5 Reasons You Need to Read the Old Testament
I get it, the Old Testament isn’t always the easiest to understand, and it can be difficult to get through in places. But I have heard people encourage fellow Christians to AVOID the Old Testament because of this, and that should not at all be the case! The Old Testament is so important to read (and most of the time, it’s not even that painful). So here are five reasons why I think you absolutely SHOULD read the Old Testament.
1) The Exciting Tales of the Old Testament
The Old Testament has a bit of a bad rap for being a bit...well...boring. I’ll admit, some parts are a bit slow, and all the lists and numbers don’t always hold my attention. That’s all in the Bible for a reason though, so it’s still important and is something we need to study. There’s a challenge for you (and me!). The significance of these less exciting things could be a whole other blog post (series). The Old Testament isn’t entirely lists and numbers though! There are so many exciting stories in the Old Testament of some absolutely wild things happening!
If you’re like me, you grew up in Sunday School hearing the same ten Bible stories over and over, until Noah’s Ark and Moses splitting the sea didn’t sound too thrilling anymore. Guys. Those things that happened are NUTS. Go revisit those old stories with new eyes and see just how amazing those things are. Or, go find a new one. There are SO MANY stories to choose from, I can just about guarantee you’ll be able to find something that you haven’t read or that didn’t stick out to you before.
Looking for a place to get started? Try these:
The Book of Ruth (A classic love story.)
Joshua 1-11 (This includes the Fall of Jericho, which is a pretty well known story, but check out the crazy battle scene in chapter 10 as well!)
Judges 3:12-30 (Here’s one for people who don’t mind a little gore, and are also looking for some comedic relief.)
Judges 4 (Again, a little bit of gore, but a story of a pretty sweet woman of the Bible, as well!)
Numbers 22 (Talking animals, because who doesn’t love Disney, right?)
Let me know in the comments down below or send me a message – what’s your favourite crazy Old Testament story?
2) The Wisdom of the Old Testament
Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment. – Proverbs 4:7 NLT
There’s a lot of wisdom to be found in the Old Testament. For example, there is literally a section of books classified as Wisdom Books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. In these books you can find wisdom and insight on pretty nearly every situation of life. But there’s wisdom to be found in all other books of the Old Testament, as well. Whether it’s wisdom shared by God and his prophets, insight from God’s people, or just a “learn from my mistakes” kind of lesson, there is wisdom to be found in every book. And as we can see in the verse above, wisdom is pretty important.
3) Context and Connections between the Old and New Testament
Reading the New Testament is great, but ONLY reading the New Testament is like coming in on the last twenty minutes of the movie – you see that it’s a happy ending, but you’re missing some of the necessary details for the story to really make sense. You need the history of the Old Testament to understand where we are, why we are where we are, who all these people are, and why we don’t really get along with some of them. You need context to fully understand what’s going on and what’s led up to this. The New Testament also makes reference to the Old Testament quite a bit. Some verses are straight quotes, and sometimes certain stories or people are referenced. Having a bit of background on those things they’re talking about are super helpful in making connections.
4) The Old Testament is Still Relevant
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:14-17 NLT
One argument for not having to read the Old Testament, is wondering how relevant it still is. Well, here it is, folks: VERY. In this verse, Paul is writing to Timothy, whose mother was a Jew and who seems to have raised her son on the Scriptures. Check it out: Paul is commanding Timothy to remain faithful to the things he’s been taught. He’s not telling Timothy to just throw everything out the window now that he knows Jesus. He’s telling him that all that stuff is still important. Why are they important? They gave Timothy the WISDOM he needed to receive salvation. He needed that foundation of wisdom to understand who Jesus was and come to know him. All Scripture is useful – that means all. Not all that was written after a certain time, not all that we enjoy reading, just ALL. God uses ALL of His Word to teach us, correct us, and prepare us.
5) Understanding the Full Impact of the Gospel
But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.
If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, he said:
“The day is coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
And they will not need to teach their neighbors,
nor will they need to teach their relatives,
saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’
For everyone, from the least to the greatest,
will know me already.
And I will forgive their wickedness,
and I will never again remember their sins.”
When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear. – Hebrews 8:6-13 NLT
That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant. – Hebrews 9:15 NLT
Here’s my favourite reason. We need to read the Old Testament so we understand where we’re coming from spiritually. The New Testament is great, and we love to see that happy ending, but the happy ending has so much more weight when you see all the struggles and obstacles that came before it. In the Old Testament we were under the old covenant – we had to follow all of God’s laws and sin led to death unless we offered the appropriate sacrifice with the mediation of God’s appointed priest. But, as this verse states (in a quote from Jeremiah, ahem, see #3), the old covenant was flawed. People really sucked at holding up their end of the covenant. God promised a new covenant, though, which we see the fulfillment of in the New Testament in Jesus. With the coming of the new covenant, the old covenant was obsolete (and I think a lot of people use this verse to write off everything in the Old Testament!). But, what’s obsolete is not the Old Testament and all the commands and promises and wisdom it holds. What’s obsolete is the old system of following God, which was so impossible for us imperfect humans to adhere to. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice once and for all, freeing us from the impossible-to-uphold old covenant and freeing us from death. To fully understand the grace and mercy of the new covenant, we have to understand the burden of the old covenant.
I love to read and study the Old Testament. I won’t lie, sometimes it takes a little bit of work to get to the significance of a thing, but it is so worth it to dig for the treasure. I have been straight up WOWED by some stuff I’ve discovered before. I hope this encourages you to spend some time in the Old Testament!
Do you struggle with reading the Old Testament? What’s the hardest part for you?