Happy New Year, First Baptist! Last year we read through the New Testament together, and this year we will be reading through the first half of the Old Testament: one chapter a day Monday-Friday and then two chapters each on Saturday and Sunday. I understand this will be an added challenge for some to read four chapters on the weekends, but the narrative form of the Old Testament should make reading easier than with the New Testament. In addition, this pace will help us finish the Old Testament in two years, as opposed to four with our previous reading schedule.
Just like in 2017, I am going to use these articles to discuss the book of the month in depth. Specifically, as we read through the OT, I want us to read these stories through a Christ-focused lens. My guess is that most of you are like me in that you were taught Old Testament stories as isolated narratives with a moral focus. For example, the story of Jonah is rarely connected to the rest of the Old or New Testament, and is often taught with the moral of “Serve God even when it is tough.”
While there are good life lessons to be learned from these stories, we need to learn to read our Bibles as one big story that ultimately points to Jesus. Therefore, Jonah is a story that ultimately points us to Jesus. It shows that God is both merciful to sinners who repent (Nineveh), and also patient with sinners who rebel (Jonah). Through Jesus Christ and the cross, God shows His mercy to sinners who repent (thief on the cross), and also shows patience with sinners who rebel by not striking them down instantly, but rather waiting for them to repent (Peter and Paul). Similarly Jonah’s three days in the belly of a fish before being spit out, ultimately foreshadows Jesus’ three days in the grave before rising again to new life (Matthew 12:38-45).
Therefore, each month I will take a story in the book of month and show how it fits in the larger narrative of the Bible and ultimately points us to Jesus and the gospel. In the book of Genesis, we see this prominently in the story of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, hid in shame, and then blamed each other for their sin. God showed His judgment by banishing them from the Garden of Eden, thereby showing the separation between God and man as well preventing them from eating from the Tree of Life. However, before God delivered His judgment, He killed an animal to clothe Adam and Eve in their nakedness, and promised that one day a descendant of Eve would one day crush the serpent’s head.
Like I said earlier, most of us have heard this story a thousand times and often are left with the moral of, “Obey God and do not sin against Him, or there will be consequences.” And in doing so, we miss the good news of the gospel! We miss the clear message from God that His ultimate plan is not to judge and banish sinners, but to save humanity from their sins!
To see what I mean, let us take a look at the story through a Christ-focused lens. Just like Adam and Eve, we all disobey God’s commands, which often leaves us hiding in fear and shame or blaming others for our sin. As we see throughout the rest of the Bible, our sin separates us from God. It prevents us from having a right relationship with Him, it invokes His wrath and judgment against us, and leads to death apart from God forever in Hell. Yet, God’s plan all along was to send Jesus Christ to be our Savior. Jesus would be the animal that was slain on our behalf, so that God could cover our shame with the righteousness of Jesus. And in overcoming death and the grave, Jesus also overcomes the power of Satan, and thus fulfills the promise in the Garden that one of Eve’s descendants would crush the head of the serpent.
Do you see how rich this story is in the good news of the gospel?! Do you see how we cheapen the good news of what God has done for us by simply teaching others to obey God or endure His judgment?! In doing so, we become overly concerned with what we must do, instead of focusing in on what God has done for us!
Church, as we read through the OT this year, let us be actively looking for the good news of Jesus Christ in each of these stories. Let us ask the Spirit to give us wisdom and insight as we read to see the big picture of God’s Story. And let this year be a year of rejoicing of all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus!