The Difficulty with Reading the Old Testament

“Sandra Richter, in The Epic of Eden, describes what she calls the “dysfunctional closet syndrome,” in which she compares the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, to a closet jam-packed with all kinds of stuff— clothes, shoes, books, games— but so disorganized you don’t know where to put things or how to find things when you need them. So we shut the door and tell ourselves that we’ll sort it all out someday. Sound familiar?” -Rankin Wilbourne

 

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Not Parted Even By Death

Your very dust is the Lord’s, and the grave rots not the bond of the covenant. -John Flavel, paraphrase from sermon 37 in Fountain of Life.

Covenant: A Broad Term

“Part of the difficulty [in defining a covenant] is due to the wide semantic range of the word. In addition to being used to refer to the various covenant between God and man, the word is used to describe things as diverse as marriages (Mal. 2:14), personal bonds of friendship (1 Sam. 18:3), arrangements between a people and their king (2 Sam. 5:3), vows to put away foreign wives (Ezra 10:3), commitments to dethrone and replace a queen (2 Kings 11:4), and more. In addition, we find references to a berit [covenant] being made with stones and beasts (Job 5:23), with one’s eyes (Job 31:1), with Leviathan (Job 41:4), with death (Isa. 28:15, 18), and with the day and night (Jer. 33:20, 25).” Keith Mathison, From Age to Age , pg. 29

Circumcision and Baptism

“Just as circumcision was the mark of grace in the Old Covenant, baptism is the mark of grace in the New Testament, the mark of God on those who are his. As Covenant signs, circumcision and baptism speak of the promises of God and symbolize the donation of those promises to authorised candidates, but, as promises, they only modulate into the spiritual realities of which they speak by the sovereign decision of God and the exercise of personal faith.” -Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament

The Old Testament is Our Book

“The Old Testament does not belong— let me say it to you sensitively— does not belong to the Jewish people. The Old Testament is our book, and the things that happened in the Old Testament are our prehistory, yours and mine because we belong to Jesus. Bishop Maurice Wood was the prince of pulpit anecdotes. ‘A story for every occasion’ could be the title of his biography. He delighted to tell of a Frenchman who became a naturalised Englishman. He was asked, ‘Has it made any difference to you that you are now an English citizen and not a French citizen?’ ‘Oh yes,’ he said, ‘it has made all the difference in the world. You see now I’ve won the Battle of Waterloo!’ The Old Testament is our book. We should never find ourselves saying ‘They came out of Egypt.’ The Exodus redemption is my prehistory and yours. And what we call Old and New Testament is one magnificent story of God working out his age-long purpose of salvation, making promises and keeping them, inspiring predictions and fulfilling them, taking and preserving a people for his name and glory.” -Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament

Standing on Its Tip-Toes

“The Old Testament is, in many ways, a book standing on tiptoe, straining forward into the future. God gave Abraham a promise (Gen. 12: 1– 3; 22: 15– 17; cf., 26: 4) that he would be heir of the world, and bring back the blessing that the world had lost: he was looking forward to see the fulfilment of the promise, but fulfilment did not come in the Old Testament. Moses spoke of ‘a Prophet like unto me’ (Deut. 18: 14– 18), but Deuteronomy 34: 10 records that no such prophet has arisen. David was promised a kingship over all Creation, for all time (Ps. 89: 19– 29), but the Old Testament ends still waiting for the coming of that King. So where is it all going? Where is the other end of the line? The line from the Old Testament runs straight into the New Testament. Have you got that? Not anywhere else— straight into the New Testament.” -Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament