14 Reasons to Read the Old Testament

It’s safe to say most of us gravitate to the New Testament of the Bible. We enjoy the Old Testament stories, the practical wisdom of Proverbs, the emotional depth of the Psalms.

But Jesus fulfilled all the OT ceremonial law and the sacrificial requirements, so we’re not under obligation to practice those any more. And all that past history is . . .well. . . .past. The NT seems more practical.

So why bother to read the OT?

Well, there are several good reasons.

1. The whole Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). One of our former pastors used to say the Bible is divinely brief. Think of all the things an eternal God knows and could tell us. He chose the particular words in the Bible for specific reasons.

2. The whole Bible is beneficial. 2 Timothy goes on to say all Scripture is “beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work” (3:16b-17, NASB).

3. The OT provides examples for us. “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11, NASB). The context of these verses talks about various things OT Israel did wrong. Then the passage warns the reader, “Therefore let the one who thinks he stands watch out that he does not fall” (verse 12).

4. The OT helps us appreciate what we have in Christ. Our  church recently studied Leviticus.

The tabernacle and temple system emphasized the distance between us and God. Only the priests could enter and only with the right sacrifices conducted the right way. When Jesus died, the veil of the temple was supernaturally torn in two, indicating the way to God was now open.

Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us, “We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, through His flesh.” Because He made a way for us and is our high priest, we’re encouraged to

  • approach God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith
  • hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering
  • consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds (verses 21-25).

5. The OT emphasizes holiness. A seminary professor taught a class on Leviticus. He asked his students to try to keep the regulations in Leviticus for a week and journal about the experience. One replied that the assignment had him evaluating everything in his life related to holiness all the time. The NT requires holiness, too. But we don’t often examine every area of our lives to see whether we measure up to God’s holy standards as they were required to in the OT. We’re free from the strictures of the OT ceremonial law, but we still need to submit our conscience and practice to God’s Holy Spirit.

6. The NT quotes or alludes to the OT over 880 times. The NT would not make sense without the OT foundation. [1]

7. Jesus quoted and believed in the Old Testament. Jesus told the Jews who opposed Him, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39, ESV). The Scriptures He referred to were the Old Testament writings. Many times He said, “Have you not read…?” and quoted something from the Old Testament, meaning that He expected them to know what it taught.

After His resurrection, when He walked along with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV).

8. The OT instructs us and gives us hope. Paul tells us in Romans 15:4: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” When we realize we are not that different from the complaining, disbelieving Israelites in the wilderness, we have hope that God will be faithful and longsuffering with us as He was with them. When we read of God helping His people through various trials and troubles in the Bible, we’re encouraged that He will take care of us as well.

9. The OT and NT tell us about the same God. Some have felt that the OT presents an angry, vengeful God while the NT shows us a merciful, loving God. But they are one and the same. God shows His grace and mercy and love to His people many times in the OT, even when they behaved the worst. And many places in the NT warn of God’s wrath against sin.

10. The Old Testament shows us our need and prepares us for the only One who can meet it. The laws and sacrificial system showed Israel the impossibility of keeping God’s law and the need for a Savior. The law was our “schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24, KJV). The sinless lamb of the sacrifices points to the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The OT sacrifices had to be repeated, but Jesus’s offering took care of our sins forever (Hebrews 10:14).

11. The Old Testament points to Christ, from the representation of the scapegoat, to the atonement, to Messianic prophecies. A former pastor, Dr. Mark Minnick, used to say that the Old Testament showed Israel’s need for a judge, a prophet, and a king. But even the best judges, prophets, and kings fell short. Jesus fulfills all those offices perfectly.

12. The Old Testament is part of our spiritual heritage. Romans 11:11-31 tells us we were grafted into the olive tree of the Jews.  The true Israel is by faith, not just lineage. Galatians 3:29 and Romans 9:6-8 say that those in Christ are children of Abraham:

Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham (Galatians 3:6-9, NKJV).

13. The Old and New Testaments form a whole, with each part of the same overarching story. L. E. Maxwell, cofounder and eventual president of the Prairie Bible Institute, said in his book Crowded to Christ, “The New Testament is enfolded in the Old, and the Old Testament is unfolded in the New.” [2]

14. There are treasures in the OT. If you skipped the OT, you’d miss some of the greatest treasures of the Bible, like these:

Zephaniah 3:17: The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Isaiah 30:15a: For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

If the OT seemed dry or hard to understand in the past, a good study Bible helps. You can find a variety of sizes and types of commentaries and other study aids. This past year I have used Warren Wiersbe’s “Be” commentaries on different books of the Bible. They often show up on Kindle sales. They’re detailed enough to give insights, yet simple enough to understand.

If you’ve been avoiding the OT, I encourage you to read and study  it. You’ll find rich, meaningful treasure there.


[1] “O.T. Quotations Found in the N.T. – Study Resources.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 15 Jun, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/pnt/pnt08.cfm&gt;.

[2] L. E. Maxwell, Crowded to Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1950), p. 272.

Unless otherwise stated, all Bible verses are from the ESV.

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Hungry for God, Starving for Time

Lori Hatcher has to have one of the best titles ever in her book Hungry for God . . . Starving for Time.

Most of us can identify with what Lori says in her introduction: we don’t always have an hour to spend in the Bible, but “even when we can’t sit down to a five-course feast, even a quick nibble from God’s Word can nourish and sustain us” (p.16).

The devotions in this book each begin with a question to ask God, results of Lori’s own search for answers in the Bible since her early life as a Christian. The responses are designed to take about five minutes to read. They include experiences from Lori’s life and applicable insights from God’s Word.

Some entries are heavier: “The Day the Car Caught Fire” and “When This Sad, Sick World gets You Down.” Some are whimsical: “Bad Hair Days and the Kingdom of God,” “Sometimes I Wake Up Grumpy,” and “Caesar, the 115-Pound Lap Dog.”

One of my favorite chapters was “Distressed or Damaged?” Lori and her daughter were furniture shopping when Lori was amazed at the asking price for a chest of drawers with “dinks, scuffs, and chipped paint.” Her daughter explained that “distressed” furniture was considered highly valuable. Another piece, though, was actually damaged rather than distressed. Lori talks about how we can be distressed–shiny finish worn off, chipped surfaces as a result of encountering life. After discussing a few verses about God’s healing and help, Lori concludes: “God’s care reminds us that distressed and damaged is not discarded and defeated. Perhaps the designers have it right—distressed can be beautiful.” (p. 48).

If you’re eating on the run, it’s important to eat something substantial and healthy. Lori’s devotions are like a spiritual protein bar.

Lori’s not advocating that we never spend more than five minutes a day in the Bible. But on those days when we hardly have time to sit down, we can still have meaningful time in God’s Word.

In my case, our church is reading through Numbers. The book of Numbers has some dramatic moments, but it also has some dryer portions. Most of its chapters are fairly short as well. I enjoyed finishing my devotional time with a section from Lori’s book.

I had heard Lori speak at two of the writer’s conferences I attended, so I was sure I would enjoy her book. You can find her also at her blog, also named Hungry for God, Starving for Time, and her Facebook group by the same name.

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How to Get Out of a Bible Reading Rut

How to get out of a Bible reading rut

Routines can help us establish good habits. Half the battle in establishing a regular quiet time or devotional time is staking out a workable, regular time and place. Some days—and some seasons of life—upend our schedules, and all we can do is watch for any available minutes. But we usually do better when we plan to work Bible reading into our day.

But a routine can become—routine. A rut, even.

How can we keep our Bible reading from becoming routine—or dig it out of the rut if it’s already there?

Pray. Ask God to remind us of the treasure His Word is. Sometimes I pray Psalm 119:18 just before starting my Bible reading: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Or Psalm 119:25: “My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word” (NKJV).

Remember. Perhaps make a list of reasons to read the Bible or read Psalm 119 to renew our appreciation of it.

Don’t expect high excitement every time. A Thanksgiving feast is wonderful and memorable. But the monthly tuna casserole and everyday peanut butter sandwiches nourish us as well. Some devotional times leave us overflowing with joy or conviction or inspiration. Most quiet times don’t end that way, yet the Word feeds us every time we partake of it.

Remember the purpose of time in the Word: not just to get through a certain number of chapters or a certain amount of time, but to meet with the Lord and get to know Him better.

Change your plan. If you usually read the Bible through in a year, maybe switch to a two-year plan or a five-year plan—or a 90-day plan. Or a biographical plan or a chronological plan. Bible Gateway lists 18 different plans. Near the end of the year you’ll see a number of posts and articles about ways to read the Bible in the New Year (though you don’t have to wait til then to start).

Change your style. We benefit from both reading and studying the Bible, but most of us are inclined one way or the other. If you usually read large chunks for an overview, perhaps study a particular book in more detail. If you like to camp out in one passage for days, maybe get the bigger picture by reading several chapters or a whole book at one sitting.

Add aids. I’ve only had a study Bible the last few years. The background information and notes help so much in comprehending more of the passage. One year I used Warren Wiersbe’s With the Word as a companion. This year I am using his “Be” commentaries.

Have a Bible reading project. Once I read through the gospels looking particularly for claims Jesus made about Himself. I put a “C” in the margin beside every verse of Jesus’ claims and then put them all together. Doing so provided a valuable resource plus woke me up from falling into familiar patterns from familiar passages. I’d love to read through the Bible noting every reference to God as Creator and what the passage shares about Him (His greatness, His power, etc.) I’d love to do the same thing with every passage where God promises to be with someone. Mardi Collier started reading the Psalms, jotting down every truth about God that she came across. As she came to a new truth, she’d write it across the top of a notebook page, and then list verses underneath as she found them. Some of the page titles focused on what kind of Person God is: My God is holy, My God is good, etc. Others shared God’s actions: My God hears me, My God is in control, and so on. Her study ended up covering the whole Bible and eventually became a book, What Do I Know About My God?

Ask different questions. When I first started reading the Bible on my own, I was instructed to look for a command to follow, a warning to heed, a promise to claim. I underlined them in different colors as I found them. Later I heard of asking the old journalism questions of a passage: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Those are great questions, but If you’ve asked them several times, chances are you already know the answers. Maybe ask, instead or along with those, what does this passage show me about God? Or, how does this person change over the course of his story? For example, the first few times I read Genesis, I missed the transition of Judah from Genesis 37-50. Now, reading in Exodus, I am noticing Moses’ change from arguing with God that he couldn’t fulfill His calling in Exodus 3 and 4 to becoming a great leader over the rest of the book. The changes in people in the Bible come about as God works in them and enables them through the circumstances He puts them in. That can inspire us that He is doing th same in our lives.

Try a different translation. I used the KJV for some 25 years. When I read the NASB and ESV, I saw passages with new eyes. I prefer to stay with the translations that are as close to word-for-word as possible rather than paraphrases. But sometimes I look up the paraphrases as commentaries.

Remove the references. Before we could cut and paste from the Internet, one of our former Sunday School teachers suggested that we type out some of the epistles as the actual letters they are without the verse numbers and headings. The chapter and verse numbers weren’t in the original text, but they do help us find and discuss passages. Sometimes, however, they are not well placed. One sentence can be broken up into several verses. So sometimes reading without the verse numbers can help us not to fragment the verse. Now you can buy Bibles printed without chapter and verse numbers.

Stop and think. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” It’s easy to sail through a familiar passage. In the narrative portions, we see how everything turned out just a few pages later. Remember the people in those situations—David hiding in caves from Saul, Joseph in prison, Daniel facing the lion’s den, etc.—didn’t know how everything would turn out. If we put ourselves in their situations the passage opens up to us more.

Make notes. I stopped journaling during my quiet time when I found I was spending more time writing than reading. But recently I’ve gone back to just writing a few notes both to reinforce what I just read or to remind myself later. My notes are usually just a short summary, but thinking about how I’d describe the passage helps me not gloss over it. Some people like to draw charts and diagrams and arrows and circles to engage the Scriptures more.

Don’t compartmentalize. Often we read for so many chapters or minutes and then pray, or vice versa. But we don’t have to separate prayer and reading. If we’re in a section of praise, we can stop and praise God. If a passage convicts us about something we’re doing wrong, we can stop and confess it to God right then.

How about you? What ways have you found to avoid or get out of a Bible reading rut?

I delight in God's Word

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Laudable Linkage

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Here are some of the good reads that caught my eye this week:

The Quiet Power of Ordinary Devotions, HT to Challies. “If we are reading our Bibles rightly, in fact, we should expect many mornings of ordinary devotions: devotions that do not sparkle with insight or direct-to-life application, but that nevertheless do us good. Just as most meals are ordinary, but still nourish, and just as most conversations with friends are ordinary, but still deepen affection, so most devotions are ordinary, but still grow us in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

A Dangerous Trend. “Whether you’re a new believer or seasoned saint, don’t fall prey to the danger of replacing the Scriptures with other books. Let your love for God’s Word be rekindled as you come to the Word afresh to see, meditate, and delight in God’s glory. Don’t read the Bible merely to acquire knowledge or be challenged. Come to meet with God. ”

That Time I Went After an Older, Godlier Man. I’m thankful for this confession and the questions that arose from it.

People Need the Lord. How a pastor renews his compassion for people. Good not just for pastors.

Love What’s Near. “I now look askance at anyone who seems to speak primarily in the abstract: ‘fixing the economy,’ or ‘changing the culture,’ or ‘loving humankind.’ Why? Because it’s easy to succumb to self-righteousness when you pursue utopian visions in regard to great and massive things. It’s when you are faced with the smaller things and the people nearest you where you begin to spot your own flaws and diagnose your lovelessness.”

How to Explain to Your Kids Why Social Justice Warriors Hate Christians So Much. “Events like these that suddenly and explicitly pit Christianity against the cause of many Social Justice Warriors (“SJWs”) are the tip of an ideological iceberg that many Christians are (to a large degree) unaware of.”

Alone Against the Mob: Crowds, Cancel Culture, and Courage. “There really is nothing new under the sun. Today’s issues, as desperate as they can be, were first yesterday’s issues. This means one convenient and profound truth for the Christian: the solutions have not changed.”

How to Be Consistent in Memorizing Scripture. Great tips!

Are You Having Doubts? The doubts in question are whether/when/how this COVID thing is going to end. But I love the example of turning away from fears and frustrations and turning toward tangible ways to help others.

Finally, this almost made me cry: a baby sees her mother clearly for the first time:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineHere’s my latest collection o good online reads:

The Song That Was Sharper Than Sting. This is a lovely piece of writing, referencing Tolkien and Lewis and the Bible about songs of Home that encourage us in the darkness.

Redemption May Be Closer Than You Think. “I have learned not to lose heart when everything around me crumbles. God is working. I can trust Him. It may be that what looks dead is about to spring to life.”

The Day I Scheduled God Out of My Life, HT to True Woman. “Your schedule will be different, and you’ll have a choice: to let your schedule dictate the depth of your relationship with Christ, or to let Christ dictate your schedule.”

Carrying a Knapsack, HT to Challies. Thoughts from Galatians 6 about what it means to bear burdens and carry our own load while relying on God’s grace to do so. “Problems arise when people act as if their ‘boulders’ are daily loads and refuse help, or as if their ‘daily loads’ are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry. The results of these two instances are either perpetual pain or irresponsibility.”

Be Quiet: Cultivating a Gentle Spirit in a World That Loves Noise. “Quiet, they claim, is weakness. Being still and speechless is no longer an acceptable option in a culture that values its own noise above all else.”

10 Awesome Art Appreciation Book Series for Your Homeschool (or to supplement whatever kind of schooling you do), HT to Story Warren. This is an area I wished we’d had more time for. These books would have helped.

Since we had two birthdays in our family this month, here’s Happy Birthday in 12 major keys and different styles:

Late Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineI‘m sorry I missed the Friday’s Fave Fives yesterday! I know some of you especially like those posts. I just had a lot of things that had to get done the last few days, so I haven’t been at the computer for very long at a time since Thursday morning.

I was going to save the “Laudable Linkage” for next week since it’s late in the day and I haven’t even finished reading every post in my Feedly account. But I decided to go ahead and pop in and say hello and share what I have so far.

Busy Day? Keep Quiet Time Simple (Bible Study Tips), HT to Lisa. Our other relationships vary with how much time we spend together on any given day. We forget sometimes that our quiet time is about our relationship with the Lord, not just our routines.

You Keep Using That Word, HT to Challies. “If you have heard, for example, that critical theory or some other -ism is making inroads into the church and you are concerned, do some homework before saying anything. When we do not do this, the possibility of our violating the ninth commandment goes up exponentially.”

How to Pray in Perilous Times. I love that the Bible teaches us how to pray both by instruction and example. This prayer of David’s has much to consider.

Is White Fragility a Helpful Resource for Christians? I know this is a delicate and sensitive topic right now, but that’s all the more reason to think Biblically about it. I have not read this book, but I’ve had some of these same concerns just from reading others’ comments on it.

When Homeschooling Wasn’t Your Plan: 10 Tips to Help. I wish I had read something like this during the few years we homeschooled, even without a pandemic.

I saw some of this sweet story on “The Greatest #AtHome Videos” TV show on Friday night on CBS. A pregnant wife had to spend several weeks in the hospital when her water broke prematurely at 20 weeks. Her husband couldn’t be with her due to COVID restrictions. So he set up “date nights” where he would send food up to her room and have his outside her window so she could see him and they could sort-of be together. When they aired the show, she had had the baby and all was well. In their honor, the hospital was going to install a bench where this man used to set up his chair, so other patients could “visit” their loved ones that way.

Have a great rest of your weekend!

Real Life Devotions

I’m sure you’ve seen Facebook or Instagram photos of ideal quiet times with the Lord. A beach at sunrise. A sunny deck and a glass of lemonade. A comfy chair, throw blanket, and steaming mug of coffee. A reading plan tidily checked off.

I admit I like having a plan and a routine. And there’s nothing wrong with those kinds of inspirational photos. It’s lovely when the setting comes together beautifully with devotional time. Maybe those pictures document the settings specifically  because they are so rare.

But I think sometimes we set ourselves up for failure because we don’t reach that ideal. When we struggle to stay awake, when we can’t find a quiet minute in the day, when the kids clamor for attention any time we sit down, when we hit the ground running with meetings all day and our attention span is shredded at night … what then? We often give up on our quiet time because it won’t look like we think it shoud.

But Bible reading isn’t just a nice thing to do when we can fit it in, when we can do all the things we think a quiet time requires. It’s vital to our walk with God. It’s our spiritual nourishment. We have our flesh and an enemy of our souls to fight against.

I’ve written before about finding time for Bible reading, so I won’t go into all that here. I just want to encourage you that real life devotions won’t always look ideal. God can speak to my heart in my comfy chair with a half hour set aside. But He can also speak through His Word (and has) when I am tired, rushed, ill, nursing a baby, traveling, or only have a few scattered minutes through the day.

With that in mind, I started a hashtag on Instragram and Twitter for #reallifedevotions. The idea was to show what real Bible reading time “in the trenches” was like.

Here’s my usual spot:

I used to be the comfy couch and throw blanket person, but then I too easily dozed off. So I moved here. My desk is cluttered, my inbox is stuffed, there’s a sprinkling of dust. My drawer is hanging open for easy access to pens, pencils, and sticky tabs. I do believe in dusting and straightening. 🙂 But if I waited to get everything else done before I read my Bible, well, I’d never get to it.

This is my second real life devotions photo:

I used to journal quite a bit, but then it seemed like I was spending more time writing my thoughts rather than reading God’s. For years I didn’t write anything. I guess some of my blog posts are processing what I have read. But lately I’ve started almost a bullet journal, just jotting down a summary, sometimes just a sentence. Sometimes I’ll write more if I need to process something. I look back at what I have written at the end of my quite time for that day, but rarely after that. (DL stands for Daily Light on the Daily Path, a devotional book I first discovered in missionary biographies and have read for years.)

With my mix of printing and cursive, I don’t know if others could even read my notes. (My handwriting has never been good, and trying to take notes in college lecture classes made it worse.) But they’re not meant for others to read. These aren’t the literary quality of The Journals of Jim Elliot or David Brainerd’s diary.

Nor are my journal entries decorative. I love to see what artistic people do with their devotional jottings, like Karla Dornacher. They can probably whip up beautiful art in journals or Bible margins in no time. I know for many, this is a way to meditate on God’s Word. But for me, trying to be artistic would be a distraction, a frustration, and one more thing to do. Their way works for them; my way works for me.

All of that to say, don’t feel like you have to have a beautiful, artistic, calligraphic journal with a pretty cover to jot down notes from your Bible reading time. You don’t even have to write anything down at all. If you do, great!  If it’s lovely, wonderful! But if it’s merely functional, a way to remember or think through what you’ve read, that’s fine, no matter what it looks like.

This third photo is staged because this has not been my practice. It’s in memory of a neighbor from decades ago who had three little stairstep children in a row, all under the age of five. Her washing machine was in her kitchen, and she left her Bible on top of it to get a few minutes reading in as she could.

As I wrote in Encouragement for Mothers of Small Children, the time when my children were little was the most challenging to try to carve out any quiet time, much less to read the Bible in a coherent manner. Yet I suffered spiritually when I didn’t read. It’s important to both read and study the Bible, but some seasons, it’s hard to do either. When I truly only had a few moments, God met with me and fed my soul in that time.

Moses met with God on a mountain. Daniel met with God in captivity. David met with God in pasture while shepherding, in a cave while hiding from enemies, and in a palace. Jonah met with God in the belly of a whale. We can meet with God any time, anywhere.

How about you? What does your real life devotional time look like? How has it changed through the different seasons of life? What was your most unusual devotional setting?

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