Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. Matthew 5:17 (TLB)
From time to time I hear people referring to the Old Testament as distasteful or, at best, irrelevant. They find the God (whom Jesus identifies as Father) as hateful and harsh. Never mind that his people accept his deliverance, his provisions, and his protection while blatantly establishing other gods and sacrificing their children in the fires in conjunction with serial disobedience.
Yesterday, a conference speaker reminded me that Jesus, who we well know taught us to depend on and to use the Word, was referencing the Old Testament. Consider, when he was twelve years old, his parents discovered him in the Temple talking with the teachers and asking questions (Luke 2). It is likely he was discussing passages from the Law or the Prophets in the Old Testament. That’s all that existed at the time.
When the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted (Luke 4), Jesus was fully armed with knowledge of the Old Testament: “Man shall not live by bread alone…” (Deuteronomy 8); “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 6); “Worship the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 6). Furthermore, in Jesus’ first sermon he was read from the book Isaiah (Old Testament prophet, Isaiah 61), and with that he announced his arrival as Messiah, the promised deliverer.
In other sermons, Jesus quotes from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Hosea, and many others, 24 Old Testament books, to be precise. Jesus said that he didn’t come to do away with the Law but rather to fulfill it. We may think that the Law of the Old Covenant was much stricter than Jesus’ directives until we reflect on Jeremiah 31:33, which says, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” The writer to the Hebrews says the exact same thing, indicating that the advent of Jesus with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit enables us to actually do the Law that those under the Old Covenant could never do.
Jesus goes on to reveal that with his Law in the hearts of believers, we would live out the impossible standards given in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) because we would have a desire to keep the Law and to please him. Jesus’ life and ministry was all about building on the foundations of Moses and the Prophets; demonstrating that no one was capable of true righteousness without God’s empowerment; and then announcing the Good News that with Christ in us, we, too, can actually fulfill the Law.
Don’t write off the Old Testament. READ IT.
Father, thank you for the Old and the New Covenants that reveal the full nature of your love and plan for us, your Church. Help us to diligently study your Word and to embrace your Son, the Living Word. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.