By Jeremy Edmonson1
On Christmas Eve, my wife and I sat and read Luke 1:5-2:40. Reading this section of Scripture out loud gave me great joy. The prophecies of John the Baptist (being the forerunner to the Messiah- Malachi 3:1), and of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ by the angel Gabriel comforted my heart, seeing that God was intervening in history to bring about the greatest gift of love to the world. Knowing that Jesus would fulfill the hope of the world and one day (future still) sit on the throne of His father, David should bring the believer to Disneyland-type smiles.
Then, I thought "how many people get this?" "How many people understand the significance of what was taking place between Nazareth and Bethlehem?" Or to ask the real question, "How many people study the Old Testament?" In some circles, there is a tendency to push aside the deep truths and flowing narrative of the Old Testament in order to get to the New Testament truths that have become so familiar to us. Let me tell you honestly, this thinking is a mistake. You see, the beauty of the Old Testament is that it tells us about who God is (Creator- Genesis 1:1), what God is like (in defining right and wrong- Genesis 1-3), His merciful dealings with disobedience (Numbers 13-14), and His great and wonderful promises that demonstrate His place as God. In Isaiah, God speaks to this:
"Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it." -Isaiah 46:8-11
You see, God is the Creator, but He also holds the future in His hands because He has decreed the beginning and the end, and knows the things not yet done. He is the God of prophecy. In reading the Old Testament, we are given a glimpse into the infinite character of God and the wondrous working of His ways, which is unlike anything that we are familiar with here on earth. In Him, we find hope to live this life, that would otherwise be meaningless and absurd. In the Old Testament, we find the perfect background for all that we read in the New Testament. This is critical, probably in more ways than we can imagine. Let me explain.
Bible teacher Charles Clough (www.bibleframework.com) tells the story of New Tribes Missions in the 1970's and their failure in reaching indigenous tribes with the Gospel. Their method had been to meet the tribe and learn the language, and then translate the Gospel of Mark (since it was the shortest) with the purpose of leading people to faith in Christ. When they reached the end of the Gospel of Mark and no one was responding to the Gospel, the missionaries were frustrated and disgruntled. What could be going wrong?
Sometime in 1980, a new director came on board, and as the problem was conveyed to him, his response was almost instant. The reason that these tribesmen were not coming to faith in Christ was because they were coming in on the middle of the message. There are 39 books of wonderful, foundational history that needed to be established first in order to understand who God is, who man is, and what sin is. Without these basic understandings, people do not know why they should be saved, what they should be saved from, and who is going to provide the salvation.
The scholars at New Tribes set out to revamp their method, now starting with basic, foundational accounts from the Old Testament, starting with creation. This was made into 52 lessons that culminated with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. But what was most interesting are the results that they encountered. Upon using this method, a chief and his tribe became believers when the New Tribes teacher finished the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. Upon hearing the name of "Jesus..., who is called the Christ" (Matt. 1:16), the chief exclaimed, "This is the One that we have been waiting for." He believed, and was saved; he and his tribe after him!
In this New Year, I encourage you to set your eyes on a better understanding of the Old Testament. Take it slow and study it well. The fruit of such labor will surely be blessed by the God of heaven and earth!1 Jeremy Edmonson is pastor of Resurgence Church in Evansville, IN. Below is a short testimony about his journey to grace: