Monday, August 27, 2012

Oh, That's Old Testament Stuff - Matt Kountz

I don’t know about you, but I hear that phrase way too often from Christians.  Whether you would say that yourself or not, it has probably snuck into your thinking.  Wayne Grudem, a writer and seminary teacher in Arizona said that the number one complaint he hears from their students graduating seminary [receiving masters degree’s in Bible!] is that they don’t know how the Old testament and the New testament fit together.  I think it is because people aren’t really sure what the bible is all about.  My argument here is that the bible fundamentally is about the good news of Jesus - New Testament and Old Testament.  At first you might disagree, but then you will start to think of all the prophecies about Jesus - The suffering servant, the root of Jesse etc.  Then there is of course all the striking psalms like psalm 22 [If you haven’t read it… do].  Then there are those who argue about the song of Solomon being about Jesus and the church, but that leaves a lot of Old Testament that is not about Jesus….. or is it?
 Something people miss when they are studying the OT is the redemptive themes.  In the theological world they call it ‘Biblical Theology’ to distinguish it from ‘Systematic theology’.  For example people tend to think that God has somehow changed from the Old Testament times, or that he and Jesus are at odds with each other because Jesus brings grace, but Yahweh seems to bring the law.  This of course would be a theological heresy so nobody says it out loud - they just kind of think it.  They say in their hearts “God was mean in the Old Testament [OT] and is nice in the New Testament [NT]”.  The issue here is that they don’t know that Jesus came because the father wanted him to, and God has been slowly, thematically revealing it to his people since the beginning of time. That is why we have passages like this

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
LUKE 24:27 [emphasis mine]

 All the scriptures are concerned with Jesus.  Take for instance the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus.  It was always Gods plan to send a substitute sacrifice to save sinners.  Let’s look at this one theme as it grows and develops in scripture. 

- Adam and Eve fall, and hide because they are naked and ashamed.  God himself slaughters animals to make clothes for them to cover them. [It is a sacrifice to help them with the effects of their sin - just a glimmer]

- Gen 4 -- Cain and Abel offer their sacrifices as a tribute to God’s lordship.  [Basics of sacrifice – we offer to God what is His / what he deserves]

-  Genesis 8 – Noah makes whole clean animal sacrifices to the Lord as an offering of thanksgiving after the flood.  It then says “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said ‘never again will I curse the ground because of man’” [Here we start to see sacrifice have an effect on Gods attitude toward us.]

- Genesis 22 – Here is a doozy!  Abraham is called to sacrifice Isaac [type of Christ].  Isaac is the a promised miracle child –born to a mother who shouldn’t have gotten pregnant - and has to carry the wood for his own sacrifice up to the hill where he will be offered on it.  [Sounds a bit like Jesus]   The key here is that when they get up there God provides a ram to be sacrificed in his place!  [What we learn here is that God will accept a substitute for a life that he has a claim to, but what is more is he will provide that substitute.]

- Exodus 12 – God’s wrath is coming to be poured out on the inhabitants of Egypt.  All the firstborn will die.  God gives Israel a way of escape so that they won’t taste the sting of the curse.  He has them take a year old lamb, without defect [flawless], sacrifice it, and smear the blood of the sacrifice on their door posts.  When the destroying spirit see’s that they are marked by the blood it passes them over and they are not destroyed.  He has them keep this meal as a remembrance that they are His chosen people.  He rescues them, takes them to Mount Sinai and gives them the law.  [They are redeemed by the blood of another, so their blood does not need to be spilled.  They repeatedly have a traditional meal of remembrance after that.  They are a people set apart, and they are consecrated to God and taught how to live now that they are set apart.]

- Leviticus – this book hits sacrifice and starts to clean it up a ton with specifics. 
- Only clean animals without defect
- Substitution is a huge theme [Leviticus 1:4] burnt offering is accepted on your behalf  - lay hands on head to transfer guilt
- Every firstborn must be redeemed with a sacrificial substitute. 
- Priests are set up to be intermediaries between God and his sinful people / sacrifices are everyday. 
- ***The day of atonement – High priest enters the Holy of Holies and sprinkles the blood on the MERCY seat [symbolic throne of God] to make atonement for his own sin and the sins of the people. 

These are all shadows of something greater to come – Jesus.  He is the perfect, flawless, firstborn, sacrificed to save the descendants of Adam from the curse of their own sin.  If you are marked by His blood you will not bear the wrath because he took it as a substitute.  God's wrath for our sins was exhausted on him, so if we are marked as his special people then he will bring us into his promised land [heaven].  The great thing is that because this sacrifice was of Jesus the God Man it can bear the guilt of man, but also bear the weight of the entire wrath of God [something we finite creatures couldn't do in all of eternity].  That means that we don’t have to be like the Jews sacrificing every day.  It is finished!  We now have a great high priest [Jesus] pleading for us because he knows where we are tempted, but has never himself given into sin.  

The OT is not unfamiliar with the propitiatory sacrifice, and grace of the NT.  It was the plan all along.  The study of biblical theology gets in to these themes that hold all 66 books of the bible together.  The theme of sacrifice that I just quickly went over is only one of them.  There are a ton - Creation, fall, promise, marriage, adoption and others.    This is a great study that will open up your eyes to the unity of the bible and how God’s plan has always been there.  For future reading check out “Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church” by Michael Lawrence [9Marks Book] * “The Unfolding Mystery” by Edmond Clowney [Westminster Seminary] * “Gospel Centered Hermeneutics” by Graeme Goldsworthy * “Biblical Theology” by Geerhardus Voz.  I would suggest them in that order so that as you come to understand biblical theology you can pick up the heavier books.   

     Mr. Matt Kountz

Matt Kountz is a Pastor-in-training at a non-denominational church. He also has been a long term missionary to Zambia.


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