How To Read the Old Testament to Treasure the Gospel

A friend recently told me that she’d been feeling overwhelmed by how much there is to know about God and the Bible. But then the Spirit reminded her that she has her whole life to learn, study, and delight in the God who made her.

At this stage of caring for my little people, my Bible meditations are constantly being interrupted by baby yells and requests from my preschooler to watch him knock his building down. Mealtime prayers are punctuated with bibs being pulled off and cries of “Mom, I dropped my spoon!”

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No longer can I count on having a certain hour of the day free to read the Bible and pray, which has challenged me to appreciate the gospel in a new way. Just like my kids’ requests (and cries) continue from the time they wake up to the time they ask for a story, a drink, a prayer, and music to listen to as they fall asleep, I am reminded of my constant need for Christ. That He is the only One who can satisfy me and give me the hope I need to get through days (and nights) of needy little people. It is His grace, pulling me out of what is predictable and into a life that demands that I choose where I am going to look for strength.

God has used this holistic way of viewing my need for Christ to challenge me in the way I read Scripture, and especially the Old Testament. Rather than going to Scripture for a verse to carry me through the day, I’m realizing that every God-breathed passage I read is shaping my understanding and love for the Shepherd who is leading me through the weariness, whining, and messed-up plans (and floors).

Digging Deeper

A number of months ago, God used my friend Jessie to lead me to a great resource called One-to-One Bible Reading by David Helm, (which is also immensely exciting to use while reading Scripture one-on-one with someone else).

Since I’m reading through the Old Testament historical books right now, I’m using David Helm’s list of Old Testament narrative questions, first reading for comprehension–noting the context, time and place where the narrative is happening and writing down things that are confusing. It allows me to start with a real-place-and-time foundation before trying to look for a main point or theme.

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Once I think about the main point (or what I might be missing if God hadn’t put that passage in the Bible), I get to my favorite part, when I get to ask, “How does the passage point forward to what God is going to do in the future? Does it prophesy or anticipate Jesus Christ in some way?”

After asking myself this question day after day, the Spirit has given me a new lens to view each passage I read from the Old Testament. He brings to mind passages from the New Testament that help explain God’s purposes in the tabernacle, the priesthood, and His never-changing desire for people to reflect His glory.  (And if you want to help your children understand how everything points to Jesus, rather than as just a collection of so-called Bible heroes, The Jesus Storybook Bible is a great place to start).

Prayer becomes a way of responding to what I’m learning moment-by-moment. I can thank Him for the map of my life He’s ordained when I read about God leading Abraham, or how He works through all our mixed motives and even sins when I read about Jacob and Rebekah’s deception to receive Isaac’s blessing.

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When I get to the end of Exodus, where God gives the dimensions and instructions for the tabernacle, it’s a chance to praise our God of details, because if He gave such specific instructions for an earthly tabernacle, how much more will the place He has for us on the New Earth be carefully prepared?

When I read about Aaron and his sons being clothed in their priestly garments, I can praise Jesus for clothing me in His righteousness, for being faithful on my behalf so that I can be inscribed with “Holy to the Lord.”

Even as I read Leviticus, I can rejoice that one reason for the animal sacrifices was “that the glory of the Lord may appear to you,” and that Jesus was clothed in flesh to become the true sin-forgiving, righteousness-giving sacrifice and to reveal the Father’s glory so that we might worship Him as His children.  

Rather than taking what I’ve learned and figuring out what I need to do, Helm provides the last two questions to lift my chin back up to God, asking:

How does this passage challenge your understanding about who God is and what he is like?

And then, as I invite the Holy Spirit’s specific conviction, I can ask:

Is there some attitude or behavior you need to change?

The sorrow I experience over my sin is a gift as it draws me to repentance and remembering again the grace and forgiveness Jesus stayed on the cross to give.

Like a diamond, when we study each facet-passage of Scripture, we can enjoy a different glimpse of Jesus and His glorious gospel. It doesn’t matter if we have six years left or sixty. Every day that we take time to read His Word is a new chance to treasure Jesus and hold our gospel diamonds up to the light for others to see.

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Which facet of Scripture will you ask Him to help you understand so that you can enjoy Him more?

You can get the free PDFs of David Helm’s questions for each genre of Scripture here.

Or you can get the entire book here.

Jen Wilkin also has an excellent guide for deepening your study of Scripture called, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.

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4 thoughts on “How To Read the Old Testament to Treasure the Gospel

  1. Alicia, I was again enlightened and blessed by what you wrote. Your account of your Bible study, amid interruptions, Is remarkable and noteworthy. I value your ministry to me.

    I liked your pictures. The picture of your children is truly remarkable.

    Have a fantastic day!

    Uncle Paul

    Like

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