…the Old Testament. As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, let me give a few examples of how the Old Testament acts as a dictionary for the New Testament.
Say “prophet” to most people today and they will think of a fortune teller, someone who predicts the future. However if we turn to the Old Testament we find that while a prophet sometimes told the future, his main task to explain and apply God’s Word to people (Deut. 18:15-22). As it is often put, he was to be a forth-teller more than a fore-teller.
Thus, when Christ is presented in the New Testament as THE prophet (John 6:16; Acts 7:37), we should not be looking for new revelations and predictions of the future (although there are some of these), but explanations and applications of God’s existing Word.
“Priest” makes most people think of Roman Catholic priests. In the past, with less media scrutiny, they were thought of as some kind of detached, perfectly holy, super-spiritual order of beings. Today, with the never-ending media revelations, many people hear the word “priest” and think “hypocrite” or “abuser.”
However, Old Testament priests were to be ordinary men who could sympathize and identify with sinners. They were not dressed in pompous royal clothing, but rather in white linen, often spattered with the blood of sacrifices. They were to be filled with love for needy souls (Heb. 5:1-2).
If we want to present Christ as a sympathetic and trustworthy high priest (Heb. 4:14-16), then we need to turn people away from their ideas of modern priesthood and toward the Old Testament description and portrayal of priesthood.
For most people a “King” is someone who is above the law. They can do what they like without consequence. They live lives of unbridled luxury. They often oppress the innocent and befriend the evil.
The Old Testament, though, presents the king as someone under God’s authority, someone who was answerable to God, someone who was accountable for the way they related to God and the people, and someone who was to represent God to the people (Deut. 17:14-20; 2 Sam. 23:1-5). That view of kingship will transform our view of Christ’s kingship (Phil. 2:9-11).
A couple of years ago, a student and I filmed some “man-on-the-street” interviews on the streets of Grand Rapids. We asked passers-by: “What is a covenant?” You would have thought in such a Dutch Reformed city that at least some people would have some idea of what a covenant was. However, what we found was large-scale ignorance. The closest most people came was the idea of a contract or a deal. “If you do this, then I’ll do that.” That’s what most people think of – some kind of commercial bargain or contract.
However if we go to the Old Testament we find that a covenant is a relationship, initiated and imposed by a superior, with life or death consequences.
Biblical Covenants are always initiated by God, and bestow benefits upon needy and undeserving sinners, who can never repay, but who are encouraged to respond with thankful obedience. That gives a whole new understanding to Christ’s word, “This is the new covenant in my blood.”