Now contrary to some objections I have heard, when we point the Old Testament to Jesus Christ, we don’t destroy the practical applications of the Old Testament stories. Seeing Christ in the Old Testament doesn’t mean we can’t learn from David’s failures or Israel’s sinfulness in the wilderness. It likewise doesn’t mean we can’t learn about and desire the great faith Daniel had or the God-loving heart that David had. Rather, seeing Christ in the Old Testament helps us understand how to rightly apply these stories to our lives.
Many Christians I know who regularly spend their time reading the Bible spend the majority of their time in the New Testament. This us understandable for sinners saved by the blood-bought grace of Jesus. Who doesn’t want to read through the gospels and epistles that so clearly express this wonderful truth in our lives?
Many Christians get hung up in the Old Testament. Some approach the Old Testament reluctantly (if at all), and only see vast amounts of purity laws and ancient history, which seem irrelevant to twenty-first century Christians. Others read the Old Testament with vigor, hammering through the passages and applying old covenant laws to their lives, independent of the New Testament, as if they were ancient Israel.
Either way, both groups often end up either bored and give up on the Old Testament, or they become burdened by its laws in their attempt to apply them in unhealthy ways. Jesus, though, said to do neither. Instead, he said to read the Old Testament knowing that it is all about him (Luke 24:44-47, John 5:39).
For the Christians who have heard this wonderful truth, we know it is easier said than done. Most of us can see Jesus in the passages like the prophecies found in Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53. But Jesus seems to imply that all of the Old Testament is about him.
How do we steer from reading the Old Testament in an unhealthy way, to seeing Christ in the passages? First, we must see the big picture.
The Big Picture
In Genesis 3:15, after Satan deceived Adam and Eve and the world was plunged into sin, God made a promise that through the descendants of Eve he would send a man. That man would be bruised, yet through that process, he would crush the head of Satan. In other words, Jesus would come into this earth, he would be crucified, but through his death and resurrection, he would conquer death, sin, and Satan. From Genesis 3:15 forward, the rest of the Bible is about God fulfilling that promise.
That is the first step in understanding how the Old Testament points to Jesus. Before we zoom in and pick apart each verse looking for prophecies and parallels to Jesus (which isn’t wrong), we need to first zoom out and see the Scriptures as one big story of redemption, and it’s in that way that we properly see how each passage points to Jesus. This will help us avoid the common error that we make when we seek to find Jesus in verses that aren’t meant to represent Jesus. Saying that the tent pegs to the Tabernacle represented the nails on the cross sounds nice, but more than likely, the tent pegs represented tent pegs.
Seeing the big picture is key.