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Three Keys to Understand the Old Testament

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If you have difficulty reading and understanding the Old Testament, you are not alone. Even the early church Fathers had trouble explaining the Old Testament and tended to allegorize the text. Many today do not understand how the Old Testament and New Testament are even related or relevant to one another. Some people believe the Old Testament is written about the “Law” specifically for the Jews, while the New Testament, full of grace and mercy, was written for the Gentiles.

Key #1

In order to understand the Old Testament, we first must understand its authors. It originates with God as:

“... no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin by the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (NIV).  

This “concursive authorship” is the carrying of God’s message by the Holy Spirit and penned to parchment by God’s choice of human author. Understanding the Old Testament is to realize that the Testament is a spiritual text that can best be understood as the Spirit of God reveals it to you. This means that your heart must be seeking, asking, and knocking for God ( ). The first key to understanding the Old Testament begins with you and the condition of your heart.

Key #2

Second, let’s talk about what we should be looking for in the Old Testament because we have the benefit of hindsight. Think about a beautiful tapestry with God in heaven on one side, and the Old Testament saints, sin, and earth on the other side. God’s side is beautiful ... like the crafting of a masterpiece, whereby the other side of the tapestry is full is knots; battles, killings, judgment, and death. On God’s side, the tapestry is the making of an earthly Kingdom yet to come; to be ruled by His Son.

You see, beginning in Genesis, Jesus knew His role in this masterpiece. He knew His appointed time, and even by what name He would be called (Yeshua) when He came to earth. He even knew how He was going to die, be resurrected, and come in glory ( ).  Look at :

“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” (NKJV)

In the Garden of Eden, He declares to the serpent how the “seed of the woman” would crush the serpent’s head. This seed of the woman is a man, the One to come, given that women have no seed. If you know what you are looking for, you will find it. So, the second key in reading the Old Testament is you must keep your eyes open for the “One to come,” as every one of the 39 books of the Old Testament point to the coming Messiah.

Key #3

The third key to reading the Old Testament is understanding the link to the New Testament. St. Augustine wrote, “The New Testament is concealed in the Old Testament (example: above) and the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament.” 

; 30-32 (NIV)

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself… When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Look how Jesus in the New Testament reveals the link to the Old Testament and “opened the Scriptures.” He reveals Himself with Moses and all the prophets, all that was written in the Scriptures concerning Himself. Do you see the linkage? Can you imagine their hearts burning?

In conclusion, if your heart is burning for God, then the Spirit will guide you along your journey of understanding. Train your eye and your mind to look for the One to come, as all of Old Testament Scripture, including the Feasts, the Covenants, and the establishment of the nation of Israel, were intended by God to point the reader to the One to come. Lastly, recognize and understand that there is a link between the two Testaments, whereby the New Testament, or the Gospel, is subtly and skillfully revealed in the Old Testament book after book by God. Then Jesus fulfills, and the writers of the New Testament explain the fulfillment of all that was foretold in the Old Testament.

Copyright © 2018 Rev. Kevin L. Spencer, used with permission. 

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About The Author

Kevin L.

Rev. Kevin L. Spencer is an ordained Anglican priest who has retired from the pastorate and is currently writing books and articles for Christian publications. He has just finished writing the book, Understanding Our Roots. Kevin has been married to his wife Penny for 39 years, has three daughters, three sons-in-law, and five grandchildren. His passion is to help the Church build the bridge between the Jew and the Gentile, by explaining and writing about the Covenants and how God has designed “one new man,” as explained by Paul in Ephesians 2. His formal education is a B.S. from the University