By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
When surveying the Old Testament, Christians can often stumble across some difficult-to-read passages. We may find ourselves cringing that the Israelite army killed thousands of people or that God’s anger destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
Often, this can lead to Christians avoiding talking, preaching, or reading the Old Testament altogether. Some Christian bookstores now carry Bibles with just the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs (the “easier to digest” portions of the Old Testament).
However, it’s wise to remember the Old Testament plays a vital role in the overall redemption narrative. We can’t trim two-thirds of the Bible away because it doesn’t play into our cultural palate.
This article will discuss ways to find the Gospel in Old Testament stories, especially the frightening ones.
God is not and Old Testament and New Testament dichotomy.
One of the reasons we often feel cognitive dissonance with the Old Testament is we’ve drawn a false dichotomy about God Himself. Some people confusedly say, “There’s one God in the Old Testament and one God in the New Testament. The God in the Old Testament was wrathful, angry, and immature. The New Testament God was more placated, calmer, mature, and more loving.”
Those who assert this dichotomy forget:
- In the Old Testament, God displays love and grace and compassion (Exodus 34:6, Nehemiah 9:17, Jonah 3:8-10). The Jonah example is particularly poignant. The Ninevites would skin people alive and leave them to fry in the desert. One of the worst enemies of Israel, God chooses to spare them when they repent.
- In the New Testament, God doesn’t withhold wrath or indignation. When Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit, God strikes them dead (Acts 5:1-11). When Herod Agrippa doesn’t give God glory when the people say he has the voice of a deity, he’s eaten by worms alive (Acts 12:20-23). We need to keep in mind the New Testament isn’t all warm and fuzzy.
We also need to understand there’s often a false dichotomy drawn between love and wrath.
The two do not stand at odds with each other. We have to understand the severity of sin. Sin destroys souls, separates us from a holy God, and wreaks havoc on everything in its path.
For a more in-depth study of the gravity of sin, check out Alvin Plantinga’s book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be.
Sin and punishments for sin do line the Old Testament, but so do Savior types.
New Testament writers often compare Jesus with some of these types. Some of these Savior “types” include:
- Moses: Like Jesus, a ruler tried to kill both of them at birth. Both reared in Egypt (Jesus for a short while), they later save the Israelite nation from an oppressive ruler. Moses saves them from Egypt, Jesus from sin.
- Adam (Romans 5:12): Both are representatives of humanity. Although Adam disobeyed and fell prey to sin. Jesus Christ obeyed God and accepted death on the cross in humility.
- Isaac: Jesus’ Father and Isaac’s father were willing to sacrifice their sons in obedience to God. God provided a lamb to save Isaac. Jesus was the lamb to save Israel and all the world.
- Joshua: Both Joshua and Jesus lead their people into a Promised Land. Joshua’s Promised Land was on this earth, Jesus’ in Heaven.
The Old Testament hints, through its people who show up in the narrative, about a coming Savior. Not only do we have hundreds of prophecies that refer to Jesus, but we also have people who point us to Him.
You can find more typology of Jesus in the Old Testament in this article.
Along with Jesus types, we run into an Old Testament redemption arc we see fulfilled in the New Testament.
The Judges, rulers over Israel, especially exemplify this. The pattern of redemption often goes a little like this:
First, Israel sins and turns away from God, pursuing false idols.
Then, God allows for an enemy, particularly the enemy in which Israel is worshipping their gods or practices, to capture Israel.
In desperation, Israel cries out for help.
In response, God places a judge to rescue them.
Mercifully, the judge saves them from the oppressor.
Ultimately, Israel praises God and turns back to Him.
Then the cycle repeats. That sounds a lot like the redemption arc spoken of in the New Testament.
First, people sin and turn away from God.
Then, God gives us over to the sinful desires of our hearts (Romans 1).
In desperation, now captured by sin’s grasp, we call out for help.
In response, God sends the ultimate judge, Jesus, to rescue us from the ultimate oppressor.
Mercifully, Jesus, through his death and resurrection, saves us from sin.
Ultimately, we praise God and dedicate ourselves to him for what he has done.
God rescues even in the Old Testament.
Even before and after the judges, we see God rescuing Israel time and time again throughout the Old Testament, as seen in the Christ types above. After the judges, a number of prophets step onto the scene to earnestly seek for Israel to turn back to God.
God is never shy of offering grace and redemption, even before the New Testament.
You cannot read the Old Testament without seeing something that points to the redemption story in the New Testament. From Christ types, redemption stories, and great examples of God’s grace and love, we can see the gospel of Christ, even amidst the scarier or harder-to-swallow passages and stories.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Sarah-Noltner
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 500 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) released in June, and they contracted the sequel Den for July 2020. Find out more about her here.