As Christian women, we often open our Bibles, ready to fill our hearts and minds with the truth about God. Yet, there are moments when we find ourselves in the Old Testament faced with passages that seem distant and challenging to apply to our contemporary circumstances.
We understand that Scripture is God’s revelation of himself to his people. But how do we discern God's character or will when reading about David, the shepherd turned king, or Jonah, swallowed by a giant fish? By looking for attributes of God, shadows of Christ, and small redemptions, we gain insights that enrich our understanding of God's Word.
The Old Testament may seem like a collection of ancient stories, but it is a treasure trove of insights into the character of God. When we read God’s Word, we should start by searching for attributes of God. This approach allows us to see God's unchanging nature.
For instance, in the story of Abraham, we witness his journey from an old man with no heritage to the father of many nations. Within this narrative, we can discern attributes of God, such as His sovereignty, faithfulness, and ability to transform ordinary individuals into instruments of His divine plan.
Another way to unlock the value of the Old Testament is to identify shadows of Christ – examples or foreshadowing of Jesus. These shadows offer a glimpse into the Messiah who was to come. Take David, for example. He embodies both the role of a shepherd and a king. In John 10:11, Jesus says, “I am the good Shepherd,” while Revelation 19:16 tells us that one of Jesus’ names is King of Kings. Thus, David is an imperfect shadow of the perfect Shepherd King, Jesus Christ.
Recognizing these examples deepens our understanding of the Old Testament and helps us see that every story, no matter how ancient, points to the grand narrative of redemption in Christ.
There are countless glimpses of Christ throughout the Old Testament, people whose circumstances or character foreshadow the coming and complete Christ. He is the better Adam, who changes humanity's relationship with God. He is the better spotless Passover lamb, demonstrating God's ultimate love through sacrifice. He is the better Moses, leading His people out of spiritual bondage.
Throughout the Old Testament, we also encounter stories that offer glimpses of redemption – small yet profound moments that foreshadow the ultimate redemption accomplished by Jesus in the New Testament.
Consider Jonah, a man swallowed by a great fish after attempting to flee from God's call. Inside the belly of the fish, Jonah repents and prays for forgiveness and is spit from the fish. This narrative serves as a shadow of Jesus' work on the cross where sinful humanity can repent to a holy God and be freed from the prison of sin and selfishness, ushering in a reconciled relationship with the Father.
We will find many other redemptive narratives in the Old Testament that foreshadow Christ's work in the gospels. The account of three men in a fiery furnace, joined by a fourth figure who saves them from certain death, points to the ultimate redemption to come through Christ. Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, echoes God's love in sending His own Son, Jesus, to die for our sins. These small redemptions serve as poignant reminders that God's plan for salvation stretches across the entirety of Scripture.
Identifying shadows of Christ and small redemptions in the Old Testament reveals the profound depth of the gospel. As we read the New Testament accounts of Jesus, we recognize that He fulfills the promises and foreshadowing from the Old Testament. And from the Old Testament perspective, we can see that Jesus is the center point of God's redemptive plan.
As we consider the glimpses – or shadows – that came before him, we can see more of the character of Jesus Christ revealed through his fulfillment of those examples. And as we grasp and understand the small redemptions that fill the Old Testament, we can more deeply understand the great redemption Jesus provided on the cross.
Understanding the big picture of the storyline of scripture is a precious gift for Christian women, enabling us to navigate the seemingly obscure passages of the Old Testament. As Christian women, let us embrace all of Scripture as a means to draw closer to God, deepen our faith, and find truth to stand on in the timeless truths of His Word.