Old Testament Lessons for Today

I recently read a book review in a religious magazine. The book’s author, a prominent pastor, claimed that the Old Testament is not as authoritative as the New Testament. Perhaps he meant to say that it is not as applicable, or relevant as the New Testament. But to say that it is not authoritative is to question its truthfulness and value, something no Christian should do.

The New Testament plainly says that Christians should study the Old Testament and apply its lessons to our lives. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

In 1 Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul based his teaching to New Testament Christians on the experiences of Old Testament people. In verses 6 and 11, he repeated the phrase, “These things happened to them as examples, and were written down as warnings for us.”

When Paul wrote to Timothy that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching” (2 Timothy 3:16), he was not saying that every Old Testament Scripture is equally useful or applicable to Christians today. But he was saying that it is useful and practical for what it teaches about God, his will, his mighty acts in history, and how he worked in the lives of his people in the ancient past.

One example might be the life of King David. When he was at his best, David provides a model for us in how to live with a heart for God. When he stumbled morally, his story is a solemn warning about the consequences of sin.

David provides an example of a warrior spirit, courage and boldness. He discovered that if he obeyed God’s will, the Lord himself would be with him (1 Samuel 16:18). When the youthful David fought the Philistine hero, Goliath of Gath, he recognized that he was facing more than a military problem. This was a theological problem. Goliath was insulting the Living God! And you know what happened to Goliath.

We are tempted to think of our problems as financial problems, or psychological problems, or interpersonal problems, or health problems. And to us they are. But on a deeper level they reveal our opinion of God. If we, as David did, recognize God as “the Living God,” then we are in a position to entrust our problems to him, as David did.

On the other hand, when David sinned, his story is a warning to us about the terrible cost of disobeying God’s moral law. Even though David confessed his sin and repented, the natural consequences of his failure brought devastation to his family and to the nation of Israel. Hundreds of lives were lost in the civil war that ensued. David’s sons fought among themselves and brought grief to the heart of the king.

One of the timeless lessons from this part of the Old Testament is that God’s children cannot get away with sin. Our heavenly Father disciplines his children. His correction is always because of his love (Proverbs 3:11-12).

Another lesson from the Old Testament story of David is that it is possible to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God. David’s psalms teach us that, especially Psalms 32 and 51. The sorrows that followed David’s great sin changed him and prepared him to resume his role as the anointed king of Israel. He passed along a legacy of faith to his son and successor, Solomon.

The theme of David’s life was that he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Psalm 89). I think this means that at the core of his being, David’s heart was compatible with God’s. Surely this is what we want to be true of ourselves. We learn these lessons from the Old Testament.

It is truthful, trustworthy, practical, applicable, divinely inspired, and, yes, it is authoritative. These lessons from the life of David are proof of what our Lord Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'” (Matthew 4:4).¬†Every word, the Old Testament as well as the New.

Pastor Randy Faulkner