As a writer who loves metaphor, symbol and analogy, I love the Hebrew Bible, (the Old Testament.) It provides beautiful images of Jesus. But more than that it offers the reality of God’s promises concerning the Messiah. And here and there one sees glimpses of the eternal Son in person. Read the story of the “angel of the Lord” who appears to Samson’s parents in Judges 13. He calls himself Wonderful.
And I must quickly say it is also the truthful narrative of God’s promises to and covenant with the Jewish people. The Hebrew Bible is, in reality, two stories that intertwine. It is the history of Israel and God’s dealings and care for them. It is also, from beginning to end, the story of God’s redemptive purposes and promises. And the Messiah of God, Jesus, the begotten God in the bosom of the Father, looms large in the text.
Why am I writing this? Because a Presbyterian on a Presbyterian site I belong to, posted an advertisement for a Bible entitled The Jesus Bible. The ad states, “There is No B.C.: Sixty Six Books, One Story, All about One Name, Jesus.” That is placed within the midst of the names of all of the books of the Bible. I don’t think the commenters, who mostly didn’t like the ad, realized that this particular Bible, published by Zondervan, is meant for young people. It is meant as a study Bible. But many felt that because the ad was saying that Jesus was also in the Old Testament that it sounded anti-Semitic.
I want to emphasize that the Hebrew Bible cannot be read out of context. A great deal of it is definitely the history of the Jewish people. The rest is their wonderful Writings and Prophets. But within the text is the glorious promises of the coming King and Messiah, a suffering King and a Suffering Messiah. Remember the very first Christians had only the Hebrew Scriptures as their Bible.
In the book of Acts, the history of the early church, we read the story of the Ethiopian official who on his journey home is reading Isaiah 53. He asks the disciple Philip who the author is speaking of, himself or of someone else.
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he does not open his mouth. In humiliation his judgement was taken away; who will relate his generation? For his life is removed from the earth.”
If we fail to open the texts of the Hebrew Bible and teach others of our Lord Jesus Christ we fail to be his disciples.
One of the commenters in the thread I was reading reminded us all that Jesus in fact turned to the Hebrew Bible to explain who he was and how it was that he should be, and suffer crucifixion, and rise again. The apostle Luke writes of Jesus’ words and actions:
“Oh foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?
Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, he explained to them the things concerning himself in the Scriptures.”
Beginning in Genesis with the promise to Eve (and one might say to Satan also because it is God’s foretelling and curse to him) “… I shall put enmity between you and the woman. And between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head and you shall bruise him on the heel,” there are promises of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament.
I think one of my favorites was given by a man who wanted to curse Israel but was only allowed to bless her:
“I see him but not now;
I behold him but not near;
A star shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel … (Numbers 24:17a)