If you’re a Bible reader, the Old Testament presents a bit of a quandary. There are some amazing stories in the Old Testament, but also pages and pages filled with prophecies, genealogies and laws that don’t apply to New Testament Christians any more. By sheer volume (nearly 75% of the Bible), the Old Testament demands relevance. But as New Testament Christians on this side of the cross, a fair question is: what purpose does the Old Testament serve today?
Paul himself answered that question in his first century letter to Roman Christians when he wrote, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). I absolutely love Paul’s words here because in one short statement he gives us an incredible lens through which to view the Old Testament. First, Paul tells us that the Old Testament was written to teach us. It still has meaning today.
Secondly, Paul gives us the two main lessons we should derive from the Old Testament: endurance and encouragement. Reading the Old Testament, you see story after story of God interacting with, caring for, redeeming and providing for his people. Even in judgment, God was faithful to the promises and warnings he had given his people over generations. Reading the Old Testament, you’ll see this recurring theme: God is faithful. God can be trusted. God cares for his people. This relentless, pursuing, enduring love should give encouragement today because the nature of God doesn’t change.
Finally, the result of the Old Testament in our lives today should be hope. Hope is an amazing place to land because it is so desperately needed today. We need hope in a reality bigger and better than our own. We need hope in a loving God in control of the chaos around us. We need hope for a better life after this existence. When we read the Old Testament with story after story of God’s divine nature, supernatural control over the earth and absolute love for his people, we should overflow with hope. The God of the Old Testament is alive and well today. He still reigns supreme, he still loves his people, and he offers us salvation through the fulfillment of the Old Testament: Jesus.