The underlying is a repository of highlights from my reading of the following book:
Barrett, Michael. Beginning at Moses: A Guide to Finding Christ in the Old Testament. Greenville, SC: Ambassador International, 1999. 478 pp.
You can purchase this book HERE (Affiliate Link)
But notwithstanding that confession of faith, Christians far too frequently read the Bible and get nothing from it. Apart from a few familiar stories or a few favorite verses, the majority of the Bible, even for believers, seems to be irrelevant. Few know anything of David’s experience when he confessed God’s Word to be more desired than gold and sweeter than honey and the honeycomb (Psalm 19:10).
These examples illustrate the problem. Whereas in theory Christians affirm belief in the Old Testament, in practice their frustrations with the Old Testament drive them to more familiar and more obviously devotional texts
Experience is entirely subjective and can never be the final and sole judge of anything. This certainly applies to our approach to the Scripture. Doctrine says that all the Scripture is inspired and profitable. Faith believes it to be true. If experience concludes it to be without purpose, irrelevant, outdated, or in some other way without profit, experience is wrong. Faith ought to stop us short every time we are tempted to skip through or over any part of God’s holy Word just because we are not immediately blessed. Before giving up on the passage, we should ask ourselves this question: Why, of all the things that God possibly could have said, did He say this? By faith, we know why He said it–“that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” It remains for us to learn, understand, and apply what He said. The Scripture is the means by which God reveals, not conceals, the truth.
Begin every session of Bible study with prayer. As the Psalmist prayed for God to open his eyes to behold the wondrous things of the law, so must we pray (Psalm 119:18). We must pray that the Holy Spirit will teach us truth. The Lord Jesus promised His disciples that the Spirit of truth would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). Not only do the specific implications of that promise relate to the inspiration of the New Testament, but it also has great significance for every believer who seeks to hear God in the inspired Word.
Spend time in the Bible. This may be a strange point to make in setting up the proper procedures for Bible study, but far too frequently Christians tend to substitute reading about the Bible for reading the Bible. While there is nothing wrong with reading commentaries or devotional books, there is simply no substitute for reading the Bible itself. Much of what the majority of Christians know about Scripture, about God, and about Christ is hearsay. The Bible seems strange to many simply because they are strangers to it.
Pay attention to the context. Taking something out of context is one of the most common errors of interpretation. We all know what it’s like to come into the middle of a conversation and jump to the wrong conclusion because we have heard only part of what was said. It is unfair to any writer or speaker to extract statements from here and there and thereby totally misrepresent the intended meaning. If fairness demands caution and care in everyday communication, how much more vital it is to interpret Scripture in its context.
Meditate on what you read. The blessed man is he whose “delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). This word meditate has the idea of being consumed or preoccupied with something. The blessed man just cannot get the law out of his mind. This clearly defines the difference between what the Bible means by meditating and what the typical notion of the world is. Whereas worldly meditation seeks to empty the mind of everything, biblical meditation seeks to fill the mind with the Word of God.
Use the appropriate tools. Regardless of how prayerfully, consistently, and thoughtfully we read the Scripture, there will still be statements difficult to understand. How much we understand about anything we read or hear depends on the extent of our experience and knowledge of that subject matter.
If Christ is the central theme of the Scripture and the key that unlocks the meaning and message of the Old Testament, it is imperative that every reader of the Old Testament see the Lord Jesus.
In Part 1 we will identify whom we are looking for. We will consider basic truths about Christ’s person and work that will help us recognize Him when we see Him. Part 2 is the principal focus: where to look. Here we will consider some of the key places in the Old Testament where Christ is revealed.
The Lord’s answer to John suggests an important principle: we can identify a person by what he is like and by what he does.
The simple truth is that the more we know Christ, the more likely we will be able to recognize Him in the Scriptures. Part of the problem with many Christians is that their inability to find Christ in the Old Testament stems from their limited knowledge of who He is and what He is like
My thesis is that searching for and finding Christ is still the key that unlocks the Old Testament. The basic question, therefore, is who is Christ? Whom are we looking for when we are looking for Christ? Understanding the significance of this title is essential for our search.
though disputed by some interpreters, there are good exegetical, theological, and logical grounds for seeing in Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving a confession of her anticipation for the coming of the ultimate Messiah. She begins by expressing her heart’s joy in God’s salvation (I Samuel 2:1) and ends with the confident declaration that the Lord “shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed” (I Samuel 2:10). In between she praises the Lord for His uniqueness, His infallible justice, His sovereignty over life and death, His sovereign disposition of the affairs of men, His creating power, His providential care for His people, and His eschatological judgment of the wicked. That is a lot of good and profound theology from an Old Testament woman!
Remember that three common features applied to all “messiahs.” They were chosen, accredited, and empowered. Each of these is beautifully and ideally true of the Lord Jesus, thus providing irrefutable evidence that He is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. All of these features, then, in the Old Testament directly point to the Savior. Recognizing these features to be true of the Lord Jesus will stimulate us to mark those Old Testament passages that express a messianic focus. In other words, we are on our way to finding Christ in the Old Testament.
First, the Son of God was chosen for His work as the Savior. The frequent references to Christ’s being sent by the Father imply at the very least that He was chosen for His mission.
Second, the Son of God was accredited for His work as the Savior. The Lord Jesus had the authority and approval from heaven to perform His duties as the anointed Mediator
Third, the Son of God was empowered with the Holy Spirit for His work as the Savior. Though the earthly ministry of Jesus does not reveal extensive direct evidence of spiritual empowering, the Spirit did clearly exert a vital influence in that ministry. So significant was the Holy Spirit’s anointing and empowering of Christ at His baptism, the beginning of the public ministry, that each of the four Gospel narratives records the event (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). John’s account is perhaps the most instructive for our purpose. In it we read not only that John the Baptist witnessed the Spirit descending on Jesus at His baptism but also that “the Baptist” was told beforehand that this would be the unmistakable sign that the one upon whom the Spirit came would be the Son of God. “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost” (John 1:33).
As the Ideal Messiah, He is the Ideal Prophet, the Ideal Priest, and the Ideal King. A synopsis of how Christ fulfills these mediatorial offices will provide necessary data for our Old Testament search. Because in the Lord Jesus all these offices unite in a single person, it is not always possible to identify aspects of His work as distinct operations of any single office. What He did and what He does are the work of the entire person. As the Christ, He fulfilled, is fulfilling, or will fulfill everything expected from a prophet, priest, and king.
Put simply, a prophet is God’s representative to man. Who better than the very Son of God, Himself God, could represent God to man? Speaking of the Lord Jesus in prophetic terms, Hebrews declares that God spoke in various ways through the prophets but has now revealed His final word to man by his Son, “whom he hath appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:1, 2).
Evidence 1: Divine Source of Message First, He claimed that His message was from the Father. Christ plainly claimed, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me” (John 7:16).
Evidence 2: Predictive Message The second evidence of the prophetic office of the Lord Jesus is His foretelling the future. Predicting the future, after all, was something that prophets id. In fact, this ability to predict the future accurately was a key test that God specified for judging whether a prophet was genuine or not.
However, the one single prediction upon which Christ staked His entire prophetic and messianic credibility was the prophecy of His own resurrection from the dead. When the cynical scribes and Pharisees asked Christ for a sign to verify His claims, the Lord first excoriated them as an evil and adulterous generation and then limited the verifying sign to one, the sign of the prophet Jonah. Professing Himself to be greater than Jonah, Christ plainly predicted, “As Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Among other things, the resurrection of Christ was heaven’s validation and verification of His entire prophetic office.
Third, Christ performed wonders. According to Deuteronomy 13, this was another thing that prophets did. Jesus would leave no room for doubt concerning His identity and office. If anyone failed to believe who He was, it was not for lack of evidence; it was for lack of spiritual sense and perception. The Gospel narratives are filled with accounts of Christ’s healing the sick, casting out demons, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, and even raising the dead. There is no question that motivating all these acts of mercy was a heart of compassion for those He delivered.
The purpose of “pointing” is to direct attention to an object other than self. If we see a crowd pointing at something in the distance, our curiosity focuses on the distant object, not on the different forms or styles of pointing. If we focus on the latter, we will most certainly “miss the point.” Hebrews argues similarly. The intent of the Old Testament sacrifices and ceremonies was to point men to the only Savior of sinners.
According to Revelation, the Lord Jesus is now “clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle” (1:13). This “to the feet garment” is the glorious high priestly dress that among other things would include the breastplate and ephod. On the breastplate and ephod were the names of the people of God. What an amazing and reassuring thought this is. As our Savior intercedes for us, He does not just pray in general terms for “all those people down there.” He bears our names over His heart in expression of His compassion; He bears our names upon His shoulders in demonstration of His ability to keep us from falling.
There are five key elements of Aaron’s priesthood that point directly to Christ: (1) the priest represents man; (2) the priest mediates for men before God; (3) the priest officiates the sacrifices; (4) the priest sympathizes with the people because he experiences the same infirmities; (5) the priest is chosen.
The reference to heaven and earth is a frequent figure of speech in the Bible called merismus. This is a literary device that uses polar or opposite expressions to include everything in between as well. When, for instance, Christ identifies Himself as the Alpha and Omega, He is not saying that He is merely the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Rather, He is saying He is infinite; He is all and in all. So when Christ claims that He has been given authority in heaven and earth, He is not limiting that power to two specific places
In fact, most of the ancient heresies concerning the mystery of the person of Christ were heresies because they tried to define too much. Some denied the genuineness or completeness of His deity; some counterbalanced by denying the genuineness or completeness of His humanity. Still other heresies wrestled with and defined away the uniqueness of His person. Sadly, versions of these old and specious attempts to explain the supernatural are still floating around. Just remember that we are never expected to explain the miraculous; we are expected to believe.
There are five essential perfections of deity that the Scripture applies to Christ, giving evidence of His deity.
His uniqueness. When the Lord rescued the man with the spirit of an unclean devil in the synagogue at Capernaum, the demon had to admit, “I know thee who thou art: the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34; see also 4:41). Most likely, the word “God” is an appositive of “Holy One.” An appositive or apposition is a noun which renames another. The idea would be “the Holy One, which is God.” It is not without significance that “Holy One” is a divine title in the Old Testament. This demon illustrated well the apostolic warning: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19)
There is a world of difference between believing in an uncontrollable operation of blind fate and believing that all things are working together toward a prescribed and purposeful end by One who is infinitely wise, infinitely good, and infinitely powerful so that His purpose cannot be threatened, frustrated, or jeopardized.
His recommended test for recognizing false prophets was to evaluate their work. Shifting from the sheep/wolf image to that of a fruit tree, the Lord plainly said, “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:15-20). What they produce or what they do is the sure evidence of what they are. What is true about false prophets is also true for genuine prophets. The principle is true for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. His works identify Him as the only Redeemer and Mediator for sinners. Consequently, knowing the works of the Messiah is one more way of being able to recognize His presence in the Scripture, even if His name does not directly appear. If we see the work, we see the person.
Literally verse 9 says, “He became one who was perfected.” Ethically and morally, Christ matured to evident perfection (cf., Hebrews 2:10). Never a wrong deed, never a wrong thought–He kept the law in its perfect spirit to the minutest detail of its letter.
The life of Christ took care of the positive demands of the law, but something had to be done to pay the penalty of the broken law. God cannot let bygones be bygones when it comes to sin. Christ’s perfect obedience earned two things: for His people, life, and for Himself, the right to die in payment for their sins. His death could pay the penalty for our sins because it did not have to pay the penalty of His– He had no sin.
1) The resurrection affirmed Christ’s identity: as the promised Messiah (Luke 24:44-46), as the true prophet (Matthew 12:38; John 2:18), and as the Son of God (Romans 1:4). The point is that His resurrection verified and validated every claim the Scripture made concerning the Messiah and that Christ made about Himself. Remember we have already learned that Jesus staked His whole prophetic authority on the prophecy that He would rise from the dead. The implications are significant: if He was right concerning this astounding prophecy, then everything else He said deserves careful hearing and obedience.
2) The resurrection accredited Christ’s atonement (Romans 4:25). It is the guarantee that God received His sacrifice as the full satisfaction of His wrath against sin, the full payment for sin’s penalty. Significantly, in this connection most of the references to the resurrection focus on God’s activity in raising up Christ. Although it is true that Christ arose, it is theologically vital that we understand and believe that He was raised by the power of God’s Spirit. This was the great “stamp of approval” on a mission accomplished
3) The resurrection acclaimed Christ’s authority (Acts 2:32-36): as the mediatorial ruler (Ephesians 1:20-22) and as the mediatorial representative (Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34). This is the session work.
4) The resurrection achieved our salvation (I Peter 1:3; Romans 5:10; I Corinthians 15:14). If by His death Christ fulfilled every condition to purchase life for those united to Him, then those united to Him will be certainly saved in and by His life. In fact, the resurrection of Christ stands as the great guarantee of the success of His whole mission.
5) The resurrection assures our immortality
John 14:19; I Corinthians 15:20-23). Christ’s life after death not only revealed the destiny of believers but also guarantees the life of every believer. It is impossible for those in Christ to perish. Christ redeemed us completely, and not one part of redeemed man will ever perish, not even his body. It is a tragic shame that we tend to think of the resurrection only on Easter Sunday. The New Testament apostles included it in almost every sermon. The Old Testament prophets from Moses forward, as we will see, included it in their preaching as well.
Ephesians 4:9-10 is an interesting passage that is often misunderstood: “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.” Let us be careful to follow Paul’s logic. There is no question that he is referring to Christ’s ascension into heaven. This ascension from earth to heaven is possible only because Christ first descended from heaven to earth. Paul’s reference to lower Parts is in contrast to heaven, not some lower region inside the earth. The word “earth” stands in an appositive relationship to “lower parts.” In other words, “earth” identifies what the “lower parts” are. Nothing in the language or the context permits interpreting this passage as saying Christ went down into Hades. The descending refers to His Incarnation; the ascending refers to His glorious entrance to heaven.
When a word appears as frequently in the Old Testament as “covenant,” my opinion is that etymology is irrelevant and that the contexts of word usage better provide the clues for definition. In view of all the Old Testament evidence, I would define “covenant” as a mutually binding agreement between two parties. This agreement obligated the parties to certain duties and guaranteed certainissues.
A Synopsis of Covenant Development
First, Abraham’s seed was physical. God promised that Abraham would be a father of many nations (Genesis 17:5).
Second, Abraham’s ultimate Seed was Christ. The link to the previous covenants demands this interpretation.
Third, Abraham’s seed was and is spiritual. That God promises Abraham a seed more numerous than the stars of heaven or the sands of the sea at least hints that something beyond physical descendants is meant
Even this claim came to be realized only after God renewed Abraham’s covenant with Jacob. There was no Israel until then, but there was a world of history and revelation about Christ before then. Adam and Noah and Abraham were not Jews
General Revelation testifies to God’s existence, His essential Deity, and His glorious perfections, but it communicates no saving message to fallen and needy sinners.
Special Revelation, on the other hand, is God’s gracious communication of the good news of salvation in and through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ
A theophany literally means an appearance of God and refers to those visible manifestations of His presence that God gave from time to time. A Christophany was a particular kind of theophany: a pre- incarnate appearance of Christ in human form. From time to time, the eternal Son of God visibly appeared to give a special word. The Old Testament records various instances of this revelation of Christ, (although–with some notable exceptions-–as the written word increased, the manifestations of the visible “Word” decreased).
Before going any further, let me take care of the surface problem of Wisdom’s representation in the feminine gender. This is a grammatical, not a theological, issue. The word “wisdom” in Hebrew is a feminine word, as abstract words tend to be. Consequently, any pronouns associated with the word are going to be feminine as well. That the Authorized Version translates all these pronouns as feminine is grammatically correct and does not militate against the messianic interpretation, nor does it suggest any feminine characteristics about the Messiah. I tell my students often that grammar and reality have little to do with each other.
I would suggest that Wisdom’s being poured out from eternity refers to that “time” in eternity when the eternal Son of God was chosen to be the Mediator (cf. Isaiah 42:1). Wisdom was ordained to be the Messiah. It is interesting that in Isaiah 42:1 the Lord declares concerning the chosen Servant that He is the one “in whom my soul delighteth.” Compare that with verse 30 of this passage when Wisdom declares, “I was daily his delight.” The analogy of Scripture points to Wisdom as Christ.
The significance is not that the donkey was a lowly creature in contrast to the stately horse. Indeed, both the Old Testament and documents from the ancient Near East demonstrate that donkeys were often mounts for royalty and rulers (see Judges 5:10; 10:4; 12:14; and II Samuel 16:1-2). The people’s response when they saw Christ riding into Jerusalem on the donkey was not surprise as to why a king would be on a donkey. Rather, when they saw Him they immediately cried, “Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13). For a king to ride a donkey was not contrary to expectation. The significance rests, rather, in the fact that the Old Testament associated horses, war machines, with self-reliance and distrust of God (see Psalms 20:7; 33:16-17; and Isaiah 33:1). If anything characterized Messiah’s first coming, it was His faithful, unwavering dependence on God. Furthermore, God’s initial instructions concerning kings prohibited their multiplying horses (Deuteronomy 17:16). It would be aberrant for the ideal King, who was righteous in every other way, to associate Himself with that which marked kingly disobedience. Even in the detail of the donkey, Christ fulfilled all righteousness.
The same people would rightly be opposed to any interpretation of the Lord’s Supper or Baptism that confused or identified the picture with the reality that it symbolized. Eating the bread and drinking the cup pictures the salvation we enjoy through Christ’s atonement, but it does not effect that salvation. The water of Baptism symbolizes identification with Christ, but it does not cause or accomplish that identification. Orthodox theology recognizes that these rites Christ gave the church are beautiful pictures of spiritual truth. Recognizing that the cup pictures and points to the blood of Christ’s sacrifice is no different from recognizing that the animal sacrifice pictures and points to the blood of Christ’s sacrifice. The one points backward; the other points forward. They both point upward to the same thing. I find it sadly ironic that naïve surface interpretation has confused and obscured what God intended as a means of clarifying truth.
The cessation of the Old Testament types was confirmation of His identity and successful work. Let me put it this way. We are not looking for another virgin to conceive, nor are we looking for another lamb to be slain. Both the word and the picture prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
It is vital to remember that types do not introduce or formulate “new revelation.” Rather, they are prophetic analogies of truth already revealed.
Moses was a type of Christ, not because he was delivered from a sentence of death in his infancy or because he was obedient, meek, and compassionate, but because he was God’s chosen prophet, authoritative leader, and priestly intercessor.
I want to emphasize two key cautions about typology: don’t ignore types and don’t take them too far. Interpreting types involves thinking beyond the surface of the text but not beyond the full meaning of the text. Do not confuse literal interpretation of Scripture with surface interpretation. The “deeper” meaning is part of the “full meaning” intended in the text. Ignoring the existence of types discounts an integral element in God’s Word and thereby dishonors the Word. On the other hand, control your imagination. Types are not defined by whatever you can think of; they are defined by the logic and argument of the text
I would suggest that persons in the Old Testament are types of Christ not by virtue of their character traits but rather by virtue of their office.
I have to admit that it is easier to find Christ in the New Testament than in the Old.