As our son grows and as my wife and I are becoming more intentional about worshiping our Triune God in the home (here is a good book about family worship), the thought has occurred to me, “How will I be able to teach the Old Testament to my children in a relevant way?” And this is the question I would like to address here.
It is common among us church folk to divide the Bible. The Old Testament was for then, and the New Testament is for now kind of thinking. Maybe it is because we use the terms “Old” and “New,” or maybe because the imperatives of the epistles are easier to understand than ancient historical narrative. But the Bible has something to say about this, go figure! (Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13)
Grab your Bible and read Joshua 4.
Here we see God establishing a memorial through the twelve tribes of Israel, represented by twelve stones setup in Gilgal. The purpose for doing this is for the future generations of those in the covenant community. So when the children ask their parents, “What is that stack of stones for?” their parents can say, “To remind us of the work of God; how He saved us and delivered us from slavery and bondage.” How does this relate to thinking about the Old Testament as our story? Well, before we get there turn to Galatians 3.
In Galatians 3 Paul covers much ground in a short amount of time, but I would like to focus on verses 15-16 and verses 23-29. Here we see that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham (Genesis 13:15 and 17:8 and 22:18, and don’t forget the fulfillment of the promise to Eve in Genesis 3:15!). Paul is telling us that Christ is the fulfillment of the covenant promises made in the Old Testament. Christ is the seed of Abraham, and through faith we are in Christ. Paul then says that if you are in Christ, you are the offspring of Abraham! Because Jesus is the true Israel, and we are in Jesus, we are Israel, thus we are part of God’s family.
This has huge implications for the Christian reading the Old Testament. The Old Testament is no longer abstract stories about people that do not matter to us. Rather, the Old Testament is about our family. The Old Testament tells the story of how God saved our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
When I think about the memorial stones in Joshua 4, and how to teach my son, I can say, “Yes, son, those stones are a reminder to us that God has delivered us. Just like He saved our ancestors in Joshua’s day and brought them into the Promised Land, He has also saved us. He sent His Son to another mountain of stone called Golgotha, and there He redeemed us by the blood of Jesus, so that we can live with Him.”
The stories of the Old Testament are our stories, because they tell us of our family. Through faith we are descendants of Abraham and through Christ, the seed of Abraham, the nations of the world have been blessed. The Old Testament is a living memorial of stones and we can point to them and say, “Look at the power by which God has saved us!”