It has been my observation that many Christians find the Old Testament intimidating or unrelatable. It is a shame, really, because the Old Testament is full of glorious truths: revelations of God’s attributes, and pictures or foreshadows of His glorious plan of salvation. Having a good understanding of the Old Testament increases the richness of the New Testament, and it is only when we are continually in the Word that we begin to see the overarching themes of scripture as a whole. This is accomplished when we read all of the Bible, not just excerpts; not just the New Testament.
Yesterday, in his sermon covering the first 14 verses of chapter 9 in the book of Hebrews, my pastor reminded me of a beautiful gospel picture from the Old Testament. I felt that it was worth repeating here so my readers could benefit too. Let’s take a look at the text from the book of Exodus, chapter 25 starting with verse 17:
17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. 18 You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. 22 There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.
The Old Testament is full of pictures, or foreshadowing, that point to Jesus and His sacrificial death on the cross. I wrote about it in more depth, specifically animal sacrifices, here. In this passage in Exodus, God has given Moses very specific instructions for the construction of the tabernacle. As my pastor pointed out, we only have a few chapters on the creation of the universe, but we have entire books on the tabernacle, law, and Levitical rules…..so it must be very important.
The arc was a box that contained the stone tablets that had God’s Law written on them. On top of the box was the mercy seat, where God’s Shekinah glory resided (His visible presence in the form of a cloud). Each year, the high priest would go into the holy of holies where the arc, mercy seat, and Shekinah glory were, and would sprinkle blood from the sacrifices on the arc. Why is this interesting? The MacArthur Study Bible commentary echos what my pastor said yesterday:
The lid or cover of the ark was the mercy seat or the place at which atonement took place. Between the Shekinah glory cloud above the ark and the tablets of law inside the ark was the blood-sprinkled cover. Blood from the sacrifices stood between God and the broken law of God!
Isn’t that a beautiful picture of the glorious gospel? Jesus’ shed blood on the cross is what stands between the guilty sinner and a perfectly Holy God.
It is rightfully said that we need to hear the Gospel every day. This is why it is good to read the Old Testament; don’t shy away from it. Your faith will grow stronger when you see the beautiful pictures of God’s plan of redemption, right from the very beginning.
Soli Deo Gloria!