February 2011

Preaching Christ From the Old Testament-pt.2: Jesus and The Law of Moses.

When Jesus explained to the two men on the road to Emmaus about Himself from the Law of Moses, what exactly did He say? Is there any indication anywhere of what He might of said. If He spoke of Himself from Moses to these two men, did He ever, to any other audience speak of Himself? He did, on some occasions, refer to Himself as the “substance” (Colossians 2:17) of what was spoken in Moses. We will begin with those references found in the gospels and then examine a few from the epistles of Peter and Paul and possibly others.

The earliest reference that Christ used about Himself from the Law of Moses was the serpent on a pole from John 3:14-15. In the dialogue with Nicodemus, the issue was the kingdom of God (vv. 3,5). Entering into the kingdom of God was synonymous with gaining eternal life as well as being born again (cf. vv. 3,5,7,15). And, Jesus knew that He came to die and that it would be by crucifixion, which is the act of raising a person, who has been fixed by nails to wooden beams, up high for all to see as an act of shame toward the perpetrator. The perfect analogy for the act of something being raised for all to see is the serpent episode in Israel’s history.

Numbers 21:5-9 narrates the event to which Jesus is referring. Israel has had a wonderful victory over the king of Arad, as a result of a little ‘covenant’ or agreement they made with God. God did what He said He would do and Israel did what they were supposed to do. Marching onward toward the goal of the land of Canaan (cf. Deuteronomy 2:8-15), the people had a change in their tone. They, being tired and hungry, began to complain about the journey (Numbers 21:5). They, I assume, thought they deserved better. So, it seems, that God reminded them of what they actually deserved-death (Genesis 2:17). Thus, He sent “fiery serpents” among the people and they began to bite them so that many began to die. What were these serpents? Hard to say. They may be fiery as that which describes their appearance. They may be fiery as that which describes the effect of their bite. The term used for “serpent” is that used of the serpent in the garden (Genesis 3:1) and is the normal term used for any snake or serpent. In 2 Kings 18:4, this incident is spoken of and we are told that Israel took this “relic” of the serpent that Moses was told to make and worshiped it. Interestingly, it is called a “bronze serpent” referring to its obvious color. It must have been brilliant and copper in color. So, it would seem that the term “fiery” refers to the brilliance of the snakes in color.

As the people were dying from the bite of the serpents, they cry out to Moses, for help (v.2). Moses, apparently, prays to God for help, on their behalf, and God says to put an image of one of the serpents on a pole so that it can be seen. Thus, when people are bitten, not before, they can simply look at the image on the pole and God would heal them. The correlation is  obvious. Jesus said, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”  Jesus, much like the bronze-colored serpent (the ‘serpent’, incidentally, is a cursed animal because of its use in the fall. Galatians 3:13 tells us that Christ became a curse on the tree, the curse that we incurred for ourselves. We were bitten, so to speak, and yet He healed us [1 Peter 2:24]), was placed upon a wooden support for all to see. In John 3:14-15, Jesus speaks of Himself as One who will be lifted up, presumably on a pole or some kind of object (cf. John 8:28; 12:34) and that, just like the Israelites, all who look to Him will gain eternal life. This assumes, of course, this look is the result of the repentance that comes with understanding that you were bitten by the serpent of sin, so to speak, and that you have no recourse. Your death is imminent. It is sure and there is no “second chance”. Thus, to look to Jesus Christ is healing, not for our bodies but for our dead souls.

This is the good news. Jesus Christ became a curse for us. Our sin was placed upon Him, and in exchange, for those who believe, His righteousness was placed upon us, i.e. to our account before God. Paul wrote: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. ” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB95) . Isaiah wrote: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. ” (Isaiah 53:4–5, NASB95).  Far more than carrying away sickness (Matthew 8:14-17), He carried away our sins (Psalm 103:11-12). God, the righteous Judge, has crushed His own Son our behalf that we might be declared righteous and then made righteous. Not by what we have done (Titus 3:5-6), but completely by His own economy and accomplishments. To this end, we need to constantly give all honor and praise that is due His holy and just name.

Preaching Christ From The Old Testament-pt.1

If someone were to ask you, “Who is Jesus?”, and all you had in your hand was a copy of the Old Testament, would you be able to show them? Would you be able to lead a person so salvation armed with only the Old Testament Scriptures? Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-15, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The only writings that Timothy, who was half-Jew (Acts 16:1), would have been taught were those of the Old Testament, and that from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5)! Those Scriptures were able to lead a person to faith in the Christ/Messiah. They truly were sufficient for all things leading to godliness.

 

However, my question still stands: could you explain Jesus Christ from the Old Testament Scriptures? This is an intriguing reality that Jesus Christ was preached in the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. This was a typical three-fold designation of the Old Testament. The following chart gives a basic outline of the division of the Old Testament according to traditional Hebrew categories*:

 

DIVISION

BOOK

THEME

Law

Genesis

Creation and Blessing

 

Exodus

Slavery and Redemption

 

Leviticus

Sacrifice and Sanctification

 

Numbers

Wilderness Wandering

 

Deuteronomy

Exposition of the Law

 

 

 

Prophets

Joshua

Conquest of Canaan

 

Judges

Cycles of Disobedience

 

1 Samuel

Davidic History

 

2 Samuel

Davidic Covenant

 

1 Kings

Royal National History

 

2 Kings

Royal National History

 

Isaiah

Salvation of God

 

Jeremiah

The Word of God

 

Ezekiel

The Glory of God

 

Hosea

An Example of Forgiveness

 

Joel

The Day of the Lord

 

Amos

The Divine Lawsuit

 

Obadiah

Judgment on Israel’s Enemies

 

Jonah

God’s Compassion and Grace

 

Micah

The Divine Lawsuit

 

Nahum

Divine Judgment and Goodness

 

Habakkuk

God’s Justice With thte Nations

 

Zephaniah

The Day of the Lord

 

Haggai

Restoration and Ecouragement

 

Zechariah

God’s Imminent Presence and the Messianic King

 

Malachi

Covenant Love and Loyalty

 

 

 

Writing/Psalms

Psalms

Prayer and Praise of the King of Kings

 

Job

God’s Justice with an Individual

 

Proverbs

God’s Wisdom

 

Ruth

An Example of Faithfulness

 

Song of Solomon

A Celebration of Marital Love

 

Ecclesiastes

The Goodness of God and the Meaning of Life

 

Lamentations

Unfaithfulness and Repentance

 

Esther

The Sovereignty of God over Israel

 

Daniel

The Sovereignty of God over the Nations

 

Ezra

Restoration of Temple and Community

 

Nehemiah

Restoration of Jerusalem and Covenant

 

1 Chronicles

History of Covenant: Adam to Solomon

 

2 Chronicles

History of Covenant: Solomon to Cyrus

*Taken from:  Dr. William D. Barrick, “Content of the Old Testament”, (http://www.drbarrick.org/Website%20Files/OT%20Survey_Content%20of%20the%20OT%202.pdf accessed on 2/1/2011).

 

These divisions were commonly listed as Law, Prophets and the Writings (or Psalms). This is the same division that Jesus used in Luke 24:44. It was the traditional categorization that the Hebrews used to collect inspired writings together in order to gain the greatest understanding of God’s truth. The teachings, themes and historical information are all to be studied for their own merit. They are to be comprehended as they were written in the historical context in which they existed. However, even within that, these Scriptures also testify of Jesus the Messiah (John 5:39; cf. Luke 24:47).

 

The ministries of the apostles were nothing more than the explication and exposition of truth about Christ from the Old Testament (that is not to say that there was no new teaching in the New Testament. For example, there are a number of mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven that were new to the church age and were not revealed in the Old Testament [see Romans 16:25-27]). They were constantly preaching and teaching from Old Testament (OT) Scriptures the Christ. Here are some examples:

 

Acts 10:43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.

Acts 26:22 “So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place;

Acts 28:23 When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.”

Luke 24:27  Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

Luke 24:44Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

John 1:45 “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Romans 3:21  But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets…”

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Acts 8:32–35 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He does not open His mouth. In humiliation His judgment was taken away; who will relate His generation? For His life is removed from the earth.’ (Isaiah 54:7-8). The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.”

 

The basis of preaching Christ in the early church, and even in the ministry of Christ both before and after His resurrection, was the OT. The OT contained the predictions, promises, provisions and covenants concerning all that God would bring about via His Messiah, His Son, Jesus Christ. It is from the OT that we learn that we need a Savior (Genesis 3). It is from the OT that we learn that God is a saving God (Genesis 6-8). It is through the OT that we learn that God is gracious and compassionate (Exodus 34:5-7). It is through the OT that we learn that God has a plan for redemption of sinners (Genesis 12:3). It is through the OT that we learn that the Savior will reign as King (Psalm 110). It is from the OT that we learn that God will never forget His covenants of blessing upon the house of Abraham nor the world (Isaiah 2:1-4). It is also from the OT that we learn the ultimate plan of God for this earth is renewal (Isaiah 65:17-25). Beyond all of this, there is the promise of the location of Christ’s birth, the original of evil, the need for redemption, the pictures and teaching tools that aid our understanding of spiritual salvation as well as physical salvation (from the presence of sin). We have also the equipping tools of living life on this earth-the wisdom, discretion and knowledge that God gives to those who fear Him. We learn how to train up our children and how to love our wives. Women learn why they should love and respect their husbands and husbands why they should honor their wives. Workers learn the motive for your labor and the necessity of avoiding wicked acquaintances. We learn how to pray, give thanks, plead with God, stand silent before Him. We learn the order of the home, and the priority of worship. We learn of the nature of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We learn to help those in need and withhold help from those who would squander it. And there is more.

 

It is no wonder that Paul wrote: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

 

As the church, we are now as a scribe who discovers rich treasures in the Old Testament and declares them to all (see Matthew 13:57).

 

It is my desire to outline from the OT truths concerning the Christ so that when someone does ask you about the OT and the Messiah, you can smile and ask them to turn to ______ and begin from that verse and preach Christ to them.

 

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