Old is New Again

Proverb 4: 7

The beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.

I have a question for you today. Proverbs is a wisdom book, so is it primarily a book of the Old Testament or does it transcend the Old Testament? Is its advice pertinent to this generation? Okay, so that is two questions.

The reason I bring this up is because we tend to have a very different perspective on the Old Testament books since we are New Testament believers. So, what do we do with the book of proverbs? And, for that matter, what about Psalms? We tend to relegate the Old Testament books to the antiquated section of the library in our minds. Why, then, do they keep putting those old books in our Bible? Why aren’t we just printing New Testaments?

It is hard to win the argument for the exclusion of the book of Proverbs or Psalms. Many “New Testaments” include those two books. Truth be told, there really is very little New Testament content. One would have to admit that historically, the gospels are Old Testament. Jesus had not gone to the cross, had not defeated death and hell, and had not yet provided the means to salvation and redemption. Of course, as “Christians” we like reading about Jesus so those four books make their way into what we call the New Testament, the Christian Testament.

The same cannot be said of the Psalms or Proverbs, though, or can they? What is it about those two books which attracts us to them? It seems plain that David, who is the major contributor to the Psalms, had a revelation of both the Messiah and the Holy Spirit. What of Solomon and the book of Proverbs? There is absolutely something transcendent about those writings. One thing is the personal tone with which Solomon wrote. It is as if He penned each proverb as a personal letter to each of us. Beyond that, though, is the spirit of revelation with which he wrote. He wrote about creation and who was with God at that time and he wrote about your today. Something in that resonates within us.

There is a book, however, which reveals the Messiah even more than the psalms and proverbs. That is the book of Isaiah. The text makes me think that the prophet had some sort of encounter with the person of Jesus. Isaiah doesn’t tell us about it but, clearly, he had insight beyond that of most people. This book, though, we find easier to consign to the Old Testament library. That is a shame because Jesus calls out from those pages.

We’ve acknowledged before that Jesus is the Bible in its entirety because he is the Word. The thing which separates the books is that many of the Old Testament books are a historical record and many of us never liked history class. However, most of the great Bible stories are also tucked into the folds of those pages. Also, we never see the hand of God as clearly in the New Testament as the Old. There certainly are miracles in both sections of the Bible but parting rivers and seas is the stuff of the old book. Swarms of locust and frog infestations, epic battles and battles where only God lifted a hand, those are the landscape of the Old Testament.

I think it is easy to see why we comfortably bring the Proverbs and Psalms into the New Testament with us. They are not strictly historical, and the writing is more modern and emotive. They clearly offer wisdom and worship for today. However, there is great faith in the other Old Testament books as well as the foundation for our faith. We need to know what the book of Deuteronomy holds. We need to see Father Abraham and his family as he and his descendants evolve into the nation of Israel. Important lessons lie at the foot of Egypt as we ponder how God’s chosen people ever arrived there in the first place. And what does the Babylonian captivity say to us today. Yes, the New Testament writers spoke directly to us, telling us what they believed we need to know. We must glean the kernels from the Old Testament stories, but they are there, and they are there in glory.

I want you to see God in all His glory. I want you to live in His glory daily and I believe the Old Testament books will inspire you as well as inform. I want you to have all that Jesus died to give you; nothing missing. The One Year Bibles make reading the Old Testament much easier if that helps, or just jump over to Isaiah and find Jesus. You are going to enjoy what you see. I would love to hear your Old Testament stories. What are you finding there that is inspiring you?

Clean Hands

Psalm 18: 24

Therefore, the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes.

There are a few Old Testament prophets who have New Testament eyes and spirits. David and Isaiah are chief among these. David wrote most of the psalms and he wrote this one specifically. As an interesting side note, many people barely consider the psalms as part of the Old Testament. Many New Testament Bibles include the books of Psalms and Proverbs. I have known people who would scarcely acknowledge that the Bible contained anything more than Matthew through Revelation but who would read the psalms. The reason for this, at least in part, might be because David had such a big revelation of who God is.

Today’s passage screams New Testament dispensation to me. It has Jesus’ blood all over it. Hallelujah! You see, the passage is a little frightening until you get to the last three words. Then, all of a sudden, we are on shouting ground! I get fired up over this because I do not want to be judged or compensated according to my righteousness. That would end up worse than a lump of coal in my Christmas stocking. I am all too happy, though, to receive of God through the filters of His eyes. Yahoo! He recompenses us according to the how He sees us, according to the glory which covers us through Jesus. Come on, that is worth a shout, an Amen or something.

Give God praise. Give Him glory. He has laid aside a reward for you based on Jesus’ righteousness. Glory to God!

The Old and the New

2 Kings 1: 7 – 8

And he said to them, “What kind of man was he who came up to meet you and spoke these words to you?”  And they answer him, “He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

Elijah was a prominent figure in the age before Jesus.  If you read the Old Testament accounts of him you will be inspired.  But there is an interesting New Testament chapter to the story of Elijah and I think when you consider these New Testament connections you will perceive that our Father had a plan all along to bring redemption and grace into the world, and that He hasn’t changed.  Why is that important?  There are some great promises from the Father that are recorded in what we call the Old Testament and as such many Christians stumble over whether they can rely on what they perceive as Hebrew promises.  When you see that it is all one continuous strategy then you will appreciate that God made those promises to you just as much as whatever He may tell you today.  There is no Old or New Testament to God.  To Him there are just His kids and His plan to sweep us all into eternity with Him.

Let’s begin in Matthew Chapter 17.  Jesus, Peter, James and John were coming down the mountain where the three disciples saw Jesus transfigured before their very eyes.  Interestingly enough, while Jesus was in that transfigured state, lo, Elijah and Moses appeared and engaged in conversation with him.  Elijah made a New Testament appearance.  Not only did Jesus see him but also the three disciples saw him. 

When they witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus they began to understand something about this man whom they followed.  I believe in that moment when they beheld him in his glory they became believers that he was, in fact, the son of God.  They got a revelation of this man as the Messiah.  But as so often happens with revelation knowledge it inspired them to further thought and questions.  So, on the way down the mountain they questioned Jesus.  “Why then” they asked him, “do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?  Come first before what?  Before the Christ.  You see, they just got a revelation that this Jesus was the long awaited Messiah but immediately their theology jumped up in the way.  “How can this be the Messiah,” they mused, “when we have been taught that Elijah must come first?”  Obviously, they were asserting that Elijah had not yet come which is so interesting considering they were leaving a place where they had just seen Elijah.  Anyway, Jesus answered them.  I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished.” 

Consider Matthew 3: 4, “Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather belt about his waist.”  Now re-read today’s passage.  Do they seem similar to you?  This description of John the Baptist is in the Bible so that we can make the connection between him and Elijah, between the Old Testament and the New.  There is continuity between the two sections of the Bible and you can find many verses that have a sister scripture in the other testament.  But let’s continue on with Elijah.  There is an implication here, at the least, that John the Baptist was the Elijah that was to be the precursor of the Messiah.  Jesus does not want us to have any doubt or misunderstanding though so he comes right out and says, “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come” (Matthew 11: 14). 

So what’s my point?  My point is that the “testaments” are an artificial construct.  Just like the chapter and verse designations, the testaments have been created in order to help us in studying the bible.  They are not meant to be divisive but rather instructive. Christians do themselves a great disfavor when they consider the first thirty-nine books of the Bible as belonging only to the Jews.  I am not suggesting we should live under the Levitical law but we certainly don’t want to cast aside the Psalms and the Proverbs.  Neither do we want to make those the only two Old Testament books we ever read.  There is a bunch of great stuff back there.  Besides, we are the heirs of Abraham in Jesus and if you want to see what our inheritance is, you are going to have to go to that Old book and read.  We certainly do not want to miss out on Deuteronomy 28: 1 – 14.  So enjoy your Old Testament and take possession of the promises of God and the revelation of His will.