God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 2 – The Old Testament Implicitly Teaches the Centrality of Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 1


It is clear that the New Testament was written to document the words and deeds of Jesus and to declare him to be the Christ. It is not as clear that the Old Testament was written to set the stage for Jesus of Nazareth. On the surface, the Old Testament is an account of the nation of Israel, beginning with God’s creation of Adam and ending with the return of the Jews from the exile. Beneath the surface, the story being told is about a great king who would come from the nation of Israel and rule the world in righteousness.

Although Christians should read the Old Testament and learn how it points to Christ, many do not do so, finding a cover to cover reading intimidating. For those intimidated by the Old Testament, there is a summary of the whole story found in the ninth chapter of Nehemiah. The summary, provided in full at the end of this article, was written after the return of the exiles from Babylon and covers from the beginning of creation to the return of the exiles. If the summary proves to be intimidating, one can focus on the following excerpt, which captures the essence of the Old Testament:

You are just in all that has come upon us;
For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.
For our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers have not kept Your law
Or paid attention to Your commandments and Your admonitions with which You have admonished them.
But they, in their own kingdom,
With Your great goodness which You gave them,
With the broad and rich land which You set before them,
Did not serve You or turn from their evil deeds.

Nehemiah 9: 33 – 35

God was very good to Israel, over and over and over. Their response to God’s goodness was sin and a refusal to obey the commandments God gave them. For nearly one thousand years, from Moses to the end of the exile, the Law proved incapable of changing the hearts of the people. The promised blessings of the Mosaic Covenant were not enough to inspire godliness, and the promised curses of the Mosaic Covenant were not enough to prevent sin. Something greater than the Law of Moses was needed, to cause the people to trust and obey God. If the Law of Moses was to remain the primary administration, why not think that Israel would remain in a perpetual state of sin and rebellion and exile?

It is viewing the Old Testament in this way – as a chronicle of Israel’s perpetual disobedience – that enables one to see how the story is dependent upon the Christ. Israel’s inability to obey the covenant of Moses is resolved by the prophetic promise of Jesus and His new covenant. Consider the words of Isaiah, who wrote of a great king from the line of David who would rule in righteousness.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. (Isaiah 9: 6 – 7)

Consider the words of Jeremiah, prophesying that a new covenant would be made, in which the law of God would be written on the hearts of men, rather than on tablets of stone.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31: 31 – 33)

The promise of a savior-king, enacting a covenant in which He by divine power changes the hearts of His people and atones for their sin, is is the exact solution needed for a people who continually proved incapable of obeying the law by their own power. If the prophecies regarding Christ are removed from the Old Testament, the story started in the Old Testament has nowhere to go. For one thousand years the law failed to produce godly people, and unless that law were replaced with something better, there is no reason to think anything would change.

Our conclusion then, in light of all that has been said, must be that Jesus is central to all that is going on in the story of Israel. If by removing Christ from the Old Testament the story has nowhere to go, what other conclusion is there to draw?


Old Testament Summary In Nehemiah 9: 5 – 37

O may Your glorious name be blessed
And exalted above all blessing and praise!

You alone are the LORD.
You have made the heavens,
The heaven of heavens with all their host,
The earth and all that is on it,
The seas and all that is in them.
You give life to all of them
And the heavenly host bows down before You.

You are the LORD God,
Who chose Abram
And brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees,
And gave him the name Abraham.

You found his heart faithful before You,
And made a covenant with him
To give him the land of the Canaanite,
Of the Hittite and the Amorite,
Of the Perizzite, the Jebusite and the Girgashite—
To give it to his descendants.
And You have fulfilled Your promise,
For You are righteous.

You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt,
And heard their cry by the Red Sea.

Then You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh,
Against all his servants and all the people of his land;
For You knew that they acted arrogantly toward them,
And made a name for Yourself as it is this day.

You divided the sea before them,
So they passed through the midst of the sea on dry ground;
And their pursuers You hurled into the depths,
Like a stone into raging waters.

And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day,
And with a pillar of fire by night
To light for them the way
In which they were to go.

Then You came down on Mount Sinai,
And spoke with them from heaven;
You gave them just ordinances and true laws,
Good statutes and commandments.

So You made known to them Your holy sabbath,
And laid down for them commandments, statutes and law,
Through Your servant Moses.

You provided bread from heaven for them for their hunger,
You brought forth water from a rock for them for their thirst,
And You told them to enter in order to possess
The land which You swore to give them.

But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly;
They became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments.

They refused to listen,
And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them;
So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.
But You are a God of forgiveness,
Gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness;
And You did not forsake them.

Even when they made for themselves
A calf of molten metal
And said, ‘This is your God
Who brought you up from Egypt,’
And committed great blasphemies,

You, in Your great compassion,
Did not forsake them in the wilderness;
The pillar of cloud did not leave them by day,
To guide them on their way,
Nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go.

You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them,
Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth,
And You gave them water for their thirst.

Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want;
Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell.

You also gave them kingdoms and peoples,
And allotted them to them as a boundary.
They took possession of the land of Sihon the king of Heshbon
And the land of Og the king of Bashan.

You made their sons numerous as the stars of heaven,
And You brought them into the land
Which You had told their fathers to enter and possess.

So their sons entered and possessed the land.
And You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites,
And You gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land,
To do with them as they desired.

They captured fortified cities and a fertile land.
They took possession of houses full of every good thing,
Hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves,
Fruit trees in abundance.
So they ate, were filled and grew fat,
And reveled in Your great goodness.

But they became disobedient and rebelled against You,
And cast Your law behind their backs
And killed Your prophets who had admonished them
So that they might return to You,
And they committed great blasphemies.

Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them,
But when they cried to You in the time of their distress,
You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion
You gave them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors.

But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You;
Therefore You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them.
When they cried again to You, You heard from heaven,
And many times You rescued them according to Your compassion,

And admonished them in order to turn them back to Your law.
Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances,
By which if a man observes them he shall live.
And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen.

However, You bore with them for many years,
And admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets,
Yet they would not give ear.
Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.

Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them,
For You are a gracious and compassionate God.

Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and lovingkindness,
Do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before You,
Which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers and on all Your people,
From the days of the kings of Assyria to this day.

However, You are just in all that has come upon us;
For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.

For our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers have not kept Your law
Or paid attention to Your commandments and Your admonitions with which You have admonished them.

But they, in their own kingdom,
With Your great goodness which You gave them,
With the broad and rich land which You set before them,
Did not serve You or turn from their evil deeds.

Behold, we are slaves today,
And as to the land which You gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty,
Behold, we are slaves in it.

Its abundant produce is for the kings
Whom You have set over us because of our sins;
They also rule over our bodies
And over our cattle as they please,
So we are in great distress.

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