A Thought on Why I’m Skipping the Old Testament in 2011

You heard me right. I’m taking a year off from the Old Testament. I’ve decided to skip the ¾ of the Bible that’s types and shadows and focus only on the Living Risen Christ. Instead of looking in a reflecting pool, I’m going to look at the Savior who stands next to me. Instead of looking into a glass darkly, I’m going to turn the lights on. All year.

Instead of slogging through the Chronicles and wandering in the wilderness for all of March or April, I’m going straight for the good stuff. Enough Tabernacle with things that remind me of Jesus. I want Jesus Himself reminding me of nothing else.  Enough struck-rock, I want the Crucified Lord.  Enough Jonah being vomited after three days. I want the Resurrected Prince of Peace.  Enough Passover to tell me the Death Angel passes over those who have the blood on the doorpost. I want the blood of Christ, the blood of Christ, the blood of Christ that cleanses me from all my sin.

This came up because over the holidays I suddenly realized that Paul never told the Gentiles to read the Old Testament. Not even to look for types, pictures, prophecies and illuminations of Jesus. Paul never even told the Jews to read the Old Testament to look for Him. He did quote the Old Testament when he spoke in synagogues, and we know that the Berean Jews searched the Old Testament to check up on Paul to see if he was telling the truth. But Gentiles are NEVER referred to the Old Testament for any reason.  (“Be like the Bereans,” is a constant call from the pulpit, but Paul was telling Jews about Jesus and they were searching the Old Testament to confirm His Messiahship. “Hey, you’re right! The Messiah was supposed to suffer!”)

In fact, Paul engages Gentiles where they are. He quotes their poets. He references their altars to unknown gods. He makes a big fat point that Gentiles do not have to make a station-stop at Judaism to get to Christianity.  Their children don’t have to learn the placement of the holy things in the Tabernacle, have sword drills in the minor prophets, or wonder just how fat Eglon was or whether Jael had to go into therapy after sledge-hammering a general’s head. They don’t have to go to Seders in a sort of religious cultural nostaglia to see what the death of Christ means. (Why do we look backwards? The Passover is illuminated by the sacrifice of Christ, not the other way around! It’s like I’m standing with my husband talking to someone and I pull a picture of Brian out of my wallet and say, “Look, here’s what my husband looks like!” They’d think I was nuts. So stop with the “Christian seders” already unless you’re really celebrating Israel’s exodus from Egyptian slavery, and I say that’s a good thing to celebrate. Any time anyone is freed in Egypt, that’s a good thing, no?)

But that would leave out the Ten Commandments! I heard that gasp. Paul says, “Don’t trouble them. Tell them to abstain from meats offered to idols and from fornication.”

It would also leave out the Creation, Fall, Flood, the Patriarchy (good riddance), the enslavement of Israel, the Exodus, the Tabernacle, the Judges, the Kingdom, the Exile, and the Return (just showing off my OT knowledge, couldn’t help myself), not to mention the Wisdom literature. How will I understand the sacrifice of Christ if I don’t know about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Seriously?  You can’t understand the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ without reference to the almost-sacrifice of Isaac? I think you need another look at the Crucifixions passages in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Read them slowly. If you still need help, read them with your son.     

But the Ten Commandments? How will you know how to live without the Ten Commandments?

Simple. Jesus gave us a little information on how to live. It’s called the Sermon on the Mount. If that’s not enough, I also have the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. I still have the law of God written on my heart. I still have Paul telling me to stop gossiping, to love my children, to be hospitable to strangers (I have a whole post on hospitality coming, but you’ll have to wait for it), and to live in loving submission to and with Brian. In fact, if it helps you to know it, there are plenty of do-this, don’t-do-thats in the New Testament.  In addition to all the teaching in the Epistles, we have the record of Jesus Himself living a life of perfect obedience, Spirit-filled living in full-color. Then, since we know we’re not God, we also have the record of men and women doing the same thing in the Acts of the Apostles.   

Remember that story about that man who has to look at a fish all semester? After the first hour, he thinks he knows everything about the fish. He gets bored. Then he looks a little deeper. By the end of the term, he knows everything there is to know about every detail of that fish. Here’s a fish: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself.”  This is the answer Jesus gave to someone who wanted to know how to live, and if this doesn’t tell me I ought not to kill my neighbor, steal her stuff, or covet her husband, I’m dumber than I look.  Jesus Himself doesn’t refer inquirers to the Old Testament. He says, “look at what you see: the lame walk, the blind see, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” He is enough.

But you won’t know how much money to give your church. You won’t know you should spank your children. You won’t know murderers should be executed. You won’t know to rest all day on Saturday.

So, since I won’t know any of that, I’m going to have to have faith that Jesus has given me all I need to live a Christian life in the New Testament. Let’s see, I’m supposed to give cheerfully as the Lord has prospered me. I’m supposed to commune and Communicate with other believers sometimes.  I’m supposed to love my children and teach them the Gospel. I’m supposed to pray for those who bear the sword.

Main Point: We can know how to live as Christians by reading the book that was written to Christians. We can learn how to love Jesus by reading about Him. HIMSELF, not something that’s supposed to look like Him.

What profit then the Old Testament? The oracles of God were given to the Jews because God loved them so much He gave them a heads-up, a preview of what was coming. He supplied the Jews with anticipation of the coming Messiah so that their eyes would be open and their hearts would believe. It worked! People were looking for Him! People were longing for Him! Even today, for seeking Jews and others who already revere the Old Testament, the Old Testament paves the way to Messiah Jesus: it illuminates, it reflects, it confirms.  (Plus it has a lot of great moral stories for children…or should we say it has a lot of astonishing stories of faith that we have turned into morality tales to make children try to be nicer, more brave, more obedient? But again, that’s another thought.)

I’m already half-way through Acts, and it’s only February. I should finish my first read-through by the end of March, which means I should get four thorough washings in the water of the Word this year. Unless I slow down for my second read-through. It’s so easy to read.  Maybe a super-slow, attentive read  of 260 chapters will do my soul more good than powering through 1189 chapters. (“Okay, people, that’s only three chapters a day!” Only? No wonder people are in bondage. They can’t even read the BIBLE at the prompting of the Spirit: they have to follow a schedule! Which means they don’t really want to read it at all. We do what we want to do. They want to have done it, but they don’t want to actually sit down and open the Book. Maybe this is because they are guilted into it, or maybe they can’t understand the version they’re “supposed” to read, but I digress.)

I’m not asking anyone to join me in this. I’m just saying. I’m ¾ Gentile, which is enough Gentile to let me off the OT for a long time. Don’t worry—I can still beat you in a sword drill. (None of this, of course, means that I won’t be blogging about the Old Testament. I have a lot of thoughts percolating , particularly about Noah the Failed Shipbuilder, but you’ll have to wait for that one too.)

No types and shadows in 2011 for me.


4 thoughts on “A Thought on Why I’m Skipping the Old Testament in 2011”

  1. What about all the foreshadowing of the “not-yet” part of the kingdom told to us in Isaiah and Ezekiel that are not found in the New Testament? What about the OT parts whose purpose is not foreshadow but intensity (like the Song of Songs)? What about the prophecies (like Daniel’s 70 Weeks) without which we wouldn’t completely understand purpose and the miraculous of portions of the New Testament? What about the covenant portions providing definition rather than foreshadowing that teach us how to embrace the New Covenant? And most importantly, what about the creation accounts without which we lose the creation ideals and principles about relationship perfection to which we aspire? Oh, and there’s no better way to talk with an orthodox Jew than Emmaus-like.

    It’s not that I think your idea is bad. Too much emphasis is given to the OT in purposeless forays. But I’d make sure to keep your year limit as a limit and not decide it’s good forever. Think what would have happened if Priscilla had decided to settle on Paul’s and the Gospel writers’ works. She’d never have written Hebrews!

    I used to read the whole Bible through 3 times a year. Though it does have some meditational disadvantages, it does help give a better biblical theological understanding than our current-day’s reference book approach.

  2. The first thing I thought of when reading this (haven’t read the others you mentioned yet) is that our singing is to be “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” So we’re to go to the Psalms for some of our music. And I don’t think you would want to neglect Psalms for comfort, right? “All Scripture” is “profitable,” right? Genesis is the whole beginning of God’s revelation. Everything in the NT has its beginning in Genesis. For example, why do we need a Savior? You don’t get that when you start in Matthew. Why am I accountable to God? He created me and everything. I love the way the Jesus Storybook Bible presents the Bible as one complete book. But you have a good point about spending more time in the NT. Personally, I spend more time in the four Gospels than any other books. I think it’s best to once in a while read the Bible through to get the big picture but not feel forced to do it every year or follow a schedule that you end up doing just out of duty. When we read the OT we need to look for what it tells us about God and the gospel. Sometimes people focus too much on the individual “stories” of the OT and miss the big picture. Or they focus on the “heroes” and miss the true Hero. I don’t have any problems with spending more time in the NT. But if we neglect the OT we won’t understand a lot of what’s in the NT. Thanks for writing this–a good “let’s think about this” piece!

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