Following the Resurrection of Christ those who had so vehemently sought for His death were left with an Empty Tomb. The watchmen who had been assigned to guard the tomb were given large sums of money by the chief priests with instructions to say to anyone who asked, “His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept.” In Jewish culture today this belief is still “commonly reported among the Jews until this day,” as Matthew recorded in his day (Matthew 28:11-15). For a Jew to finally meet the Messiah the Old Testament Prophets foretold about is truly life-changing.
The Book of Matthew in the New Testament opens with the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Out of the long list of names recorded several are familiar from the Old Testament: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Boaz and Ruth; Jesse, David and Solomon. As the birth of Jesus unfolds in the second chapter of the Book, several verses refer back to what was written previously in the Old Testament. To fully understand the New Testament one must also read the Old, for the Old Covenant introduces the New Covenant founded upon Christ alone as the Sacrifice for sin.
- When King Herod questioned the chief priests and scribes where the Promised Messiah would be born, “They said unto him, in Bethlehem of Judea,” relying upon the Prophet Micah’s prophesy in the Old Testament, “…out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” (Matthew 2:4-6; Micah 5:2).
- When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee with his young family to Egypt “until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him,” it was the Prophet Hosea the Lord had spoken to and had written 750 years earlier found in the Old Testament, “I… called My Son out of Egypt” (Matthew 2:13-15; Hosea 11:1).
- As King Herod saw that he was mocked by the return of the magi to their own country another way and called for the slaughter of all children two years and under, Matthew recalls Jeremiah the prophet saying, “Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not,” (Matthew 2:16-18; Jeremiah 31:15).
- Settling in Nazareth upon their return from Egypt, more prophesies written in the Old Testament are noted concerning Jesus, in that, “He shall be called a Nazarene,” a community where residents were often despised and rejected, as Nathanael said to Philip upon his invitation for Nathanael to come see Jesus, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” In Psalm 22 David wrote of the Promised Messiah of the New Testament, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him.” The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “His Holy One, to Him whom man despiseth, to Him whom the nation abhorreth,” and also, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” (Matthew2:23; John 1:46; Psalm 22:6-8; Isaiah 49:7; 53:3).
As one continues reading throughout the Book of Matthew and beyond, reference upon reference is made back to the Old Testament. The Prophet Isaiah wrote in the Old Testament of John the Baptist’s ministry recorded in Matthew chapter three (Isaiah 40:3). Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in chapter four records Jesus quoting Old Testament Scripture in answer to Satan’s twisting of Scripture. Just as the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:16 writes of the Body of Christ, the Church, being “the whole body fitly joined together,” both the Old Testament and the New Testament fit wholly together, hand in glove. To understand the New, one must be familiar with the Old.
How many of us open a book, flip through its pages, reading a sentence here and there? We wouldn’t do it with any book we pull off the library shelf, yet we do it with God’s Holy Book, The Bible. Reading a verse here, a verse there from the Old Testament and/or New, then closing the Bible and remarking how it is so difficult to understand. Surely any book read that way would not make sense to anyone.
God’s Word is just like any other book in respect to meaning to be read from the beginning to its end in order. Each page of Scripture connects to the previous page, each chapter connecting to the previous chapter. The sixty-six individual Books contained in Scripture fit together like a puzzle revealing God and HIS desire for mankind to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth for Who HE Is.
In order to understand the Bible it is imperative to read the first five books, Genesis to Deuteronomy. Those books are the foundation upon which the remaining books of Scripture rest. Each of the books that follow reference back to the writings of Moses set down from Creation to the Children of Israel’s imminent entrance into the Promised Land. Even the Book of Leviticus is important to be read with all the laws of God written out for His Children to live an abundant life in the land He had chosen for them.
In reading all the Books of the Old Testament it is revealed how sinful man truly is and how each person is in need of the Savior. The New Testament opens with the birth of Christ, His life, death, burial and resurrection written from the perspectives of four different authors who were contemporaries of Christ. Many utterances Jesus makes in the Gospels refer back to Old Testament people and events the reader needs to be familiar with to understand His words, especially His words pertaining to placing their trust in HIM as God’s Only Begotten Son sent to be the Redeemer of all who call upon His Name.
It is man that makes the Bible hard to understand in how he approaches the Scriptures. With God all things are done decently and in order. It is Satan who is the author of confusion, especially attempting to confuse man concerning God’s Word, one of his chiefest ploys to keep man from placing his total faith and trust in the Only ONE who is able to bring him into a right relationship with God.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…
for instruction in righteousness.”
II Timothy 3:16
Before the coming of Christ and His death on the cross for sin, many wonder how those in the Old Testament came to salvation. God killed the animal in the Garden of Eden to cover the sin of Adam and Eve thereby introducing “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin,” (Hebrews 9:22). Later, Moses and the Children of Israel were instructed to construct the Tabernacle in the wilderness wherein sacrifices were to be made daily. Those sacrifices were a picture of the salvation revealed in the coming of the New Covenant, the New Testament, with the coming of Christ and His once-for-all sacrifice for sin.
In Leviticus we read of the Sin Offering that was to be brought to the Tabernacle priest when an individual sinned, either “through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty; or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering.” In acknowledgment of his sin, “the sinner was to bring a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned,” (Leviticus 4:27-28).
After the sinner offered his sin offering in confession of his sin, he offered a Burnt Offering signifying complete surrender, giving all of himself to the LORD. The burnt sacrifice was to be a male “of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock,” without blemish. It was to be offered “of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.” The one who had confessed his sin and was now offering his burnt offering to the LORD was to “put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering: and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.” It was the repentant sinner who then killed his offering to the LORD, shedding the animal’s blood and cutting it up in pieces to be laid upon the altar by the priests. The burnt offering was to be totally consumed by the fire upon the altar, (Leviticus 1:1-9).
Upon offering his sin offering in acknowledgment of his sin, offering a burnt offering to atone for his sin, the repentant sinner offered a Peace Offering signifying reconciliation had taken place between the sinner and God. The peace offering was to be offered of the herd, either a male or female without blemish. The offering was to be laid upon the burnt offering (sacrifice) “and the priest shall burn it upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire unto the LORD.” The peace offering was then served for food to the priests and the one who offered it, symbolizing the communion one has with God upon his confession of sin, acceptance of God’s provision of atonement, resulting in receiving God’s peace that passes all understanding, (Leviticus 3; Philippians 4:7).
With the coming of Christ’s sacrifice for sin, no longer was the blood of bulls and goats necessary for salvation as it had been in the Old Testament. “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us,” (Hebrews 9:11-12).
There is an oft repeated phrase that many fail to read as they get bogged down in Scripture and decide to skip huge passages of the Old Testament to get to easier reading. Confronted with the history of battles, judges and kings, many in today’s society prefer to read of love, kindness and gentleness. But tucked within those passages of the plight of God’s people coming out from under Egyptian bondage and living in the Promised Land is the phrase, “…and they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.” The phrase not only applied to the Children of Israel but to all the nations round about them whom God used to bring judgment and blessing.
God used pestilence and death upon the Egyptian people so they “…shall know that I am the LORD,” (Exodus 7:5). He fed the Children of Israel in the wilderness even while they murmured so they “…shall know that I am the LORD your God,” (Exodus 16:12). Battles were fought and won or lost so “…ye shall know that I am the LORD,” (I Kings 20:28). The Lord delivered His Children from Babylonian captivity so “…they shall know that My name is The LORD,” (Jeremiah 16:21). It is a theme throughout the entire Old Testament, “… and they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”
Why was the phrase so often repeated? The Lord tells us in Ezekiel 11:12, “And ye shall know that I am the Lord: for ye have not walked in my statutes, neither executed my judgments, but have done after the manners of the heathen that are round about you.” Does God need to get our attention and the attention of our nations so we will know that He is the Lord GOD and obey His statutes? His love for us is so great He desires to do whatever it takes to bring us into a right relationship with Him. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.