One of the most rewarding marks of a Christian is to be able
to read the Old Testament for all its worth. This series titled “One Story” is prepared for just that.
As we go through a number of Old Testament passages, we will see one thing: That the bible does not tell so many
stories, but it tells one story in so many different ways.
The best place to start is Luke 24:13-35. The Emmaus Road
experience. The reason we is starting here are two-fold: it is in this passage
of scripture that we see how we wrongly read the Old Testament, and two, Jesus
Himself in this same passage teaches how to read the Old Testament.
Two sad disciples are walking down to Emmaus when Jesus
meets them but they are kept from seeing Him. He asks them what they are
“18Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the
only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there
in these days?”19And he
said to them,“What
things?”And they said to him,
“Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who wasa
prophetmighty in deed and
word before God and all the people,20andchow our chief priests andrulers delivered him up to be
condemned to death, and crucified him.21But we had
hoped that he wasthe one to redeem Israel. Yes, and
besides all this, it is nowthe third day since these things
some women of our company amazed us.
They were at the tomb early in the morning,23andwhen they did not find his body, they came back saying thatthey had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just
as the women had said, but him they did not see.”25And he
said to them,“O foolish
ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26Was it not
necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter intohis glory?”27Andbeginning withMoses andpall the Prophets, he
interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going
urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening andthe day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.30When he
was at table with them, he took the bread andblessed and broke it and gave it to
them.31And their eyes were opened, and
they recognized him. Andhe vanished from their sight.32They said
to each other, “Did not
our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while heopened to us the Scriptures?””—Luke 24:18-32 (ESV).
Before we delve into
what Jesus teaches us about reading the OT, it is important that we understand
how we read it today. This very passage does that very well.
The OT (and the entire
bible) in our churches today is read as if it is about us—helping us attain our
best life now with a little help from God. Just like these two men who thought
that Jesus was coming to establish a Kingdom on earth when they said: “But we had hoped that he wasthe one to redeem Israel” (v 21b).
Their Kind of story was one in which they were the main cast and Jesus played a
supporting role who only came in to swing His magic wand when the need arose.To be more specific, there are majorly two dangerous
ways in which we approach the Old Testament.
One, Moralism. For the most part, I grew up
being told that the stories in the OT were meant to be examples for me to learn
from. Don’t get me wrong, the bible has a lot examples we should learn from,
but that is not the primary reason those stories are there. Abraham’s faith,
Noah’s obedience, Moses’s stewardship, Joshua’s leadership, Gideon’s courage, etc.
all these stories are not there make us good people, of moral astuteness. Sermons
and books about how to “sly the heads off the giants in your life like David”
are all too common, but they miss the story. In fact moralism and legalism that
plague the church to this day is because nearly everyone has been taught to read
the bible this way. In the end it is our goodness, instead of Jesus’ cross and
blood that we front in hope that we will be justified.
Two, self-help. We live in a self-help
culture, not just that, we are all natural born do-it-yourselfers since Genesis
3. This habit tends to creep into our bible reading when we to look for social
and cultural cues in our bibles so that we will implement them for a smoother
living. “Give me some biblical principles on how I can get out of debt”, then “Seven
steps to Christian growth.” These are all too common. To stress this even more,
our churches today are more inclined to the culture than they are to our sin
problem and its atonement. Sermons are about “Raising obedient kids”, “Managing
finances”, “Motivation”, “Tribalism and Racialism” etc. and ‘experts’ are
brought to teach on these, using the bible as a manual. This is no different
from yoga and other Zen habits.
This way of bible
reading is popular because it puts us in the driving seat and hands all the
control to us to make up a kind of god who will specifically meet our unique
needs using our own methods on our terms—a custom made God! When we do this, we
make the entire bible about us and our betterment (the evangelical word used
here is transformation).
At the core, this kind
of bible reading and study showcases the Christian, not the Christ.
When we bring this mind-set
to bible reading, we will miss Jesus just like the two guys on the Emmaus road.
Our eyes will be closed so that we will only see ourselves in the story,
instead of seeing the promised and presented Messiah—the one God intends for us
Another thing that I need
to point out is Jesus’ initial response “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the
prophets have spoken!” (v. 25). Paul in
Romans 10:17 writes that faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of Truth (Law
and Gospel) alone, there was no way these guys would receive faith to believe in
anything. What they had read from their bibles was not the “Word of Truth”,
they were instead preoccupied with their selfish desires of political
independence, self-improvement and deafening grandeur. What we glean from here
is that if we are ever going to receive the gift of faith from God, we must
hear the gospel, not ourselves; His story not our story; one story not many
stories. Because it is by His gospel, not in our fantasies that we are granted God’s
gift of faith.
Have you heard people
say that majority of Jesus’ teaching is about money, so God wants us to be
rich? I don’t think that is so. The reason Jesus uses money in His
illustrations and parables, I believe, is because money is the only language
all the perverted generations after Adam really speak. If there is anything
that will ‘turn on’ the human mind, its money. But money, just like any other
created thing is never the thing. This is how C. S. Lewis puts it:
things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we
really desire but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb
idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing
itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a
tune we have not heard, news form a country we have never visited.”
Now the question is: How
are we to read the bible? My short answer would be Luke 24:27! “Andbeginning withMoses
andall the Prophets, he
interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
[my emphasis] That’s it. Concerning Himself.
In the next couple of weeks
we will be locating Jesus in the accounts of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel,
Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, the Red sea, Passover, the giving
of the Law, Samson, Esther, and many other Old Testament characters and events.
That is the only right way to read the OT according to Jesus.
All scripture concerns Jesus.
Not us and how to attain our best life now, but Jesus. Matthew Henry in his
commentary writes: “A golden thread of gospel grace runs through the whole web
of the Old Testament.” As readers of the bible, we should be able, with the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to see Jesus on every page of scripture from
Genesis to Revelation.
We cannot afford to see the
Old and New Testaments separately. They are one by the same author (2 Tim 3:16).
To Alec Motyer, an Old Testament theologian, the bible is “… a book with the answers
at the back.” While the Old Testament promises
the Saviour, the New Testament presents the Saviour.
The Old Testament is a canvas
on which God begins to draw a sketch, even though unclear to us, it is the foundation
of a more Beautiful picture that God completes in the New Testament—the picture
That is the picture God wants
us to see in His story, that one picture will make our “our hearts burn within us” with joy unspeakable. The joy of being
found by the Saviour Himself. In the end, the OT like the NT announces our deliverance
from the bondage of sin and its power.
Therefore Old Testament is neither a moral
guide nor self-help manual, it is God’s announcement that He reached down into
our sin, became the very thing that was killing us in order to save us from
that very death we brought to ourselves (2 Cor. 5:21). It is a story in which Jesus,
the main Character comes to save us. This is Jesus’ story.
I pray that Jesus will be revealed to us as we
navigate the Old Testament terrain, may we see Jesus and Him only. AMEN