Monday, March 20, 2017

March 20

Numbers 30:1-31:54; Luke 4:1-30; Psalm 63:1-11; Proverbs 11:20-21

I love the Old Testament.  I always have.  I grant you that part of the reason is that I am a rule-maker and rule-follower, so the black-and-white nature of the Hebrew Scriptures appeals to me.  I appreciate the emphasis on holiness and uniqueness God placed on his people as representatives of himself.  I love the justice of God, but I also love the way his mercy is displayed over and over.  I love the Old Testament!

So does Jesus.

Look at Luke 4.  It's rife with Old Testament quotes and references.  Nearly every word out of Jesus' mouth in this chapter comes from the Word of God.  Here, at the very beginning of his ministry, when he could have taught his disciples to pray (as he does later in the Lord's Prayer), when he could have given directions for living life according to God's kingdom (as he does in the Sermon on the Mount), when he could have told stories that illustrated what life is like under God's rule (as he does in the parables) - instead he uses the words of Moses and Isaiah and refers to Israel's great prophets.

Consider the temptation of Jesus in the desert.  Each time Satan comes to him, Jesus answers from throughout Deuteronomy.  Even when the enemy uses Scripture against him, Jesus relies on the strength of God's Word to respond.  These private moments, which could only have been revealed by one of the two participants, show how deeply the Hebrew Scriptures were ingrained in Jesus.

When Jesus returns to his hometown, although it is not the beginning of his teaching ministry (this is referenced in Lk. 4:16), his first recorded sermon comes out of the prophets.  Jesus quotes from Isaiah, and then points to himself as the fulfillment of this prophecy.  And what good things this passage promised to God's people: good news, freedom, sight, an end to oppression, the year of the Lord's favor!  Such a beautiful picture of God making all things new, and Jesus proclaims he will bring that description into reality.  In fact, he already has done so: "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk. 4:21).

It's not just in his private moments, though, or in his sermons in the synagogue that the Old Testament oozes out of Jesus.  It's in his on-going conversations, too.  Even when it riles up a community against him (see Lk. 4:28-29), Jesus uses the examples from Scripture to give extra validity to his actions.  If the nation of Israel would laud Elijah and Elisha, even though those men did precious miracles for men and women outside the chosen people, then how could the same nation be angry at Jesus for not displaying God's power in Nazareth?  Did not God have the prerogative to choose when and where he would act?  Rather than defending himself on the merit of his own decisions, Jesus calls as witnesses those great men of old.

Three different portions of the Old Testament - the law of Moses, the prophetic writings, and the historical (narrative) ministry of the prophets - are used by Jesus to protect, to reveal himself, and to justify.  Jesus knows the breadth of Scripture and applies it to diverse situations.  Clearly, Jesus sees the Old Testament as beautiful and useful.

It would seem I'm in good company.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

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