So how do we find the gospel message in the Old Testament? How do we find Christ in the Old Testament? Let’s start with a distinct advantage we have for finding Christ that the Pharisees, the first century Jews, or even today’s lost person does not have when they read the Old Testament. We know what Christ looks like!
This is so important to finding Christ in the Old Testament. Because we have embraced the message of Christ; because we have “received” Christ; because we have Christ living in us, we personally know the Christ we are looking for in the Old Testament. Jesus could explain Christ in the Old Testament to the men on the road to Emmaus because He knew – better than anyone! – what Christ looks like. After all, He is the Christ!
Paul could say in Romans chapter one with confidence that the gospel of the Son of God appeared in the Old Testament because he personally knew Christ. In Paul’s journeys to establish the New Testament churches, he constantly preached Christ from the Old Testament. Paul knew what to look for because he knew Jesus. And we know Christ too. We know His character, His attributes, and His salvation.
An illustration I heard from John MacArthur has been helpful here. Do you remember the Where’s Waldo books? I am guessing they were either a part of your childhood or something you explored with your kids. We could eventually find Waldo in that crowd of 10,000 medieval knights, or 10,000 Egyptian mummies, or 10,000 Italians dining al fresco because we knew exactly what Waldo looked like!
Imagine opening the Where’s Waldo book to a middle page without ever seeing a picture of Waldo; without having any idea of what Waldo looked like. In fact, we may not even know Waldo was a person. We might have thought he was an elephant or who knows what. Without an idea of what Waldo looked like, we would have never found him. The only way the book made sense or was any fun (if that is your idea of fun) is because we knew exactly what Waldo looked like. We knew the attributes of who we were looking for.
So when we read the Old Testament, we can ask ourselves some questions to help us see Jesus and the gospel message.
- What is God doing for His people in this story?
- What aspect of the old covenant arrangement do we see in this passage?
- What problem or tension remains that the people in this passage cannot solve on their own?
- How does this passage point toward the cross and our need for Christ?
- How is the problem/tension solved or fulfilled in Jesus?
- What is the hope that we have because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?
When we return from our Christmas break, we will explore some Old Testament stories and ask ourselves these questions. I hope it will bring the Old Testament to life for you.
By the way, did I just write “Christmas”? Yes it is that hap-hap-happiest time of the year. Or at least that is what I hear on the street. We know that God has created families in many different ways and with many different experiences. And the feelings this time of year can be all over the map.
Given the variety of our Christmas’ past and present, can I leave you with this message of encouragement. May you experience Emmanuel this Christmas. May you experience “God with us” this Christmas. And with whatever you are facing this Christmas and in the year ahead, may the grace and love of God reach to the very depths of your heart and bring you peace and joy. Love, Jay and Rhonda.