What is the significance of the Old Testament for today’s “New Testament” believers? This question is so important because it affects every realm of living out our theology.
It is important to remember and appreciate the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures – after all, even Yeshua spoke of its eternal effectiveness (Matthew 5: 17-20). The Apostle Paul also emphasized that all of the Old Testament is God’s Word and is vital for our ability, to be equipped for good works for the Lord.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
According to this verse, we should go to the Old Testament to get our teaching material. Why? Paul says because the stories and truths outlaid in the Old Testament are useful and profitable for our spiritual development and growth as people of God! The Lord wishes to train His Church in righteousness and Old Testament scripture is the key source for that.
Not only that, but without a proper understanding of the message of Scripture, we risk bringing the Gospel to this world in a lopsided way. We may win people’s hearts, but our families and communities will not be changed.
In the Kingdom of God, though we live as redeemed people with new hearts, we must also continually renew our minds. God wants us to think a new way! Without God’s perspective and having old thinking, when difficulties come, we respond incorrectly.
I agree with what Walter C. Kaiser (PhD,) professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages states:
“Without a proper understanding of her OT roots, the church cannot locate her identity, her task, her mission, or her relationship to Israel and the world.”
(Towards Rediscovering the Old Testament. Copyright © 1987 by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. P.188)
What was God’s purpose to choose the Jews? What were His intentions behind the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai? What principles we can learn from the Law and how we can apply it to our daily walk with God today? Why do we need to pay attention to what God taught Israel such a long time ago?
It is important for today’s Christians to study biblical Israel because the accounts of Israel’s past (as well her restoration to the Land and glorious future) are a large part of God’s Word which is our lamp and our light (Psalm 119:105).
God chose Israel to reveal His redeeming goals to other nations and be the model of God’s Kingdom on earth. The Lord used the Israelites as a vehicle to fulfill His atoning purposes. At the same time, Israel was to become a model of how a redeemed society could live in obedience to the will of God. Studying the societal life of the Israelites, gives us a better understanding of the character of God and His ways.
Giving the Jewish people the Law was part of God’s Kingdom plan for the whole of humanity. God’s commandments were given to transform the minds of the Israelites. Although the Law did not address the other nations directly (see Psalm 147: 8-9), it is nevertheless a gift for all of them! Today, a society founded on God’s values, standards, and principles will be blessed by the Lord. Biblical Israel reveals a whole layer of social, economic, political and spiritual values.
When looking at the biblical history of Israel, it is important to keep a few things in mind. We don’t live in the ancient Middle Eastern world with its agricultural economy and tribal culture. We also didn’t stand at Mount Sinai when the Lord made His covenant with the Israelites. However, there are many important lessons we should still pay attention to.
Let’s remember that according to the New Testament, the Levitical sacrificial system found its fulfillment at Yeshua’s sacrifice on the Cross. However, the Church is far from being finished with the Old Testament and in many ways, we have barely begun to enter into the richness of its massage and mission.