“...Much of the contemporary church, especially in evangelical circles, suffers from a rootlessness that makes it easy to lose our bearings, and even our identity. We live in a disoriented and rootless age. Novelty and self-expression are prized above wisdom and experience… In this sort of world, there is no better way of finding our moorings than reading the Old Testament (in particular) as if it were, as Paul puts it, ‘written for our sake’ (1 Cor. 9:10).”
Alistair Roberts & Andrew Wilson- Echoes of Exodus
That Crotchety Grandpa
Let's be honest. The Old Testament can be challenging.
In a world that increasingly looks back on our forebearers with what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” it isn’t uncommon to desire to distance oneself from the past under the assumption that we have progressed and attained higher levels of human enlightenment. (Bravo to us!) Sometimes this comes out in our reading of history books while other times it may even come out around the Thanksgiving dinner table in a conversation with your Grandpa.
I get the impression that this is also not an uncommon way that many Christians relate to the Old Testament. “Good stories… but, kind of a crotchety grandpa who doesn’t realize how offensive he is.” Even for those who embrace the infallibility of God’s Word, there can be an inclination to avoid study and time in the Old Testament due to how foreign, old, and difficult it can seem to us. While we understand that the Old Testament is clearly part of the “family” of scripture, as it were, we often treat it like the crotchety grandpa that we don’t take too seriously, but who still gets invited to Thanksgiving dinner because, you know, he’s family.
I get the impression that this is also not an uncommon way that many Christians relate to the Old Testament. “Good stories… but, kind of a crotchety grandpa who doesn’t realize how offensive he is.”
The Heritage of the Old Testament
In some circles this is an exaggeration, while in others it is clearly an understatement. While we may feel more “comfortable” with the New Testament and the person of Jesus, we often forget that the heritage and context of Jesus was rooted in the Old Testament. Not only that, but Jesus claims that the OT is all about him (Luke 24:44-45). In the Gospel of John, he speaks in particular to the books of Moses: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” (John 5:46). Then Jesus even goes so far as to say that if you don’t believe these scriptures, your belief in him is questionable: “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46). Clearly Jesus did not see the Old Testament as a crotchety grandpa, but as the heritage and root of his own coming.
Clearly Jesus did not see the Old Testament as a crotchety grandpa, but as the heritage and root of his own coming.
But still, the world of the Old Testament can seem so foreign and ancient to our modern American ears. It can be difficult terrain to navigate, and we might often find ourselves asking: “Why does God speak to us this way?”
How can we learn to read the Old Testament the way that Jesus did? How can we read the Old Testament as being about Jesus? How also might being more rooted in the truth of Scripture help us to know Jesus better in a world that seems to be losing its bearings more and more every day?
Echoes of Exodus
Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption through Scripture, by Alistair Roberts and Andrew Wilson, is an excellent little book that helps us to read the Old Testament as a symphony of God’s work of redemption building up to its climax in Christ in the New Testament. It does so by tracing the theme of exodus throughout scripture and drawing our attention to how Jesus brings the exodus to its grand finale.
...an excellent little book that helps us to read the Old Testament as a symphony of God’s work of redemption building up to its climax in Christ in the New Testament.
While this book is fairly short, (159 pages), it is jam packed with lucid explanations of difficult-to-understand scriptural stories and passages. I can honestly say that every chapter I read helped me to see something rich in the Old Testament that I had not seen there before. Also, each chapter comes complete with study questions, so this is a great book to read with a discussion group. One of the greatest benefits of the book is the examples it gives for how to approach the Old Testament, helping readers get excited to read it for themselves.
If you are struggling in how to approach reading the Old Testament, I commend Echoes of Exodus to you. I commend it not only as a helpful book to find your bearings in the ancient text, but also with the hope that by seeing Christ in the theme of exodus throughout Scripture, you would also find your moorings in him in the midst of our “rootless and disoriented age.”