The Gospel in the Old Testament

Many of us think we have the Old Testament stories figured out.

After all, we’ve known them since childhood: An ark that rises above a flooded earth; a shepherd boy who topples a giant; a rebellious prophet who gets swallowed up by a sea creature. They’re familiar and beloved tales.

We read these epic stories for inspiration and instruction — Obey like Noah! Be brave like David! Don’t run from God like Jonah! We attach a moral to each story and try hard to follow the model of those ancient heroes.

But the Old Testament is so much better than we expect.

Jesus is there.

Yes, the stories of the Old Testament are 100 percent true, and the characters we read of can serve as good examples (I Corinthians 10:11).

But the Old Testament contains the story of the Gospel, too. That’s good news for us, because we need more than a motivational character or a life motto. We need the life-transforming grace of God only found in the person and work of Jesus. And it saturates the entire Bible.

Here are three ways to see the Gospel as we read Old Testament stories.

See what God is doing.

The Bible is for me, but it’s not about me. The Bible is God’s story.

So in every passage, I should put my attention on God first. What is He doing? How is He involved? Which attributes of God are on display?

Do I notice God’s anger toward sin? His compassion toward the weakest? His power to rescue in a miraculous way?

Old Testament stories, with God in the center, reveal how God acts toward us in the Gospel.

See yourself in the losers.

I’d rather not. I’d rather write myself in the starring role. I’d rather be the obedient one, the brave one, the faithful one.

But I’m “worthless,” according to Romans 3:12. “No one does good, not even one.”

So when I read the Old Testament, I should align myself with the failures. The ones who are afraid or worried or disobedient. Those characters better fit my own sinful condition.

As I identify with the worst people in the stories, I’m more likely to see the True Hero.

See Jesus in the heroes.

When an Old Testament character succeeds, my tendency is to make a plan. How can I be more like _____. But instead, the good examples should remind me of Jesus.

Imitating good moral examples won’t transform my heart, which is dead in sin. I need Jesus to be the faithful and obedient Noah who saves humanity from destruction. I need Jesus to be the victor over my greatest enemies, sin and death. I need Jesus to go into the belly of the earth for me and to be raised to life three days later with a message of salvation for those who repent and believe.

Jesus believed that He was the point of all the Old Testament. He once claimed that all Scriptures “bear witness about me” (John 5:39).

The stories of the Old Testament are so much better than I expect. They lead us to the Good News of salvation!

Seek, SGBC's Wednesday night Bible program, resumes tomorrow (January 18), and we will spend 16 weeks studying about the life of David. David’s story is an Old Testament classic —and yet it is one that consistently directs us to the Gospel! Join us!