Why is Studying the Old Testament Essential?

OLD TESTAMENT

The 39 books of the Hebrew Bible, also called the Tenach, Old Testament or Old Covenant. The Tenach consists of three divisions: The Torah, also referred to as the Law, consists of the first five Books of the Law of Moses and makes up the first division. The Writings division includes all the history books, poetry and wisdom literature. The third division is called The Prophets and includes books of the major and minor prophets.

Scripture Amplification

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
Psalm 19:7-11

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.
Your testimonies also are my delight;
They are my counselors.
Make me understand the way of Your precepts,
So I will meditate on Your wonders.
May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O LORD,
Your salvation according to Your word;
So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me,
For I trust in Your word.
And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments,
Which I love;
And I will meditate on Your statutes.
Remember the word to Your servant,
In which You have made me hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
That Your word has revived me.
I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O LORD,
And comfort myself.
Psalm 119:9, 11, 14-17, 24, 27, 41, 42, 48-50, 52, and many others

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put
on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm
against the schemes of the devil.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against
the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to
resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having
put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet
with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking
up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the
flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and
the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with
this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for
all the saints.
Ephesians 6:10-18

But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.
Matthew 26:56a

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He [Jesus]
explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the
Scriptures…. Now He said to them, “These are My words which
I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which
are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and
the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to
understand the Scriptures,
Luke 24:27, 44-45

Why Study Both the Old and New Testaments?

There are many themes in the Bible that are developed throughout the Scriptures. I believe the three most elemental are:

  1. The revelation of who God is, what His character is, His nature, personality, goals, intentions, His awe-inspiring greatness.
  2. The reality that God truly loves us—both mankind in general and you and me specifically—and reveals His desire to bring us to live with Him forever.
  3. God’s plan for re-establishing a relationship between Himself and mankind in light of the fact that we are in a condemned, lost, soaked-in-sin condition. This condition makes us totally incapable of having fellowship with Him; our sinfulness is a repulsive contradiction to who God is—His righteousness, holiness, justice, and so on.

It takes the entire scope of Scripture—Old and New Testaments—to develop, explain, describe these themes and enlighten us. Although a full-size book could be written on this subject, I have listed some points here that are meant to stimulate interest and dispel the myths we hear about the leading edge of God’s revelation to mankind, the OLD TESTAMENT. Understanding the Old Testament is necessary for the Believer’s Walk!

Some people feel that the Old Testament (or Tenach) is irrelevant, out of date, not applicable for today and rather mysterious. To them it depicts a God of war, judgment and merciless, who makes arbitrary decisions that have no rhyme or reason; He is even called a “bloody” God by some. He appears only interested in Israel, and they are always in trouble with Him. It seems that the Gentiles (the rest of the world besides the Jewish people) are of little significance, and He has short patience and few plans for them. Some say that the whole Old Covenant is too long, filled with unpronounceable names and unimportant places mostly in ruins or unknown today, or that it is filled with stories of far-off places, impossible miracles, circumstances that are not applicable for today—even if they were true.

If we ignore these Old Testament Scriptures, we suffer a two-thirds handicap to the shield of faith designed for each believer’s protection and guidance. It is the difference between having a mere photograph of a 3-karat diamond necklace and clasping the real gold chain around our necks while it glistens with seven brilliant-cut white diamonds. Lacking belief in and knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures is like fighting behind a dinnerplate-sized shield clothed in Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt instead of full body armor, helmet and 6-foot shield.

Ephesians 6:10-17 describes the importance of being fully equipped. In today’s chaotic world, with even the once solid teachings of the Church getting foggy and side-lined, this passage rings a loud warning to be prepared: Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13).

So what are some reasons to read, memorize and ruminate on the Scriptures, even though it talks about people and events that happened hundreds or thousands of years before our Lord was born in Bethlehem? The following are some important reasons for you to consider. Can you think of more?

Is the Old Testament Relevant Today?

If we look at the overall story from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we see that God clearly has a plan for us. With careful study, we can discern that it is consistent, personal and reliable. Putting the Old together with the New validates the amazing effort that God has spread over time to get our attention and woo us into relationship

INFORMATION AVAILABLE NOWHERE ELSEThe Old Testament describes the Creation: who, how, sequence, time to completion (Genesis 1-2). The true ownership of the universe is established. God reveals His interest, planning, appreciation and care for His creation. The Creation demonstrates the unbelievable scope of His incredible power—and all in six days???!!! We can trust Him to be able to take care of us and our problems.
ANSWERS AND ORIGINSBecause of Genesis 1, 2 and 3, we are to understand our roots, our relationship to God, the way of Salvation after the entry of the sin problem on earth. Genesis gives us an accurate history of human development: where peoples came from, why many nations disappeared, why the Jewish people uniquely have maintained their identity as the Jews, why so many languages exist in the world, and so forth.
HUMAN NATURE FAITHFULLY REVEALEDThe Scriptures’ descriptions of how people react, their motives; their plans are faithfully revealed and ring true today. Students of the human condition track very well the true nature of mankind—the good and the bad. The Scriptures also reveal the rewards for acting within God’s ways as opposed to the consequences of living a self-driven existence.
VALUE OF SCRIPTURE CITEDJesus used the Old Testament to defeat Satan (Matthew 4). Hebrews 11 lists Old Testament believers who lived lives of faith, purpose and value.
DELIVERANCE ASSUREDThe promise that Satan will be vanquished (Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 14, and Ezekiel 28) is still comforting as we see new evils arise. Hearing what God has to say about our future remains a profound source of insight not changed by the passage of time.

Is the Bible Out of Date?

The advice given in the Bible for people long ago remains significant today because human nature has not improved over the centuries. We have not evolved out of our sin. We still do the same wrong things, have the same evil desires and suffer the same negative consequences. The advice that stood as a light to the ancient people of Israel still stands as a beacon of truth and hope in a lost and dying world.

Proverbs gives us the wisdom of how to live a good, successful life in areas of child rearing, money, character, wisdom, property, business, friend selection, exposure of the heart of mankind, and so on. These same principles are reiterated in the New Testament but in a more abbreviated way. The stories of individuals in the Old Testament demonstrate the blessings experienced as a result of following and obeying the Lord versus the consequences of rebellion, anger and rejection of His ways.

The Old Testament does what no other book has ever done. It accurately tells of the past, present and future. Without this precise information, we would have a difficult time recognizing our Messiah: His birthplace, family heritage, time, miracles, message, death, resurrection and other specific details. Sometimes it takes long periods of time for the puzzle pieces to fit together, but the fact that they are precise and do fit together helps us understand God’s involvement throughout history and His serious intent to communicate His plan to us.

Is God an Angry Warrior or a Merciful God of Love?

He is both. He is angry with the wicked: God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11 KJV). On the other hand, Deuteronony 7:9 addresses those Jews and Gentiles who love Him and show it by keeping His Word and obeying what it says: Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments. God has the same attitude and policy in the New Testament as seen in verses like Romans 12:19 (referencing the Old Testament from Deuteronomy 32:35 and Psalm 94:1): Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPLAY,” says the Lord. The Old and New Testaments confirm the consistency of God’s nature.

God was a shepherd to David in Psalm 23; He is our Great Shepherd in John 10. God has been a Shepherd to His people then and now. His rod and staff comfort us, as Psalm 23 tells us. His rod is the teaching rod that corrects and reproves us. He also uses the rod to punish those who come against us, promising us that vengeance is His. His staff is the Shepherd’s crook that draws us away from wandering and sets us back on track. Just as David slew the giant who was threatening the safety of Israel and tenderly kept his flocks safe from wild animals, God’s protectiveness and righteous anger intermingle.

God is Both Loving and Just
GOD’S LOVE AND GOODNESSWe see how God loves individuals, both Jews and Gentiles, throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. He provides, protects, blesses for example: Job, Naaman (2 Kings 5:1 and following), Abraham, Elisha, Samuel, Ruth, Esther, David, Jeremiah. He delivered, empowered, healed, delighted, rewarded those whose stories are very relevant and applicable for today.
JUDGE OF NATIONS, THEN AND NOWAll the Scriptures in front of Matthew reveal the true nature, motivations, thinking, and purposes of Satan and mankind (Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14) and the eventual judgment of both. In the Old Testament God judges nations. Isn’t He still doing that today? Where are the Incas, Mayans, Toltecs; the British, Dutch, Spanish Empires, etc.? Human history is filled with nations that rose to greatness, then deteriorated. God’s standards of judgment have remained unchanged from the Tower of Babel to now. Read Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony as to God’s involvement in human history in Daniel 4:34-37.
HIS GIFT: OUR SALVATIONGod’s great love provided for us a way to withstand His perfect righteousness and justice. By accepting the free gift of His love on the cross, we will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). The Old Testament presents God’s plan to save us and gives us a positive identification so we can recognize our Savior.

Why Does the Old Testament Focus on Israel so Much?

God’s promises of spiritual blessing to Abraham spill over to us; He promised through Abraham to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3):

Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

God’s Relationship to Israel Shows He Can Be Trusted.

PROMISESThe nation of Israel will continue to exist, possess a land, be a blessing to all the nations, the Messiah would come through them, they will rule with God forever, etc. God keeps His promises. Without the Old Testament, we would not know the extent to which God goes to keep His promises and how He is tested to change His mind about His promises. We entrust our lives and our eternal destination to His promises with confidence.
FAITHFULNESSGod demonstrates His lovingkindness, protection, intentions, blessing for His people and other individuals (Gentiles) who loves Him. He remains faithful, exhibiting His continual, unconditional love, even though His people did not always follow Him. We know that we can count on Him, even though we continually fail in our walk. He demonstrated His forgiveness for generations, and He continues to forgive as we live our lives of failure and sin each day.
FORGIVENESS & DELIVERANCEWe are commanded not to be anxious, but pray with thanksgiving. He promises in turn to guard our heart (Philippians 4:6-7). We can follow that command because the Lord proved that He forgave Israel (for generations) when they returned to Him. He took care of them in impossible circumstances, such as providing enough water for 2 million people and their livestock from a rock!
ENCOURAGING PROMISESEven the Lord Yeshua is given personal promises in Psalms 2 and 110 that the Father will give Him the earth as a possession and He will rule out of Jerusalem. Imagine the comfort this afforded Him as He was beaten over the head, mocked and hung naked on the cross. There are over 3,000 promises in the Old and New Covenants for our protection, encouragement, stability—and rest during this life.
JESUS’ TITLESWhy do we call Jesus our High Priest and King? The basis for Yeshua’s kingly and priestly offices are revealed in the Psalms. The Book of Hebrews would make little or no sense without an understanding and appreciation for the Old Testament.
LAW AND CULTUREUnderstanding the Law and culture of the Jewish people provides appreciation for our relationship with our Savior, who came from the Jewish culture and was ethnically a Jew.
GOD’S STANDARDSThe Old Testament gives God’s standard of righteousness (Ten Commandments), which has not changed but is repeated in the New Testament. How He cares for His people, even though we do not attain to His righteousness, is evident, like His catering to all the needs of the people while they were wandering in the wilderness. We can depend upon Him in our lives.
WORSHIPThe Old Testament teaches us how to approach and worship God (Leviticus and Psalms). It warns us that we cannot approach God without being covered by the sacrificial blood of an innocent animal, which was always a picture of the Lamb, Jesus, Who was to come and shed His blood. It is the “exchange of life” principle (Isaiah 53:4-6). We cannot approach Him on the basis of our own righteousness. An example of this is seen in Cain and Abel. Cain approached God on the basis of His own good works, the fruit of the ground. Abel approached God based on the blood sacrifice of an innocent animal as prescribed by the Lord. We are to celebrate His goodness and hold feasts of eating, praising and rejoicing, thanking Him for His marvelous works of mercies and grace and Creation.

What Value Do Ancient People and Places Have for Me?

The Psalms express human emotions, longings, fears, and joy in timeless ways that resonate with us even today. We find the language of praise (Psalm 18, 19), prayer (Psalm 51), worship (Psalm 150), value (Psalm 119), thanksgiving (Psalm 100), among other human responses. The psalmists expressed all the emotions and realities of life. Their admonition was to turn to the Lord for deliverance, comfort and guidance. They trusted in His purposes; depended on His wisdom, compassion and eventual fulfillment of His promises in their present circumstances and for their ultimate future. They teach us how to handle the needs and pressures of life. The Old Testament provides real-life examples (persons and events) that correlate with New Testament truths.

The Old Testament Helps Us Cope Spiritually.

PICTURES, PRINCIPLES, ILLUSTRATIONSThe way of Salvation is written in the Scriptures. The principles of substitutionary sacrifice (the innocent punished for the guilty) are all illustrated in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin (Lev. 17:11). The penalty of sin is death; we need to look to the innocent Lamb of God that was slain (Isaiah 53).
VICTORIESThe Old Testament demonstrates how to have victory over all kinds of enemies. Joshua gives us many strategies to attain victory. The Psalms are full of examples of enemies vanquished, with God’s intervention and comfort amidst the conflict.
INSIGHT IN SUFFERINGThe Book of Job shows some of Satan’s activity in heaven accusing believers before God, which provides us unique insight. Job is the quintessential person demonstrating the right attitude and victory in extreme times of trouble and undeserved suffering.

Which is True: The Old or New Testament?

While the story of beginnings is introduced in the Old Testament, we continue to call on God as our Creator and Deliverer as people of faith today (Romans 1; 1 Peter 4:19).

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (1 Peter 4:19).

The Bible is not two separate books, not a pair of opposites, but two chapters in the same book. Another way to say this is to look at the Old and New Covenants as two sides of one coin. The Old Covenant lays the groundwork, illustrates the principles of right and wrong and reveals the personality and character of the God Whom we serve and gives the credentials of the Messiah to come. The Old Covenant defines acceptable worship, and the need for and way of Salvation is revealed. The Old Testament contains the record of those who lived honoring lives to the Lord and those who did not. The principle of consequences is demonstrated in the Old Testament: rewards and punishments.

The New Testament continues the story by identifying that the Seed (descendent of Eve) promised in Genesis 3:15 is the person named JESUS of Nazareth. In the New Covenant, He fulfilled ALL the prophecies, performed ALL the miracles foretold in the Old Covenant. The promised work of Salvation was accomplished in His death, burial and resurrection as recorded in the New Testament. The focus switched from the Nation of Israel as the custodian of God’s truth to the “called out ones,” the Body of Messiah, the true Church. This new entity is made up of individuals from every nation (including Israel) and is responsible to proclaim the Gospel, the privileges, responsibilities, the many delights that exist in Christ.

Finally, the last book of the Bible, Revelation, reaffirms and assures us that the promises to the Nation of Israel will be accomplished for them: Jewish leadership and possessions will be re-established with the Lord Yeshua sitting on David’s throne among His people!

The Old and New Testaments are two halves of one story that unfolds over many centuries. It is our privilege to read and observe the truths and then to be involved with HIS STORY.

THE FOUNDATION FOR THE GOSPEL

All through the New Testament the presumption is that the Old Testament Scriptures are understood to be true, valuable and are staged to be the foundation for all the New Testament Scriptures. Validation for the Old Testament Scriptures can be found throughout the New Testament.

UNCHANGING

God proves Himself over many generations that His character does not change. He has always stood righteously against sin and been merciful to those who turn to Him. The same Salvation plan revealed throughout in the Old Testament is completed in the New Testament.

GOD’S FULL COUNSEL TO US. Finally, the Old Testament Scriptures along with the New Testament are the whole counsel and mind of God. All of God’s Word is used by the Holy Spirit to communicate God’s mind, personality, motives, purpose and presence to each believer. To not read and follow the whole of Scripture is to limit the Spirit’s resources to change our lives to be more like our heavenly Father’s dear Son.

Conclusion

The first 39 books of the Holy Scriptures are a goldmine of precious promises and examples of the benefits of right living. They contain God’s lovely words of encouragement, consolation, consistency, comfort, understanding and joy. Survival techniques are couched in every word. Most important of all is that we see Jesus on every page. The history in the Bible is His Story revealed by the Spirit of Truth. There are MANY reasons why the Old Testament is vital to the believer’s walk in this world. So much of God’s personality is revealed, encouraging us to know and love Him more.

The Lord calls us to be knowledgeable, efficient, equipped warriors, able to win victories for our God while implementing His plans, strengthened by His joy, indwelt and empowered by His Spirit. These things—and so much more—are accomplished by employing the truths found in the Old Testament Scriptures, thereby building confidence in our God so that we will trust and obey Him.