What Relevance does the Old Testament have to Our Lives Today?

The Bible is a unique book among all of the writings in this world. It is without a doubt unequaled by any other book. The Bible speaks to the central questions of humanity. Sometimes we may not be ready, or willing, or able to hear the answers that it gives, but it does indeed speak to our questions.

While this list may be guilty of oversimplification, it is my attempt to identify a main question that is addressed in each of the books of the Old Testament. Expect a similar list for the New Testament next week!

Genesis: Who is God, who are we, who is Satan, and where do we all fit?
Exodus: What is the nature of our deliverance from bondage?
Leviticus: What is the nature of sacrifice?
Numbers: What is the importance of faith?
Deuteronomy: How can society be blessed, rather than cursed?
Joshua: What happened to the Jewish people in their early history?
Judges: How do humans tend to behave?
Ruth: What is an accurate and pure definition of love?
1 Samuel: What does the LORD desire?
2 Samuel/1Chronicles: What is God’s heart like?
1 Kings: What was Israel like at it’s all time high, and how did it decline?
2 Kings/2 Chronicles: What happens when we forsake God?
Ezra: Where to start when thing are in shambles?
Nehemiah: How should we go about doing important work?
Esther: How can we be brave in dire circumstances?
Job: Why do we suffer?
Psalms: How should we pray and how should we sing?
Proverbs: What is true wisdom?
Ecclesiastes: What is the meaning of life?
Song of Solomon: What does God have to say about courtship, marriage, and sex?
Isaiah: What should concern us, and what should give us hope?
Jeremiah: What does God say to those who know and love Him, but then drift away?Lamentations: Is there any hope for those who suffer the grave consequences of sin?Ezekiel: What are God’s past, present, and future plans for His rebellions people?
Daniel: How can we remain faithful in a world that does not share our beliefs?
Hosea: How much does God love us?
Joel: What is “the day of the LORD” and how should we feel about it?
Amos: How should we feel about injustice?
Obadiah: What happens to those who hurt others?
Jonah: What if I don’t like God’s instructions?
Micah: What does God say to a nation that is corrupt?
Nahum: Just how bad can things get when we stray from God entirely?
Habakkuk: Why does God let injustice happen?
Zephaniah: What does it mean that God’s people are a remnant?
Haggai: How can we give God first priority in our lives?
Zechariah: How can God’s people prosper?
Malachi: What is the nature of acceptable worship?

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How Quickly We Forget

The first five books of the Bible are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These five books together are often referred to as “the books of the Law,” “the Law of Moses,” “the Pentateuch,” or “the Torah.” Together, they lay out God’s laws for the people of Israel to carefully follow as they enter the promised land of Canaan.

Immediately following Deuteronomy is the book of Joshua. It records the efforts of Joshua to bring the people into the promised land, to divide it among the tribes of Israel, and to encourage them to be strong and courageous as they take what God has given to them.

Joshua must have been a remarkable man. He is one of the very few great leaders in the Bible for whom no serious or tragic personal mistakes are recorded. He seems to have exhibited tremendous faith throughout his days, and scripture even informs us that the people of Israel remained faithful to the LORD all the days of Joshua, and even for all of the days of the elders who had known Joshua.

But once Joshua and the other elders were gone, all of that changed.

After the book of Joshua is the book of Judges, and to put it bluntly, Judges paints a picture of an Israel that is seriously messed up. There are many examples in Judges of how rapidly and how seriously Israel fell away from God. Consider one of them, found in Joshua 17. A man has stolen his mother’s silver, and when he confesses to the theft, she celebrates by using some the silver to make idols. But what is especially disturbing, is that apparently she thought this would please the LORD!

“He then returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother, and his mother said, ‘I wholly dedicate the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son to make a graven image and a molten image; now therefore, I will return them to you.’ So when he returned the silver to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver and gave them to the silversmith who made them into a graven image and a molten image, and they were in the house of Micah. And the man Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and household idols and consecrated one of his sons, that he might become his priest.” (Joshua 17:3-5)

But the story gets worse… Micah, in whose house are these graven images that were “dedicated to the LORD,” meets a Levite who agrees to become his personal priest.

“So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, seeing I have a Levite as priest.’” (Judges 17:12-13)

How could Micah possibly think that the LORD would bless him for having household idols and a personal priest for those idols in his home? How could a Levite, who ought to have known the law, not realized that this was a breach of the second of the ten commandments, among other things?

As the story continues in chapter 18, six hundred men from Dan steal the household gods and the priest for their own. “The sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up for themselves Micah’s graven image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh.” (Judges 18:30-31)

The Israelites so quickly turned aside to foreign God’s after entering Canaan. But what may be worse, is that they seemed to think that the LORD would be fine with this. If only they had been careful to familiarize themselves with God’s word, who knows how much better and easier life might have been for them? Let us take this as a warning. We must be careful to constantly familiarize ourselves with the teachings of scripture, lest we quickly fall away and suffer the consequences.

Scriptures and Thoughts on Justification

What does “justification” mean?

 To say a word in your own defense.
(Job 32:2) But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram burned; against Job his anger burned because he justified himself before God.

To show yourself as innocent.
(Genesis 44:16) So Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found.”

Do deliver a verdict of innocence.
(1 Kings 8:31-32) 31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath, and he comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge Your servants, condemning the wicked by bringing his way on his own head and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.

To pronounce innocent, to reconcile.
(Isaiah 53:11) As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

To have the charges brought against you silenced.
(Romans 8:31-34) 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

Results in reconciliation with God.
(Romans 5:1) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

To be given the identity of an innocent person, rather than a criminal, and to grow into this new identity.
(1 Corinthians 6:11) Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

How is it related to righteousness?

Same Greek word. Appears throughout Romans 3.

(Romans 3:19-26) 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

(Romans 3:27-30) 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

If I am justified, is it “just as if I’d never sinned?”

(Galatians 3:27) For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

(Galatians 6:7) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

(Romans 7:15-20) For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

How does someone become justified?

(Romans 2:12-13) 12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.

(It would seem that someone could become justified by keeping the Law, but as Paul goes on to demonstrate in Romans 3, none of us can actually be justified this way because none of us has kept it perfectly!)

Thus clearly, not by perfect law keeping:

(Galatians 2:15-17) 15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

(Luke 18:11-14) The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(Romans 4:2-8) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”

(Titus 3:4-8) But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.

(Luke 16:14-14) 14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

Can someone lose their justified status?

(1 Peter 3:7) You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

(Hebrews 6:4-6) For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

What does it mean that justification is a gift?

(Romans 3:24) “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;”

(Romans 5:15-17) 15But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

How does justification relate to sanctification?

(Matthew 12:37) For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 (James 2:20-26) But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

No Room for Boasting

Is the church basically just a group of people who think that they are better than everybody else, because they hold themselves to a bunch of traditions and rules that they think makes them superior?

Perhaps unfortunately that is sometimes the way churchgoers actually feel, but the Bible itself does not describe Jesus’ church that way. In fact, the book of Romans takes pains to make it abundantly clear that the righteousness of the church is NOT about how good they are as people, but rather how kind God has been to pour His grace out on those who will put their faith in Him.

The book of Romans gives us principles such as these:

“There is none righteous, not even one… There is none who does good, There is not even one.”

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.”

The point is that people in the church are not naturally “better people” than those outside. Rather, they are clothed with the goodness of Jesus. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Church is all about Jesus, and His goodness.

These principles led Paul to say these words in 1 Corinthians 4: “To me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself… Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”

In other words, Paul was saying that the job of the church is not to figure out who is the best Christian and who is the most lousy, or to brag about how good we are. Instead, judgment belongs to God, and we rest in His promises for those who are faithful.

And yet, while the church is not obsessed with being “better than” other people or figuring out who is the holiest, it is still true that the church strives for moral excellence. In the fourth chapter of 1 Thessalonians, The church in Thessalonica is commended for walking as they should, with the instruction “that you excel still more.” Again in the same chapter they are complimented for the love that they have for one another, yet they are told, “but we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.”

And in an odd way, it is the very fact that the church is justified by faith rather than by works that enables the church to grow spiritually. Because of Christ’s sacrifice and the words of scripture, we can know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13), and this frees us from negative thinking and constant fear of punishment or failure, so that we can walk down the path of holiness with confidence and joy. We can also be free from the pettiness of comparing ourselves to those around us. It has been said, “it is amazing how much can get done when no one cares who gets the credit.”

The church is not simply a place for “good people” who make all the right decisions in life. It is a place for broken people to find justification by faith, to rest in God’s promises, and to follow Him as well as they can on the pathway of righteousness.

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Righteousness”

What is righteousness?
Just like the word sounds, it indicates behavior that is morally justifiable or right. Comes from the English word “rightwise,” meaning in the right way.

Hebrew
tsedeq/tsedaqah – honesty, justice, merits, right, righteousness, righteous acts/deeds, vindication.  It is a diving attribute and one that humans should strive to develop.

Greek
dikaiosune – used to describe conduct in relation to others, especially in business or legal matters. Frequently used as an indication that one is innocent of a crime of which they have been accused. Contrasted with wickedness.

The same word is also translated as “justification,” showing that the two English words, righteousness and justification, refer to two sides of the same idea and are very closely related.

How does righteousness differ from holiness?
The meaning of holiness is associated with being separated or called out. We are called out to be a righteous people, so the words overlap in meaning, but differ in emphasis.

What are “faith-based” and “works-based” righteousness, and what is up with the big discussion surrounding them?
It is important to understand that we could never be righteous on our own:

(Ecclesiastes 7:20) “There is not a righteous man on earth.”
(Psalm 14:2-3) “No one does good, not even one.”
(Romans 3:10) “No one is righteous.”
(James 2:10) if you stumble in one point, you are guilty of breaking the whole law.

Our righteousness is a gift from God:

(Romans 3:21-23) “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

(Romans 3:24) we are “justified by His grace, as a gift.”

(Romans 5:1) “We have been justified by faith.”
(Romans 5:17) “the gift of righteousness…”

(Ephesians 2:8-9) of salvation… “It is the gift of God, not a result of works, that no one may boast.”

(2 Corinthians 5:21) “He made Him who knew no sin… that we might become…”

(Titus 3:5-7) “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

(Genesis 15:6) “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

Trying to earn our salvation by works is pointless, or worse:

(Galatians 5:4) “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”

So how do we reconcile this with verses on the importance of righteous actions on our part?
(Romans 8:13) “If you live according to the flesh, you will die.”

(Sermon on the mount) “know them by their fruits… he who does the will of My Father in heaven will enter… he who hears my words and acts on them/does not act on them”

(James 2:17) “Faith without works is dead.”
(1 John 3:9) “No one who is born of God practices sin/will keep on sinning.”
(Hebrews 10:26) “If we keep on sinning deliberately/willfully, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…”

(1 Peter 3:12) “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” The righteous and “those who do evil” are separate groups of people. It appears that you cannot be both.

Why are these verses in the Bible? What do they tell us?
(2 Timothy 2:22) “pursue righteousness…”

(1 Corinthians 9:27) “I discipline my body… so that I myself will not be disqualified.”

An important verse to consider:
(1 John 2:29) “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”

(Philippians 1:11) “Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

What does this verse mean?
(Matthew 5:20) “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Can I be kept out of heaven for being unrighteous, even if I am a baptized believer?
(Revelation 2:5) “repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”

(Revelation 2:16) “repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.”
(Revelation 2:22) “Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.”

In other words, they need to make things right with God by changing their actions, or else.

What is it that they need to repent of, and how will they know when they have repented? What punishment follows if they do not?

(1 Corinthians 6:9) a whole list of people who do certain actions will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 What are the main components of day-to-day righteous living?
It is a practice:
(1 John 3:7) “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.”

We live by principles set up ahead of time:
(Genesis 39:6-10) Joseph did the right thing despite consequences.

(1 Peter 3:14) “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”

“Do right by” those in your life:
(Isaiah 33:15-16) “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil.”

(Psalm 106:3) “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!”

 (Ezekiel 18:5-9) “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not… lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel… does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.”

What are some common but meaningful examples of doing the right thing?
Giving back too much change… etc.

What is “righteous indignation” and should I have it?
(Psalm 7:11) “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” An anger which is right to have.

It may sometimes be appropriate. See thoughts and scriptures on “wrath”