Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament Characters

On Sunday mornings we are doing a class entitled Jesus on Every Page; these are my notes from those classes.

I. The Failure of Moralistic Readings

A. Man-Centered

  • “It tends to put man and his needs in the foreground with God and His glory in the background.”[1]

B. Works-Based

  • “It focuses on what we should and shouldn’t do rather than on what God has done and is doing.”[2]

C. Context-Ignoring

  • It ignores the historical, cultural and redemptive contexts and leaps directly to the quandaries of modern man.  We saw this last week looking at Genesis 1-2.  Knowing that Moses wrote the Pentateuch sometime after the Exodus and sometime before Israel entered the Promised Land informs us of God’s intent in revealing these things to Moses and Israel.

D. Narrative-Fragmenting

  • It divides the sweeping narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation into disconnected narratives that lose their place in the unified whole.  This panoramic picture of God’s grace and glory is reduced to tiny snapshots about men.

E. Christ-Less

  • “When an Old Testament story is detached from the sweep of redemptive history, it often results in God-sermons but not Jesus-sermons.  Some Sermons, books, and Bible studies on Old Testament characters could easily have been taught by non-Christian religions.”[3]

II. Principles for Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament Characters

A. David Murray’s Fifteen Places to Find Jesus in the Old Testament Characters[4]

1.   “The Control of Jesus”

2.   “The Character of Jesus”

3.   “The Church of Jesus”

4.   “The Crimes Against Jesus”

5.   “The Contrast with Jesus”

6. “The Call for   Jesus”

7. “The Confession   to Jesus”

8.   “The Compassion of Jesus”

9. “Conversion to   Jesus”

10. “Confidence in   Jesus”

11. “The   Copy of Jesus”

12. “The   Command of Jesus”

13. “The   Cross of Jesus”

14. “The   Call of Jesus”

15. “The   Crowning of Jesus”

B. A Simpler Approach

  1. The Offices of Christ – All of the Old Testament prophets, priests, and kings point us to Christ in both their successes and failures.  Unlike the prophets of old with all their failures Jesus comes as the perfect Word of God.  Unlike the priests’ whose sacrifices could never take away sin Jesus comes as our perfect High Priest and our spotless Lamb.  Unlike the failed kings of Israel Jesus comes as the Davidic King, the Lion of Judah, who makes His enemies His footstool.
  2. The Character of Christ – Every individual in the Old Testament in both obedience and rebellion points us toward Jesus.  Joseph’s grace towards his brothers points us forward to grace and forgiveness in Christ.  The murderous rage of Cain points us towards the one who does not seek to exalt Himself by taking life but humbles Himself and gives His life.  The totality of human activity in the Old Testament, and indeed in cosmic history, points us towards Christ.  When we see justice we see a shadow of Jesus, who is perfectly just, when we see injustice we yearn for the perfect justice of Jesus.
  3. The Works of Christ – The work of Christ in the New Testament is foreshadowed by the works of Old Testament individuals.  We see this in everything from intercession and forgiveness to suffering and judgment.

III. Encouragement Along the Way

A. Who are We Looking for Anyway?

  • “The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’” (Genesis 3:14-15).

B. We are Not the Only Ones Looking

  • “When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands’” (Genesis 5:28-29).

IV. Examples of Jesus in Old Testament Characters

  1. Adam – Adam was a prophet, priest, and king.  This points us to the fulfillment of these offices in Jesus.  With the fall of man Adams’ failure as a prophet, to speak truth to Eve and the Serpent, points us to Jesus the true word of God.  His failure as a priest removed him from God’s presence and this points us towards Jesus, in whom we have access to God.  His failure as a king who subdues creation has brought the entire creation into conflict with man and Jesus comes speaking calm to the raging seas and healing the afflicted.
  2. Noah – Just as Noah finds shelter from the coming wrath in the ark so we find that we are to find shelter from the coming wrath in Jesus.
  3. Moses – Just as Moses speaks the word of God and his face shines with the glory of the Lord so too does Jesus radiate the father’s glory.
  4. Pharaoh – As Pharaoh holds the people of God in bondage we should yearn for Jesus who sets us free from bondage and whose yoke is easy and burden is light.
  5. Abraham – As Abraham intercedes for Sodom, and specifically Lot, we should be reminded of Jesus our intercessor.  Later in the Old Testament Eli asks his rebellious sons “If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him” (I Samuel 2:25a)?
  6. Isaac – There are so much here that should point us to Christ but Hebrews 11 notes that this is a picture of the resurrection.  Abraham receives his son back from the dead because of a substitute.
  7. David – David, as the Lord’s anointed, does what the people of God cannot do for themselves; he vanquishes the enemy of the people of God and secures their freedom just as Jesus triumphs over Satan and death.
  8. Boaz – As a kinsman-redeemer Boaz redeems and restores Ruth this theme runs throughout the Old Testament and points us towards redemption in Christ.
  9. Hosea – Hosea redeems his faithless wife; he buys back what is rightfully his.  This is a picture of God’s faithfulness towards faithless Israel and ultimately a picture of Jesus who offers Himself to purchase the people of God.

[1]David Murray, Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2013), 55.
[1]Ibid., 56.
[1]Ibid., 56.
[1]Ibid., 54-72.

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