For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.
–1 Corinthians 10:1-6
One of the central purposes of reading the Old Testament is to see by their example, good or bad, how we ought to avoid their mistakes or follow their faith. In the text above we are told that we are not to “crave evil things the way they did”.
The Hermeneutical Principle of the Flower
This principle may sound really odd but let me explain. I had a Hebrew professor explain to us seminary students that revelation is like a flower gradually opening up to bloom. In other words the revelation we have in the Old Testament is like seeing a flower before it opens up and the further we travel through the Scriptures the more the flower opens up to show off all its glory in full bloom. When we come to the New Testament, God reveals to us those things that appear hidden in the Old Testament. The things written in the Old are tangible, concrete and black and white. In the New Testament we have more technical language but clarified by what we see in the Old.
Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
– Hebrews 9:23-24
This reference here is to the Old Testament tabernacle and the practices of the sacrificial system and the application of blood as part of the sacrificial ceremony. These are described as a copy or figure or representation of the ultimate spiritual realities in heaven. In other words, God has given all the practices of the Old Testament as a representation of the greater ultimate spiritual realities that Christ would inaugurate through His sacrifice. Therefore to help us understand these greater heavenly realities God created the Old Testament sacrificial system to best represent the invisible spiritual truths and realities that the New Testament speaks about; more precisely, the ultimate spiritual privileges and blessings that Christ secures for us.
All these Old Testament pictures become tangible, concrete illustrations of the greater realities secured by Christ. Many New Testament truths are best understood by understanding the Old Testament description that describes the same truth but in very concrete terms.
So do not ignore the Old Testament. While it may be hard, reading through the Old Testament is vital to understanding the Scriptures (New Testament). Sometimes we need help – books like “What the Bible is All About” – Henrietta Mears is a great tools to use to help understand the Old Testament. It helps understand the themes, overall picture, and the spiritual significance for us.
In His Word,