Many times it is hard for believers to read the Old Testament because it just doesn’t seem to apply to Christians. In order to clear up this difficulty I would like to throw out a few basic concepts. The early church read and believed the Old Testament. They read it through the lens of the New Covenant, and so should we.
In the Old Testament we often read about God’s law. Psalm 119 is an example of the praise believers under the Old Covenant had towards God’s law. But many Christians believe that Christians don’t have a law to live by. This is a terrible error. The New Testament clearly teaches that we are called to live by the Law of Christ. The Law of Christ is the heart of the Law of Moses. Jesus summed it up in two commands, loving God and loving others. In the Sermon on the Mount he teaches how love is to be applied.
When we read the Old Testament passages about loving and obeying the law of God, we need to understand that the Law of Moses was a type of the Law of Christ. So when Psalm 119 praises God’s law, as Christians we can fully agree. We understand that the perfect law of God that Christ brought is worthy of praise and esteem. So don’t shrink back from telling God that you love his beautiful and perfect law.
Sometimes we read the prophets and can’t see how that applies to us and the church in our day. After all, they were talking to Israel, not the church. But this is to misunderstand the church. In the Old Covenant God chose one people to be his special people. But he promised that the day would come when even Gentiles would be added to his people Israel, and he warned that in that day many Jews would be cut off from his chosen people. Through Christ all believers become members of God’s chosen people. And those who refuse to believe, Jew or Gentile, have no share in God’s promises.
So when we read the writings of the prophets to God’s people, they still apply to God’s people. Though the law has been changed as Hebrews 7:12 tells us, and though the people of God are now organized around Jesus Christ instead of the Law of Moses and the blood of Jacob as Ephesians 3 and Romans 9-11 tell us, the prophets still speak to God’s chosen people.
The last thing about the Old Testament that can throw us for a loop is the physical violence. The Old Covenant was an earthly covenant with an earthly people who were given earthly promises and commands. But the reconstituted people of God are a heavenly, not a earthly people. We are united in the Spirit of God, not by our ethnic heritage. In the same way, our enemies are no longer flesh and blood, but spiritual. So when we read passages like that of David killing Goliath we can apply that to the demonic forces we fight on a daily basis. We are commanded as God’s children to love our natural enemies, but war violently against the satanic armies.
1 Corinthians 10:1-11
1 Now I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. 5 But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the wilderness.
6 Now these things became examples for us, so that we will not desire evil things as they did. 7 Don’t become idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to play. 8 Let us not commit sexual immorality as some of them did, and in a single day 23,000 people fell dead. 9 Let us not test Christ as some of them did and were destroyed by snakes.10 Nor should we complain as some of them did, and were killed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.