As a junior in college, I began to read Scripture more routinely and joyfully. It was in a house with four other guys that I would wake up and have my time with God and His Word at 8:00 am (early for a 20-year-old college guy!). I spent different amounts of time each day in the Word and prayer. This was a very fruitful season in my life. I never spent so much time in God’s Word either academically or devotionally. I gained new truths and insights. I grew in my faith. I felt so close to God. Nothing seemed like it could have gone wrong!
Through this time, I used a Bible reading plan that would get me through the New Testament three times per year and the Old Testament once per year. I tended to soak up the New Testament and neglect the Old Testament. After all, isn’t it the New Testament that focuses on the cross?
How wrong was my thinking! My question was, “Why do I need to read biblical history?” Biblical history is much of what the Old Testament is comprised of. But, more on that later!
After reading the New Testament multiple times over, while only reading small chunks of the Old Testament, I realized something was missing. One time, as I came to the end of the New Testament, again, I felt a void. The New Testament wasn’t coming together as I had hoped. I was not gaining the joy in God that it once had. I did not have a want for more.
As I was left in confusion and a small level of spiritual despair, I felt that I should dive into the Old Testament. Why not, right? It was here that I discovered the connection that all Scripture has! As my hermeneutics professor would say, “Scripture interprets Scripture.” I began to see the Bible weaving together. I began to see why the New Testament quotes so much of the Old Testament. I began to rediscover the joy that I had lost in my ignorance.
It was later, in seminary, that we focused on the following verse in Old Testament survey, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). The professor taught this verse to impart the truth that God has not revealed to us all things. Yet, I gained another crucial insight: the weight of God’s revelation is for us to “do” what He has revealed within his Word. If we neglect parts of it, then we miss parts of it! If we read the New Testament without the Old Testament, then we don’t grasp the full scope of the gospel. If we read the Old Testament without the New Testament, then we don’t grasp the full scope of the gospel!
Need we wonder why God is introduced as He is in Scripture? Consider the following verses:
To Moses: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6).
Through Joshua: “Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea. And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. And when they cried to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt” (Joshua 24:6–7).
Through Nehemiah and the Israelites: “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their hosts, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all this is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you” (Nehemiah 9:6). “You gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner . . . You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter (Nehemiah 9:22, 23).
God is introduced in power! He is introduced by what He has done. This is the power of biblical history. By reading what God has done, we gain insights into the character of God. When we read of God’s deliverance of the Israelites, we see the love, compassion, and power of God. In the recounting of His dealings with King David and Bathsheba, we see that even a man after God’s own heart can be broken and redeemed. It is in Isaiah 53 that we see the prophecy of the suffering servant, Jesus Christ. We read of God not only making promises but delivering on them!
Since discovering the value of the Old Testament, I have done sermon series through Joshua and Nehemiah as well as spent many times on sermons through the Old Testament, pouring over the text.
Some of the most fruitful lessons for me in Scripture have come from the Old Testament. Some of the most authentic sermons I have preached have come from the Old Testament. Some of my most genuine prayers have been the fruit of time in the Psalms. Some of the greatest exultation in the Lord has come from reading biblical history and gaining insights into the character of God. May we not neglect any part of Scripture, as it is all God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16–17)! After all, isn't the Old Testament and the New Testament alike, the Bible?