What’s your favorite book of the Bible?
Your second favorite?
What about your third?
Now we’re not going to do that all day, but I’d venture a guess that unless one of your favorite books is the Psalms, your top three are all found in the New Testament. There’s nothing wrong with the New Testament. The New Testament is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But we can’t forget that the Old Testament is all of those things too.
As modern-day Christians, we are sometimes tempted to overlook the Old Testament. We are instant gratification “grab and go” people and reading the Old Testament takes time. It’s rich and meaty. You can’t just read a little passage from Numbers or Hosea for a midday pick-me-up. But if you read passages from the Old Testament with prayer and careful thought (and maybe a commentary too), it will yield results that are far more impactful than a midday pick-me-up.
In terms of chapters, the Old Testament makes approximately 78% of the Bible (There are 929 chapters in the Old Testament and 260 in the New, for a grand total of 1,189 chapters overall), and the Christian devotional life is not complete without it. Below, you’ll find my four specific reasons why modern-day Christians should give the Old Testament its due diligence.
THE OLD TESTAMENT CONTAINS GREAT STORIES OF FAITH.
The Old Testament is unique because it closely follows some Biblical figures from birth to death. We first hear about Moses in Exodus 2, the chapter chronicling his birth and first few months of life. Books later, we learn of his death (Deuteronomy 34). Many of the chapters in between reveal details about Moses’ life and his walk with the Lord. Similar is true of the Patriarchs, King David, and many other men and women of faith. The Old Testament provides (often explicit) details about the Christian life – the sorrows and the joys, the shortcomings and the triumphs, the victories and the falls.
The men and women of the Old Testament were by no means perfect, but they were saved by God’s amazing grace. The same is true of us and reading their stories can encourage us. Reading about God’s faithfulness to His people of old can remind us of His faithfulness to us. Even if the specific details of your life look nothing like anything you read in the Old Testament, take heart in the knowledge that if you believe, God cares for you as He cared for them, forgives you as He forgave them, and still is “slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness” just as He was then (Exodus 34:6-7a).
THE OLD TESTAMENT CAN HELP SHAPE OUR PRAYERS.
The Old Testament is chock-full of gorgeous prayers, which can help shape our prayers today.
Directly following God’s parting of the Red Sea, Moses, Miriam, and the Israelites sing a song of joy and gratitude to the Lord.
“Who among the gods is like You, O Lord? Who is like You – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? …In Your unfailing love, You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength, You will guide them to Your holy dwelling.” Exodus 15:11, 13.
In 1 Samuel 2, the formerly barren Hannah rejoices and gives thanks to God for answering her prayer.
“My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord, my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts…for I delight in Your deliverance. There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides You; there is no Rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:1-2.
In 2 Samuel 7, after Yahweh promises David an eternally enduring kingdom (signifying that the Messiah would come from David’s family line), David lifts up a prayer of praise.
“O Sovereign Lord, You are God! Your words are trustworthy, and You have promised these good things to Your servant. Now be pleased to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue forever in Your sight; for You, O Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with Your blessing the house of Your servant will be blessed forever.” 2 Samuel 7:28-29.
These are all prayers of thanksgiving, but the Old Testament contains plenty of prayers for times of difficulty too. Job and Jonah both cry out to the Lord from the depths of sorrow (Job 1:20-21, Jonah 2:1-9). Many of the Psalms can also serve as models for prayer in times of sadness and grief, both regarding external circumstances and one’s own sin. These Psalms are known as lament Psalms and penitential Psalms, respectively. Some examples include Psalm 13, Psalm 51, and Psalm 88.
Whether you are walking through a joyous season or a trying one, turn to the Old Testament. You’ll find a wide variety of prayers there, one of which is sure to help you shape your own.
THE OLD TESTAMENT REVEALS MUCH ABOUT GOD’S CHARACTER.
It makes me sad to hear people say that the God of the New Testament is loving and merciful, but the God of the Old Testament was wrathful. This could not be further from the truth. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and while the Old Testament does record jarring accounts of His holy and just judgment, it also contains countless examples of His love and mercy towards repentant sinners.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “God is too good to be unkind, and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” The Old Testament reveals much about God’s heart and reading it will better equip you to trust Him even when you cannot necessarily trace His workings in your life.
CHRIST IS THERE IN TYPE AND SHADOW.
My fourth reason that Christians should read the Old Testament is because we can see our Savior there. Prophecies allude to Him (Genesis 3:15, Psalm 22:18, Isaiah 53), genealogies point ahead to Him (Genesis 22:18, Matthew 1:1-17), and types represent Him (the book of Leviticus, Numbers 21:6-9). For more information on this, check out my post What’s Up With the Book of Leviticus?.
The Old Testament is a rich and beautiful picture of the Trinity and it should not be overlooked by modern-day Christians. It contains incredible stories about the saints of old and prayers after which we can model our own. And even more importantly, its pages teach us about our Lord. So open up your Bible to the Old Testament today…you may just be surprised by all you find.