The Old Testament is a foundational pillar of the Christian faith. Unfortunately, it is often avoided due to its complex nature, extensive lists, and historical distance. As believers, we are called to embrace the entirety of God’s Word for our sanctification.
God’s Word teaches us regarding the importance of knowing the entire counsel of God:
- Joshua 1:8
- Psalm 119:160
- Acts 20:27
- 2 Tim. 2:15
- 2 Tim. 3:16-17
Why the Old Testament Is Important
- It displays the magnificent character of God.
- It contains our spiritual heritage.
- It explains the mess that God will redeem.
- It establishes the truth that sincere faith provides needed righteousness.
- It provides the moral code for the believer.
- It foreshadows Jesus.
- It includes Jesus.
- It proclaims the gospel.
The Old Testament Narrative
In reading the biblical narrative, one must be aware of the three levels:
- Top Level – the complete universal plan of the Sovereign God being worked through His creation
- Middle Level – key aspects of God’s plan centering around God’s people
- Old Testament – Israel
- New Testament – Church
- Bottom Level – composed of hundreds of individual narratives that provide the content for the other two levels
- To grasp the significance of the bottom level, we must read it with the other two levels in mind.
- God is the hero of every narrative, every book, and every verse.
- Narratives are not intended to give every detail, but it provides the big picture.
- The Old Testament is not compiled in chronological order.
Old Testament Sections
- Law – the origin of God’s people and God’s rules [provided the content of the Law]
- History – the rise and fall of Israel [showed the need for Law]
- Writings – wise guides for life [showed the wisdom of the Law]
- Prophecy – warnings for the nations [reminded the consequences for the Law]
Old Testament Books
- Genesis – the beginning
- Exodus – exit
- Leviticus – rules for worship
- Numbers – wanderings and people
- Deuteronomy – 2nd telling of the Law
- Joshua – the conquest of the Promised Land
- Judges – idolatrous cycle
- Ruth – the king’s family tree
- 1 Samuel – judges to King Saul
- 2 Samuel – rise and fall of King David
- 1 Kings – King Solomon and division
- 2 Kings – the divided kingdom to exile
- 1 Chronicles – Israel’s history to Solomon
- 2 Chronicles – Solomon and rest of Judah’s history
- Ezra – remnant returns to rebuild the temple
- Nehemiah – rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem
- Esther – God’s protection of Israel
- Job – wisdom in suffering
- Psalms – wisdom in worship
- Proverbs – wisdom in living
- Ecclesiastes – wisdom in obedience
- Song of Solomon – wisdom in marriage
- Isaiah – God’s judgment on Judah
- Jeremiah – foretells New Covenant and warning of fall of Jerusalem
- Lamentations – grief over fall of Jerusalem
- Ezekiel – ministers to exiled Jews in Babylon
- Daniel – visions for the future of the exiled
- Hosea – spiritual adultery
- Joel – terrifying judgment
- Amos – Israel rejects God’s warning
- Obadiah – a judgment against Edom
- Jonah – a judgment against Nineveh
- Micah – moral decay of Israel
- Nahum – Nineveh will be destroyed
- Habakkuk – Babylon will punish Judah
- Zephaniah – Day of the Lord is coming
- Haggai – houses before the temple
- Zechariah – finish the temple
- Malachi – complacency of spiritual leaders
15 Narrative Keywords
While the Old Testament can be a complex book, an understanding of the most pivotal events can provide the needed framework to study its entirety. Here are 15 narrative keywords to help outline the major message of the Old Testament:
- Creation – God’s Creation of the world
- Fall – Mankind’s rebellion
- Flood – God’s punishment for sin
- Covenant – God’s covenant with Abraham’s family
- Placement – God’s placement of Israel in Egypt
- Exodus – God’s removal of Israel from Egypt
- Commandments – God’s giving of His commandments
- Wanderings – Israel’s sins causing delay to the Promised Land
- Canaan – Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land
- Cycle – idolatrous cycle of sin during the time of the judges
- Rejection – Israel rejects God as King
- Kingdom – Kingdom established under David and Solomon
- Division – Kingdom divided due to leaders’ sins
- Exile – God punishes His people and sends them to pagan lands
- Return – God rescues His people and a remnant returns