Why Read the Old Testament?

I’ve heard it said many times that since we have the New Testament Scriptures, it is hardly worthwhile to read the Old Testament. I’ve also had Christians confess to me that they find the Old Testament boring. I’m always a little taken aback by this, since the Old Testament is largely narrative and most people like to hear/read a story. I think back to my childhood memories of sitting in Sunday school and children’s church, learning the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Abraham and Isaac, Moses and Aaron, David and Goliath, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Elijah and Elisha, and the list goes on. Why then would we not bother reading those same stories, now that we’re adults?

Here are some reasons, I have heard, as to why many don’t want to read the OT:

  1. The Old Testament is boring. Too many lists of names, rules and regulations, and such lengthy explanations about the law.
  2. Is it really necessary to repeat Moses’ exact same instructions 12 times over?!
  3. I don’t like reading about animals being sacrificed.
  4. God seems too angry in the Old Testament.
  5. There is just way too much killing in those books.
  6. I want to study about Jesus. That’s what really matters.
  7. Who needs to read about the law anyway? We are now under Christ.
  8. It is more important that I know and understand the Gospel message.
  9. I don’t like reading history.
  10. We’re now under grace. We don’t need the law!

In response to these reasons above, I will say immediately that the Old Testament is vital for us to understand who Jesus really is, why He came to earth, and the purpose and depth of the Cross. Moreover, nowhere in the New Testament do Jesus or the apostles state that the law no longer matters. In fact, Christ states that He did not come to abolish the law but fulfill it (Matt. 5:17-18). In addition, Paul goes to great lengths to explain how the law is good and necessary, but because of the magnitude of sin, no person can perfectly obey the law and thus be cleansed of his/her sin (Rom. 7). It is utterly impossible, and thus we are all in need of a Saviour.

We then realise why God put the sacrificial system in place. Without the shedding of blood, no remission of sins can occur (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). In order to even enter the outer courts of God’s throne room, wherein He sits in all His glory and holiness, blood must be shed. Hence, this was the need for such an extensive and detailed sacrificial system. It reveals the seriousness of sin.

But even sin itself, how did it get here? Why even bother believing Christ is our Saviour? What’s the point? Genesis will tell us the whole story as to when, where, how, and why. It will explain what sin is and how it came to exist. Also, in today’s world, many are desperately seeking to discover what their purpose is for living; Genesis answers those questions. It is where the Gospel message actually begins. As God curses Adam and Eve, at the same time, He speaks a word of hope, a word of salvation to Adam and Eve. Read Genesis 3:15. Moreover, this Gospel theme is not forgotten throughout the rest of the OT. Prophecies of Jesus’ coming to earth to bring salvation are found all throughout the prophetic books. But we wouldn’t know they exist, if we didn’t read them.

Lastly, the concept of an angry God in the OT often becomes contrasted with the more mild and loving God a.ka. Jesus, of the NT. However, we serve God of both the Old and New Testaments. He exists as Three in One: Father, Son, and Spirit. Hence, Jesus, as such, is the God of the OT as well as the NT. If we view God as angry in the Old, then we do so of Christ in the New. The Gospel of John begins by stating that “All things were made through Him [Christ], and without Him nothing was made that was made” (1:3). Thus, Jesus as Creator God requires that we know Him in the entirety of Scripture. (And in response to God as angry in the OT, I strongly believe that the OT reveals the overwhelming mercy, grace, love, and justice of God, that I cannot fathom God simply as angry.)

Obviously, my response to why read the OT is rather short. I could have said so much more. But if by this brief answer, I can encourage and motivate myself and you, my reader, to begin or continue to delve into the richness of the Old Testament, then I have accomplished what I set out to do.