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?

Elijah’s Discouragement

The Bible introduces us to the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 17, and we are immediately left with the impression that he is a bold and powerful man of God. The story begins with Elijah declaring to the king of Israel, “surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Elijah’s following actions include raising up a widow’s son from a terminal illness, mocking 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah as they stand by in embarrassment, calling down fire from heaven on an altar to the true God, and personally slaying the prophets of Baal who flee when public opinion turns against them.

There is not much that could be considered a sign of weakness in Elijah through these impressive events. He seems larger than life. But then things change suddenly.

“Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.’ And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.’” (1 Kings 19:1-4)

It seems like Elijah had held it together as long as he could. He had tried to stand strong and turn the people to God in a country that had completely gone astray. But he saw no fruit from his efforts, and he saw no one to help him, and he saw no reason to go on. He just wanted to die.

Thus Elijah journeyed forty days into the wilderness to seek God’s answer to this situation. God’s answer must have been so reassuring. He tells Elijah to go and anoint Hazael and Jehu as new kings and Elisha as a new prophet to carry on his work when he is gone.

“…It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:15-18)

Elijah may have felt like all of his efforts had been for nothing, and that death was preferable to more of his worthless, lonely striving. But that was not the truth of the situation. He was doing an important work in a very difficult time for Israel, and there were others, who he had not considered or perhaps had never even met, who were ready to work alongside him and take over when his time really was finished. Though Elijah had said in verse 14, “I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away,” there were actually 7,000 others who were also faithful to God.

Do not be discouraged when your genuine efforts seem unfruitful. It could be that, like Elijah, you are doing an important work simply by carrying on the tradition that many others, who you may never have even met, will carry on.

Ancient Shadows in the Book of Exodus

What we call “The Old Testament,” Jews often referred to as “The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.”  One remarkable thing about living after Christ’s resurrection is having the opportunity to look back and notice the many fulfilled prophecies and symbols that these ancient inspired works contain.

The New Testament refers to the Law of Moses as “a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17).  The historical account of Noah and the Ark, for instance, is spoken of as “symbol” or “antitype” which corresponds to baptism (1 Peter 3:21).  Many such “shadows” and “antitypes” can be seen in the account of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt and pilgrimage to the promised land.

·      Israel became a great nation in the land of Egypt, so that the Pharaoh feared what they might accomplish (Exodus 1:7-10).  In the same way, we each have the potential to do great things for God, which the devil will try to thwart.
·      The Pharaoh decided to “deal shrewdly” with the Israelites in order to keep them under control (Exodus 1:10).  In the same way, Satan has been using trickery and scheming since Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:13) and continues to do so (John 8:44).
·      The Pharaoh’s plan was to force the people to do hard labor as a means of controlling them (Exodus 1:11-14).  Likewise, the devil seeks to enslave us to sinful desires (Romans 6:20).
·      Help came to the enslaved Hebrews in the form of a newborn baby (Exodus 2:2).  Our help, also, was prophesied with the words: “unto us a child is born.” (Isaiah 9:6).
·      Moses fought for his people to be free, displaying many signs and wonders (Exodus 5-11).  The Christ also suffered many things (Luke 17:25) and did many miracles (John 21:25).
·      In the end, the oppressors were swept away and drowned in the same water that the Israelites passed safely through (Exodus 14:21-30).  We also pass through water, that it might wash our sins away (Acts 22:16).
·      God’s salvation of His people was commemorated by a feast of unleavened bread and the marking of doorposts with the blood of a lamb (Exodus 12:14-27).  We also remember what God has done for us in a feast of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, which represents the blood of the Lamb of God (Luke 22:15-20).
·      A land of milk and honey awaited the Israelites as they left Egypt (Exodus 3:8, 33:3).  We, as sojourners, also seek a better land, in heaven (Hebrews 11:16).
·      While they sojourned, the people of Israel needed to be careful that they did not turn aside to foreign gods (Joshua 24:14-15).  We also must be faithful until death in order to receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

Hidden away in an Old Testament book like Exodus are many symbols that still have great power today.
Ancient Egypt