For eight months now I have been following Professor Horner’s Bible-Reading Plan. At ten chapters a day, it moves quickly. Since January I’ve been through the entire New Testament a couple of times, have just about made it through the Pentateuch, and am also making my way through the minor prophets. Certain themes are apparent when reading large quantities of the Old Testament books. What becomes clear about God’s relationship to his people is this: they are very sinful and they are very much loved.
God’s love for his people causes him to do certain things and to prescribe certain things. He creates laws to govern them—there are laws about sacrifices and feasts, crimes and misdemeanours, disease and defilement. For everything there is a law. He creates feasts through which they can commemorate his remarkable deeds, he has them build a tabernacle where they can worship him, he prescribes sacrifices that will bring about reconciliation because of their sin. Each of these things he does because he is good and because he loves them.
I began thinking about some of these things and trying to determine why God prescribed them. It didn’t take long to see that each one was meant to be a reminder-in-advance of the coming Messiah.
Israel needed a tabernacle and temple because God had not yet come in the person of Jesus Christ to make his dwelling among man.
Israel needed the tabernacle and temple to have a curtain that would separate God from man in order to display that God must remain separate from man, at least until God and man would meet at last in the God-man Jesus Christ.
Israel needed an altar to burn sacrifices of reconciliation between God and man because Christ had not yet been the full and final atonement.
Israel needed an ark to remind them of God’s reign because Christ had not yet come to establish his reign over his kingdom.
Israel needed prophets, priests and kings because Christ had not yet come to be the true and final prophet, priest and king.
Israel needed the ceremonial law, laws related to disease and disfigurement and impurity, because Christ had not yet displayed upon the cross the infinite ugliness of spiritual disease and disfigurement and impurity.
Israel needed rites of purification because the death of Christ had not yet displayed the deepest kind of impurity and the deepest kind of purification.
Israel needed the lavers and candlesticks and snuffers to be made of precious metals and to be set apart for their tasks because Christ had not yet shown that he was infinitely precious and that he was set apart for the task God had called him to.
Israel needed a land of its own, an actual land, because Christ had not yet shown that all of the world is God’s land and that his people exist beyond geography, extending to all nations and tribes and tongues.
Israel needed a Sabbath because Christ had not yet shown that he himself is the Sabbath, that he offers the truest and deepest rest displayed only in shadow form on the day of rest.
Israel needed a Passover because until Christ came they must worship God on the basis of the type rather than the fulfillment, the miniature display of what would soon occur.
I suppose we could go on all day if we wanted to. The point is clear: The Old Testament is utterly saturated with Jesus Christ. He is the purpose behind the sacrifices and feasts and laws and all the rest.