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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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The Value of the Old Testament

Moses with Tablets

by Dennis Pollock

There are entire denominations which either discourage the reading of the Old Testament, or neglect it entirely. In addition, there are a number of popular television ministers, thinking themselves teachers of grace, who suggest that the Old Testament is hardly relevant for New Testament, grace-focused believers today. Beyond all this, there are many Christians who simply never find the time to open their Bibles and read the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, and the prophets. On the rare occasions when they pick up their Bibles, they will jump to a quick passage from the New Testament, never considering that the Old Testament might have something to say to them.

This is unfortunate. Contrary to the opinions of the above-mentioned groups, the Old Testament contains incredible riches and insights for all who will take the time to delve into its truths, read its narratives, and study its precepts. The apostle Paul appreciated the Old Testament. Indeed, this was the only Bible he had, and he instructed the Christians of his day: “Now all these things (the experiences of the Old Testament believers) happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

The reason that the Old Testament is so incredibly valuable is that it contains a record of God’s dealings with His people, the Israelites, and the God of those days is the same God that we know and serve today. He has not changed. He declares, “I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). Anyone eager to learn the nature, the character, and the ways of their Creator would be foolish not to avail themselves of this amazing resource given to the human race.

Conversion of a Young Man

My life was transformed by Jesus Christ at the age of nineteen when I began reading in the New Testament and learning about Jesus. Although I had heard about Him as a child in church, somehow it was different now, and while reading through the gospels and the epistles I was powerfully moved. Somewhere between Matthew and Revelation I became a believer and surrendered my life to Jesus. I have never been the same since. That one short season of reading has affected every aspect of my life and set me moving in directions I would never have pursued had I not spent that time in the New Testament and learned about Jesus.

But when I finished the New Testament I immediately dove into the Old Testament. I was eager to learn more about God, and there was nobody around to tell me that this was irrelevant for me as a Christian. I was thrilled to read the stories, some of which I knew and others of which I was completely ignorant. I finished the Old Testament that first year of my new faith, and have been reading it once or twice a year since then.

I have learned much about the ways of God in the Old Testament over the years. I will grant that the New Testament is more valuable and a fuller expression of Christ than the Old, but just because the New Testament is superior, this does not mean that the Old Testament is without value. I do not refrain from reading James just because the book of Romans is in most ways richer and more majestic. I don’t neglect the gospel of Mark just because John provides a fuller revelation of the deity of Jesus.

Inspired and Profitable

The apostle Paul wrote: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable…” (2 Timothy 3:16). When he wrote this he was not thinking of his own letters to the churches. In Paul’s mind the Scriptures were what we call the Old Testament. And Paul declared that it is all inspired; it is all profitable; it all has value.

How could it be otherwise? Are we to suppose that God inspired men to write His words about Himself, about men and women, about life, about what He expects of us, and it would possess absolutely no value? Jesus said that men do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). God words are “life to those who find them and health to all their flesh” (Proverbs 4:22).

When we read of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, the faith of Abraham, the struggles and exaltation of Joseph, the boldness of Joshua, the courage of David, the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, and the prophetic rebukes of Isaiah and Jeremiah, we come away with more faith than we had before. We view God with more reverence than those ignorant of His awesome acts revealed in the written records of the ancient Jewish people. We are humbled and at the same time emboldened, we are challenged, convicted, comforted, and encouraged all at the same time. And we recognize that God’s plan did not begin with the ministry of John the Baptist. He was preparing for the entrance of His Son Jesus into the world long before John ever showed up.

BibleIn a sense, the Old Testament is merely the flip side of the New Testament. The Old Testament is Jesus Christ concealed, the New Testament is Jesus revealed. In the Old Testament Jesus is made known through symbols and prophecies; in the New Testament He is in plain sight, for all to see. Jesus said to the Jews of His day: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). Jesus obviously wasn’t referring to the New Testament – not a word of it had been written yet. He was speaking of the Old Testament, and declaring that throughout the pages of the writings of Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, and the others, there were multiple witnesses to Himself. The fragrance of Jesus Christ arose from the ancient Scriptures, just as it would later from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul.

Rewards for Readers

If you could only read one Testament: the Old or the New, of course you would want to read the New – no doubt about it. But there is no such law. We are free to read the Old and the New, to learn of Jesus from Moses, David, and Isaiah, just as we learn of Him from Peter, James, and John. If you rarely touch your Bible, those few times you do read it you would do better to stay in the New Testament. But hopefully that is not so in your case. If you are a regular Bible reader, there is no reason you can’t enjoy wonderful times in both the Old and New Testaments.

For those with the time and the inclination to dive into these writings of the ancients Jews, there are wonderful rewards. Not only will you be blessed with a general overview of the ways and works of God in times long ago; you will be immeasurably enriched by some of those special passages which have spoken so powerfully to Christians down through the years. In Jeremiah you will read:

For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

How many Christians have been blessed, encouraged, and sustained by this single verse! This passage surely must rank high in the Bible verses “hall of fame.” Imagine someone coming up to a Christian struggling and in despair, who has just read this verse and found hope and courage. He tells the Christian: “I hope you don’t think that verse has anything to do with you! Don’t you realize that the Old Testament is not for us today? Forget that verse! That was a promise for Jews only. In fact, tear the entire Old Testament out of your Bible and vow never to read it again. It will only lead you into error!

Paul would strongly disagree, and declare that these things are written for our instruction, admonition, and encouragement. Millions of Christians have been blessed and comforted by the famous 23rd Psalm, which states that the Lord is our Shepherd. So what if it does not mention Jesus by name? We know the One to whom the Holy Spirit was referring! We know that Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd, who leads us beside still waters, anoints our heads with oil, and makes our cups overflow. And when we read this amazing Psalm, our hearts are filled with gratitude toward Jesus, who has shepherded us all our days.

A History of Intervention

My father passed on a long time ago, and since his death I regret that I never learned more about his early life. I know very well what his life entailed since the 1960’s – I was there then. But Dad had a lifelong before I came along. He served in the army in World War II. He served in the Civilian Conservation Corps, created by Franklin Roosevelt for young men unable to find work during those terrible depression years. I know some of the basic facts, but so much of his history passed on with him at his death and can never be recovered. I was just too busy being a kid, and later a young pastor trying to succeed in the ministry, to sit down with him and ask him for more of the details of his early life. I am very glad to have had the sense to ask him to write out the details of his conversion to Christ, which I have to this day.

We Christians need to know that our Heavenly Father has had a rich history of His interacting with men and women long before Mark wrote: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” He began speaking to Adam, the very first man, and has been speaking, communicating, directing, leading, rebuking, encouraging, comforting, confronting, challenging, and shepherding men and women ever since. Our God is not a mute God, nor is He the god of the deists, who would suggest that the Creator sits on His lofty perch, dispassionately observing the comings and goings of His creation, without ever intervening on their behalf. God is eager for a relationship with His created beings, and once we are in that relationship, He encourages us to look to the ancient writings to discover the protocols and ways that He relates to men and women.

Faith Comes

We read His word, not merely to assimilate facts and compile information. We read to feed. To read the word of God is to feed on Jesus Christ, whether you are reading of the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt, David’s victory over Goliath, Esther’s instrumentality in God’s deliverance of the Jews from annihilation, or the technical details of the tabernacle to be built for the worship of God in the wilderness. Somehow and in some way the Scriptures, in both Old and New Testaments, are not only God-breathed, but Christ-infused, and when we read them in a worshipful manner, they will be bread to our souls and nourishment to our spirits.

The evangelist D. L. Moody wrote, “I prayed for faith and thought that someday faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” I had up to this time closed my Bible and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since.” Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). This is true of every word, every passage, every story, every commandment, every exhortation, every chapter and every verse we find in the book that we call The Bible. Let us open our Bibles and feed on God’s word and feed on Jesus in God’s word every day. We shall become like the young men John addressed, writing: “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you” (1 John 2:14). And don’t neglect the Old Testament!


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