Testament to the Truth: The Old Prepared the Way for the New

Minor Prophets not so Minor

You may have noticed names like Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi over the last few days as we have worked our way through the “Minor” Prophets. Perhaps you’ve also noticed a larger trend: over the last 40 days or so we have touched base with every book in the Old Testament, (which means if you have been following along, you have now read at least a part of every book in the entire Old Testament.) Way to GO!

The Old Testament is Amazing

This amazing and unique collection of writings stands alone among other ancient literature. It established a universally acknowledged standard of law, encouraged us to act with faith and vision, and it gave us glimpses of a Creator who is not only above us but also among us and for us. He is not a whimsical, capricious deity but the God who created us, cares about us, and came from beyond us.

In Isaiah 55:8 He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In Jeremiah 29:11 He says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

When talking to Moses, He identified Himself not as the Almighty God of the Universe, but as the personal God of relationship, saying, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6). In the Old Testament we have been encouraged to have courage (Deuteronomy 31:6), to seek and depend upon God’s presence (Judges 6), and to demonstrate stubborn love (the beautiful story of Ruth).

In the story of David we saw both triumph and tragedy, rejoicing and repentance. The Old Testament offers advice about good leadership (Exodus 18:19-21), how to live (Proverbs) and even offers some surprising insight about how to have a great sex life (Song of Solomon). It also points consistently to a Messiah who will come, not as a reigning Monarch but as a suffering servant (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22).

Between Malachi and Matthew

During the time between the Testaments, Israel suffered at the hands of invaders and despots who destroyed their temple and deported their leaders. In the midst of their devastation there were always glimpses of hope, and they were always a people who clung stubbornly to the idea that God would redeem them and love them through the coming Messiah. Even while predicting gloom and doom, men like Zephaniah and Malachi provided striking images of joy that included a tender lullaby or a frolicking calf… Working through the Old Testament provides a rich historical and spiritual backdrop that offers insight about the Coming King.

testament

A Journey You Can See in the Mirror

There is also the very curious parallel that Israel’s story has for every believer: their journey begins in faith; they are enslaved by the culture and values of a foreign land; they have to be rescued from “the fleshpots of Egypt” through miraculous means; even though they have experienced God’s presence they often long to return to their previous life; their old ways result in evil consequences, and they are motivated to repent and accept God’s authority once again. They are headed to the Promised Land, temporary sojourners whose reward is in front of them, influenced by God’s Spirit but dabbling in the flesh: imperfect, often unfaithful followers of the God who offers them refuge and promises them He will not leave them or forsake them. Sound familiar?

The Old Testament provided a foundation and set the stage for the New Testament, and I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the snapshots from Habakkuk, Hosea, Esther, Job… As we go forward, we will take a tour through every New Testament book as well, so that by the end of another 30 days or so, you will have read through the entire Bible. I hope you will see the message of hope and love in every book in the Bible, and that it will whet your appetite for more!

Two Testaments, One Story

Read the Bible. If you can, you’ll
Have a living owner’s manual,
Full of drama, wisdom, history,
Kings, adultery, even mystery;
Prophets bringing holy fire,
Psalms that lift your spirit higher;
The older Testament and the New
With literature designed for YOU,
Stories full of love and loss,
A hero lifted on a cross!
Sin required an awful price,
And Jesus made the sacrifice.
No matter what your time or place,
Your nationality or race,
God offers His Amazing Grace
To everyone who seeks His face.
At least, that’s what my Bible says…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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On the Road to Emmaus, These Disciples Connected the Dots. Have You?

Shortly after Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, some disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus with a Rabbi who obviously knew the Old Testament pretty well… They didn’t seem to know this Rabbi, but he was bold enough to be somewhat sharp with them: “He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)

road

After the death of Jesus, several disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus, discussing the recent events. They were downcast because it had seemed to them that Jesus might have been the Messiah, but the crucifixion had shattered their hopes. As Gamaliel explained to the Sanhedrin in Acts 5, would-be messiah figures and self-proclaimed deliverers came along fairly often in occupied Judea, and this downcast group of travelers seemed ready to accept the bad news and move along.

This whole Messiah thing had not turned out the way they expected– no victory over Rome, no Messianic kingdom… The strange Rabbi (who happened to be Jesus, but whom they did not recognize) joined their conversation and used the Prophets and the Scriptures to give them a more comprehensive view of the Messiah’s purpose and mission. Luke doesn’t tell us exactly what he said, but apparently it opened their eyes to some new possibilities about life and truth.

Perhaps he quoted Isaiah 53 and talked about the suffering servant; maybe he directed them to Zechariah 12 (“they will look on him whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son”) or Psalm 22 and its graphic depiction of a crucifixion; maybe he quoted Isaiah 40:3 to remind them that John’s mission was to prepare the way of the Lord…

Walking along the road, Jesus pointed out that the Old Testament was full of references to him and his work, something the disciples had not noticed and did not understand. The disciples had to see the larger context and lay aside their own preconceived notions about Jesus to see who he really was.

Question: what preconceived notions do you have about Jesus that keep you from seeing who he really is? How well do you know what the prophets and the Old Testament Scriptures said about him? If the Bible is a tapestry, then the Old Testament contains dozens of threads woven into its fabric of law, genealogy, history, poetry, and prophecy that point to a coming Messiah, and which find fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. The disciples on the road to Emmaus knew the Scriptures, but until they compared them to the person of Jesus, they failed to connect the dots. Upon realizing the connection, they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us when he talked with us on the road, and opened the Scriptures to us?”

As Hebrews 1:1 points out, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” It was ABOUT His Son that the Old Testament foretold. It is THROUGH His Son that God speaks today. What road are you on? Are you listening? And don’t just listen; while you are at it, connect the dots.

The Mysterious Traveling Companion

The road was long and weary; the disciples wondered why
Their hopes of liberty, along with Jesus, had to die...
A Rabbi joined their group and said, "This is no mystery!
The Scriptures all foretold exactly how this came to be!"
From Moses through the Prophets, he expounded as they walked,
Revealing truth about Messiah's mission as they talked.
At dinner, they reflected on the things that he had said,
And he revealed himself to them as they were breaking bread.
When he was gone, they went to tell their brothers what to do,
And how their hearts were burning as he told them what he knew.
You can hear the Scriptures too, and listen lots and lots;
But hear the word of God through Jesus: then, connect the dots.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Coincidence Disguised as History. History Connected by Coincidence

Most casual observers might assess series of events and say, “Wow, That’s a Really Amazing Coincidence!” In fact, anyone looking at the birth of Jesus would have to admit there were some surprising coincidences that took place. I would submit that there is something more to it than that…

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” (Luke 2:1-4 NIV)

Joseph was from Nazareth, not Bethlehem. Under normal circumstances, Jesus should have been born there at home in Nazareth, a relatively sleepy little village in Galilee. But a taxation decree from Caesar Augustus forced Joseph to take Mary from Galilee to Bethlehem, and it was there Jesus was born. Coincidence? This fulfilled a prediction written over 700 years before by the prophet Micah: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrata, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2 NIV).

Look at a couple of things about these verses: First, the birth of Jesus was a REAL event that took place in a REAL location in the midst of REAL historical events. There was a census (you can look it up), and by coincidence Quirinius was actually a mid-level governor in Judea. (Scholars place his time of service and the Roman census both at around 6 AD, which helps to date the birth of Christ around that time.)

Second, because Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered, Jesus was born away from his childhood home. Since Jesus grew up in Nazareth, the Pharisees did not associate him later on with Bethlehem, and it was one of the things that bothered them about Jesus and kept them from seeing him as the Messiah. He wasn’t from the religious and cultural center of Jerusalem, and it diminished his importance in their eyes. In John 7:41-42 they argued about it: “But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?”

coincidence

The Pharisees (like Herod’s elders who consulted the Magi in Matthew 2) knew that the Messiah would come from the city of David, and their tribal knowledge presumed that Jesus grew up in Nazareth. What they didn’t realize was that, perhaps by coincidence, out of all the places in all of Judea, Joseph had to leave Galilee and travel with his pregnant wife to Bethlehem, and the timing had to be such that she delivered not at home in Nazareth but while staying briefly in the city of David. Pretty remarkable–a coincidence, you might say– that a Roman decree moved Hebrew people around so that Joseph and Mary ended up in Bethlehem, the exact birthplace of the Messiah, which fulfilled Micah’s prediction from over 700 years before…

Besides that particular prophecy about his birth, the Hebrew Scriptures also predicted that Christ would: (1) be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14); (2) be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); (3) ride the foal of a donkey into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9); (4) be descended from David (Isaiah 9:7 and Jeremiah 23:5); (5) be “lifted up” and “marred beyond recognition” (Isaiah 52:13-14); (6) be crucified, as depicted in Psalm 22. Those are but a few of the Hebrew scriptures written hundreds of years before Jesus, predicting some of the things that would happen to or around him…

Remarkable? Yes. Coincidence? No.

Coincidence

You don’t think He created earth; you can’t believe the Virgin birth.
His parables and works were fine, but you don’t see him as divine.
Perhaps if you could look and see the Hebrew Scriptures’ prophecy,
You’d come to find it all makes sense: if it’s just ONE coincidence,
Then you could push him out of mind, or call me intellectually blind;
But search the Scriptures, and you’ll find
A dozen prophecies aligned with things that Christ would do.
So was he God? Or was it just a coincidence or two?
A dozen? No, I think I undershot,
since actually there really are a LOT–
Just take that Bible down from off the shelf,
And do some research. Look it up yourself!
Those prophecies from hundreds of years before;
I’ve quoted a few, but there are many more.
To many folks it doesn’t make much sense;
But I don’t think it was coincidence!

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread