Genesis 12.  From Abraham's day to Moses would span yet another 10 generations and 430 years period of time, connecting the ongoing redemptive plan and promise of God.  To Moses God revealed the law on Sinai and His grace through the tabernacle.   

Contrary to what many people may think, salvation in the Old Testament was based upon grace alone through faith alone in the promise God revealed to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as their forbears.  The Tabernacle system served to illustrate the promise and functioned together with the law to remind the people that salvation was unattainable apart from the grace of God and their reception of it by faith.  

These truths are why the first five books of the Bible in the Hebrew Bible are  called "Torah", since the word derives from a verb meaning "guidance".  The Apostle Paul spells out the purpose of the Torah or Law in Galatians 3:24 - "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith."  

The tabernacle system spoken of in Hebrews 9:1-5 served to picture the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  For example, the seven main furnishings of the tabernacle functioned together as a unit, detailing the journey that the worshipper would make from the world of sin to the throne of God.  If we had more time we would go through each of those, but the point of Hebrews and the foundation of the Old Testament: The Torah or Pentateuch (the five books) is to picture and point the way to Jesus.  

2. History: Joshua to Esther serve to Anticipate Christ. Hebrews 9:6-7

Hebrews 9:6-7 states - "Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance." As the writer of Hebrews underscores the preparation that would had went into the Tabernacle, we see the key theme of the remaining historical section of the Old Testament.  The people had been prepared under Moses, and now they were going to be led by Joshua in to the promised land.  The people would carry with them the tabernacle through Joshua and Judges and Ruth.  

By the time you reach 1 Samuel, the Tabernacle is currently at a town called Shiloh, with the system of worship and great decline.  God had in mind to call forth a prophet Samuel, who would end up anointing two kings: Saul and David in 1 Samuel.  In 2 Samuel you see David anointed twice more to become the greatest king of the United Kingdom of Israel.  In the books of 1 &2 Kings and 1 &2 Chronicles we see the kingdom led by Solomon, David's Son, who would build the temple.  According to 1 Kings 6, we are now 480 years after the days of Moses.  

Following Solomon's death, the United Kingdom divided and roughly 20 kings reigned in both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.  God warned the people time and time again that if they did not listen, He would send them into exile.  Sadly they ignored God's prophets, and so Israel in the Northern kingdom was exiled by Assyria and the Southern Kingdom would be later exiled into Babylon.  The Northern Kingdom would never be reformed, however after 70 years in Babylon, the people of Jerusalem to the South would return.  The books of Ezra and Nehemiah details the lives of God's people after the Babylonian exile.  It is in Esther that we historically reach the end of the Old Testament historical section.

Throughout that section of 12 books, we hear the growing cry for a redeemer.  Undoubtedly God continued to reveal things about Him, such as the promise of Him being the Ultimate King who would sit on David's throne in 2 Samuel 7:8-16.  Nonetheless you can hear the groans of history through the historical books as Christ is anticipated.  

3. Writings: Christ Prayed for and Praised.  Hebrews 9:8-9

Hebrews 9:8-9 states - "The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience."  As the writer of Hebrews continues, he tells us that the Holy Spirit was signifying that the way into the holy place remained off limits to the people.  

In the writings of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, we see God's people praying and responding on a personal level to the increasing darkness of the world and the urgent need for the Redeemer to come.  Job prays for it in Job 9:33 and David writes about it in Psalms such as 2 and 110.  Solomon and the other writers of Proverbs urge us to trust in the Lord with all our heart in passages such as Proverbs 3:5-6 and Proverbs 30:4-5.  Solomon warns us about how this world can destroy a person in Ecclesiastes and then we see Christ pictured beautifully in Song of Solomon.  All the while we are gaining the leverage needed to pray for the coming of the Lord, predicted in the final section of the Old Testament: the Prophets.  

4. Prophets focus on Christ predicted.  Hebrews 9:10-11

Hebrews 9:10 states - "since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation."  Just as we see in The New Testament, the Old Testament section of our Bibles in English ends with a prophetic tone.  Seventeen prophets occupy this last part of the Old Testament, with Isaiah leading off the pack.  It is in Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6-7 that we see Christ's virgin birth and Kingdom predicted, along with His death and resurrection predicted in Isaiah 53.  

Jeremiah and Lamentations portray the grief of our Savior as well as the New Covenant age that He would institute at His coming. (Jeremiah 31)  Ezekiel reaffirms Jeremiah's message by speaking further on the New Covenant age that will eventually lead into the Millennial reign of Christ.  Daniel starts out his prophecy as a 15 year old boy some 800 miles from home, in Exile, in Babylon.  For 70 years Daniel would live in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar and later on Darius of Persia.  To Daniel God would send far reaching visions about his own day and ours.  By the time he is 85, Daniel composes the most detailed prophecies you will find in Daniel 9,10,11 and 12.  

Hosea to Malachi are termed the "Minor Prophets", not because of their rank in the scriptures but mainly their relative size.  In the original Hebrew Old Testament they constituted one scroll, reminding us that though different men in different stations of life, yet they had one unified message: salvation, and one unified focus: God's glory.  Hosea portrays Christ the faithful spouse, Joel the sending of the Spirit and Amos pictures Christ the Plumb line of truth.  

Obadiah's prophecy gives an outline of the events of Christ's future coming and Jonah is used by Christ to picture what would be His death, burial and resurrection.  Micah tells us there is no God like Him and Nahum reminds us that He is an ever present comfort.  Habakkuk tells us that He answers prayer and Zephaniah tells us details about the day of His return.  Haggai asserts that Christ is the Desired treasure and Zechariah has him on the cross, raised and returning to earth to redeem His people.  Malachi finishes out by paving the way for what will be John the Baptist's ministry of preparing for the coming of the One whose sandals he would be unworthy to untie.  


In short, The Law as the foundation of the Old Testament pictures Christ, the History books anticipate Christ, the writings pray for and praise Christ and the Prophets predict Christ.  

To God be the glory!