I took Pentateuch and Historical Books class this past semester. (It was my last OT class of my time here in seminary!) It was so refreshing. Although one semester clearly is not enough to study so much material, it was still vastly helpful to my understanding of who Jesus is and what His atonement really has done for us. This has also been girded by an in depth study of Romans 1-3 this semester in my small group.
But the OT law and the tabernacle…wow! There is simply so much to read and understand. All the laws, the different types of laws, etc. It was interesting to really spend time on them. But God was serious about these things. The sacrifices that had to be offered for the cleansing of the the tabernacle, the sacrifices given for various offenses, the sacrifices given on account of the priest and for the people God took all very seriously. People could not simply enter into God’s presence whenever they wanted. They could not simply ask for God to forgive them and keep on living the same way and be considered righteous according to the law.
When Jesus came and “tabernacled amongst us” the presence of God was amongst all people. If people had seen Jesus, they could say that they had seen God. When Jesus died, He was both the perfect sacrifice given on account of all people and the High Priest who offers the sacrifice on our behalf. Through this “once for all” sacrifice God was satisfied to call all who believe upon Jesus Christ as the atonement for their sin righteous. This means that we can be in a relationship with God without fear or without restrictions. We can now approach God’s throne room in prayer knowing that He will hear us because of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Of course we ask for the forgiveness of sins that we commit, but He has already forgiven them. He did so when Christ offered Himself as sin on our behalf. What a privilege! How often do we consider that as we so easily call to God in prayer? Usually because of something WE want.
The Old Testament is packed full of requirements for the people of Israel so that they might remain holy amongst all the people of the earth. They were to be different than all the other nations that surrounded them so that they would stand out as witnesses of Yahweh, the one true God of this world. Of course they fail time and time again. But God is so long-suffering. God is loves giving mercy. And He instigated time and time again opportunities for the Israelites to come back to Him even though they committed infidelity over and over with other “gods.” He pursued them. He pursued them so much that He came down Himself to die on our behalf so that we might be able to be in God’s presence — because He does have to punish sin. He is a righteous and holy God. And therefore sin had to be punished, and so He took the punishment upon Himself by sending Jesus, His only begotten Son, and made Him sin for us. Because of this we can now come into the presence of God. He does not attribute our sin to us. If He did, we would not be able to be in His presence. All we have to do is simply believe that. To God, faith is everything. That is exemplified over and over in His word. And to us faith should be everything. Because if we truly believe this, then it causes us to live our life in a certain way. It causes us to live in such a way that is line with what God expects from people living on this earth. In fact, it is not simply a way, it is THE way. This way only comes through Jesus Christ.
People have wanted to remind themselves over the centuries of the truths about Jesus Christ. To do so they have made creeds to memorize basic facts about God and the church. Two famous ones would be the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed. Here is common version of the Apostle’s creed:
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell. [See Calvin]
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.
I have read this and thought in the past, “Wow, that’s great!”
But then, after having this class and after a comment made by another OT professor here at Trinity, I realized, “What ever happened to the OT?” There is nothing mentioned about it at all! No mention of the fall, the covenants made to Abraham, David, or Jeremiah. There is nothing mentioned about the tabernacle or the temple. There is nothing mentioned about sacrifices. Perhaps the most shocking thing is that there is no mention of the Exodus! I have a hard time believing that Moses or Joshua would be okay with memorizing a creed that does not mention the Exodus. God seems to think it was pretty important.
The OT is very important. Without it, we really wouldn’t understand how important and gracious Jesus really is to salvation history. As Christians it is tempting to only spend time in the New Testament. It seems more practical. The epistles are very helpful in knowing what we should be DOING. We love to think about what we should DO. But the OT helps us understand who Jesus is and was, and how God has historically dealt with sin. Sin is a very serious thing. We go to church on Sundays and hope that sermon won’t go too long. Punch in, punch out, and we’re good for the next week. But if we had a better appreciation of the OT, and took the time to understand the history of the nation of Israel and the world, we would have a much deeper understanding of our so great salvation. We would have a better understanding of how great a privilege it is to come before God. Ultimately, the OT would give us greater faith in who God is and what He has done for us — therefore causing us to live our lives differently.