Many Christians, and even some non-Christians, are acquainted with the well-known stories of the Old Testament. They know about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the Ten Commandments, David and Goliath, and Daniel in the lions' den. Yet, in spite of this familiarity, Christians often treat the Old Testament with a reverential aloofness, content to feast on the delicacies of the New Testament and ignore the other 77% of the Bible.
There are many reasons why so little time is spent exploring the Old Testament. Some feel it is just so different and thus too difficult to understand. Coming out of an eastern culture and language, laws and customs are unique. Names are unusual and often hard to pronounce. Israel's history is interwoven with other cultures, some of which are significantly different than Israel's. Why was Laban so zealous to find the household idols that Rachel had stolen (Gen 31)? Why does the date of Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Judah, given in Jeremiah 25:1, differ with that recorded in Daniel 1:1? When answers aren't easily found, frustration and abandonment eventually follow.

Old Testament geography presents its own unique features as well. The compass is oriented toward the east; south is to the right and north is to the left.1 Because Jerusalem is on Mount Zion, the text speaks of "going up" to Jerusalem, even though they may be traveling in a southerly direction. Upper Egypt refers to southern Egypt, while Lower Egypt is located in the north.

Others feel it is too hard to apply. While we might find Psalm 23 or the Ten Commandments relatively easy to apply to our Christian lives, the prescriptions for worshiping God in Leviticus are another matter. How are we, on this side of the cross, to apply the narratives of Numbers or Judges? We know the Holy Spirit intended them specifically for His chosen people; but what did He intend for believers today? Fearful we might abuse the Spirit's intent of a text and thus misapply it, we avoid it all together.

Still others find it takes too much time to study. Because much of the Old Testament is narrative, the units of expression are frequently much longer than in the New Testament. Context can sometimes be a chapter or two, making it difficult to preach the whole account in one lesson or message. Conversely, sometimes the text has no context at all, such as the maxims in Proverbs. The context is limited to just one verse; the preceding or following verses provide no contextual insight into the meaning intended by the author. Or, occasionally, two proverbs can seem to contradict (e.g.Prov 26:4, 5). Thus, rather than spend the time to ferret out the conundrum posed by the differences, we simply pass it by.

Finally, it represents the old covenant. You've heard it said, "We're not under the old covenant; we're under the new" (2 Cor 3:6). As Christians, we no longer live under the regulations or stipulations of the Old Testament. Therefore, the Old Testament no longer applies to us as Christians. Each of these reasons is valid, at least to a degree. Studying the Old Testament can be difficult and time consuming.2 But the rewards for paying the price can be extraordinary. Plowing the fertile soil of the Old Testament will enhance your understanding of the Bible. Taking the wrapping off the "other" testament will allow you to grasp the big picture, revealing God's divine purposes as they are developed through the early pages of the Old Testament. It will open your eyes to understanding why God authorized an "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" (Exo 21:24), only to later seemingly annul it (Matt 5:38–42). It will unveil why they killed Stephen (Acts 7; Amos 5:25–26).

Furthermore, it will produce a depth and breadth of knowing and understanding the attributes of God. It will reveal His patience and longsuffering, such as when He drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden so they wouldn't eat of the tree of life and live forever in damnation! It will help you to understand God's kindness for limiting the impact of a father's iniquity to only the third or fourth generation (Exo 20:5), thereby not allowing the degenerative results of sin to go too far.

Ultimately, and most importantly, studying the Old Testament will enhance your knowledge of God, one that results in a deeper level of worship and adoration. After all, that is the grand purpose for our existence—to worship God (Ps 29:2; 95:6–7). So much of how to accomplish that is revealed to us in the Old Testament. It is my hope and prayer that this book will encourage you to read, study, and preach the Minor Prophets.


The importance of preaching the old testament

Though studying the Old Testament may be tedious and time-consuming, it it is filled with many rewards. Both the pursuit of its understanding and the process required to achieve it abound with treasures along the way. And, while these rewards may be the thing that fuels the desire for such study, there are other very important reasons that should drive us to be students of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament Is Divinely Inspired

The Old Testament is God-breathed! That alone should drive us into the Old Testament text, searching the nooks and crannies of these sacred pages. When the apostle Paul wrote 2 Tim 3:16–17, he was referring primarily to the Old Testament; only a portion of the New Testament was written at that time. As such, we must not ignore it. It is God's gift to us; to reject the gift is to reject the Giver!

We all give lip-service to this fact, but we don't vigorously embrace it. In reality, our avoidance of it tells a different story. It's a lot like the saying, "If the feet are slow, the heart's not in it."3 The Bereans (Acts 17) were different. When they heard the good news from the Apostle Paul, they searched the Old Testament Scriptures daily to see if these things were true (Acts 17:11).

The Old Testament has a richness and beauty just beneath the surface. Yes, it may require some extra effort, but the rewards are phenomenal.

And once we get out the shovel and start digging, we will not only feed our souls, but will avoid being guilty of turning our backs on a large part of God's inspired Word.

The Old Testament Is Divine Revelation

The Old Testament reveals who God is. Within the opening pages of human history, God puts His awesome power and magnificent glory on display, calling into existence the universe. In the process, so many of His attributes are exhibited. No wonder He exclaims that everything is "very good."

The Old Testament reveals who man is—and it's not a pretty picture! The glory of God's creation is abruptly interrupted by sin. Following the Tempter's offer, mankind is bent on becoming God. In the pursuit of wanting to be like God, man finds himself in the downward spiral of self-destruction. The rebellious man (Adam and Eve) leads to murder prompted by jealousy and anger (Cain, Lamech). The depraved man, whose "every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen 6:5), led to the self-consumed man at the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:4).

The Old Testament describes the unregenerate man as one who, though unintentionally, is continually bent on self-destruction. As a result, God frequently steps into human history to prevent man from destroying himself. And in doing so, God demonstrates His grace. He drives Adam and Eve from Eden to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life and living forever in an unregenerate state. He gives Cain a sign so no one will murder him. He stipulates "eye for eye..." to rein in Lamech's prideful spirit of vengeance.

The Old Testament reveals God's redemptive plan. Though sin has taken man on a downward path, God will not be deterred; His plan will be accomplished, but only in the way He has designed—by faith. Believing mankind continually seeks to bring about God's promises by his own works, but God repeatedly shows it is only by faith! Abraham tried to bring about God's plan, first by identifying Eliezer as his heir (Gen 15:2–3) and then Ishmael (Gen 16:1-17:18). Jacob stole his brother Esau's blessing (Gen 27:1-29), in spite of the promise God had given to his parents.

The Old Testament reveals the Messiah. On the Emmaus road, Jesus chided the two men for being "slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25) regarding the Messiah. The seed of the woman would overcome Satan (Gen 3:15); in Abraham all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen 12:3); the Passover Lamb became a picture of the Messiah's sacrifice. Isaiah 53 vividly foretells Messiah's death 700 years earlier.

Additional pictures of Messiah appear in the life of Moses:

  • Both were spared death as a baby (Exo 1; Matt 2)
  • Both renounced the royal court (Heb 11:24ff, Phil 2:5-8)
  • Both had compassion for their countrymen (Num 27:17; Matt 9:36)
  • Both interceded for their people (Deut 9:18; Heb 7:25)
  • Both spoke face to face with God (Exo 34:29-30; 2 Cor 3:7)
  • Both mediated a covenant (Deut 29:1; Heb 8:6-7)

The Old Testament Is Foundational

The Old Testament provides a solid foundation for studying and understanding the New Testament. It precedes the New Testament historically and establishes the chronological protocol for comprehending the unfolding of God's redemptive plan in the New Testament. As Walt Kaiser rightly observes, "The Bible was meant to be read forward, not backward."4 A comprehension of the Hebrew Scriptures provides this integral background and becomes the footing for understanding the New Testament.

In the early years of the New Testament church, they had only the Old Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament was their basis of knowledge. Jesus expected Nicodemus, as a teacher in Israel, to understand the things about being born again (John 3:10). Paul, referring to the Old Testament, reminds Timothy: "From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation" (2 Tim 3:15). For Jesus, Deuteronomy became the basis for repelling temptation (Matt 4). Thus the Old Testament is crucial to interpreting and understanding the New Testament, not the reverse!

The New Testament church was built on the foundation of the Old Testament. Jesus declared that the Old Testament spoke of Him (Luke 24:25, 27, 44) and testified of Him (John 5:39). The disciples and Stephen declared Christ from the Old Testament (Acts 2; 4; 7). New Testament preachers were grounded in the Old Testament Scriptures and preached the gospel based on the Old Testament (Peter—Acts 2, 3; Stephen—Acts 7; Philip—Acts 8 [cf. Isa 53]; Paul—Acts 14:15-17; 17:22ff).

The New Testament is not the foundation for the Old Testament; rather, the Old Testament provides the background and foundation for the New Testament.

 The Old Testament Is Confirmational

Not only does the Old Testament provide a foundation for understanding the New Testament, it also confirms the promises made. Romans 15:8 states that "Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth to confirm the promises given to the fathers." The coming of Christ confirmed the promises made to Abraham in the Genesis 12:3 covenant; "In you all the families on the earth will be blessed" (cf. Gen 18:18; 22:18).

Galatians 3:8, 14 provide an exposition of God's covenant with Abraham, corroborating the absence of any ethnic boundaries in salvation. Paul's offer of redemption to both Jew and Gentile is confirmed by Genesis 12:3. James' argument at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:13-17) is affirmed by the prophet Amos (Amos 9:12).

Again and again, the Old Testament prophets and writers looked to the Old Testament for confirmation. It was the exclusive authority in the early church. Peter's sermon in Acts 2 looks repeatedly to the Old Testament (Joel 2; 2 Sam 7; Ps 16; 110) to affirm their New Testament message. Paul's appeal to the Roman Christians (Rom 9-11) follows the same pattern. The Old Testament corroborates and confirms the message of the New Testament.

The Old Testament Is Instructional

The Old Testament is incredibly tutorial. The manifold issues of life are rehearsed and addressed. The lofty things of God, His character and attributes, are often handled in everyday life theology. Here are just a few examples:

Genesis—the wages of sin; the mercy and grace of God

Exodus—the provision of a Passover lamb; the Ten Commandments

Leviticus—the holiness of God

Numbers—the consequences of faithless choices

Judges—the consequences of selfish living

Psalms—worship; prayer; doctrine of God; forgiveness


Song of Solomon—marital love


Zechariah—the return of the Messiah

More specifically, in 2 Timothy 3:16–17, Paul notes that the entirety of Scripture is given with some remarkable promises, all of which are backed up by an incredible guarantee. The Scriptures are profitable for:

  • Imparting knowledge ("teaching")
  • Confronting sin ("rebuking/reproving"), especially false teachers
  • Correcting (word is restorative in character, the positive side of confronting)5
  • Instructing in righteousness (word is used of training children)

The guarantee? That the man of God may be completely equipped for all good works. Literally, the word order Paul uses places emphasis on "equipped:" "that equipped may be the man of God unto all good works completely." The term "equipped" is a naval term, referring to a ship that has been completely outfitted. God is not satisfied until the Word has fully accomplished its mission (Isa 55:11)—regeneration and sanctification.

The power of the Word to accomplish all this is vividly illustrated in Psalm19:7-9. Long before Paul highlighted the equipping power of the Word, David asserted that the Word is perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, and sure, and that the eternally relevant Word is righteous altogether, accomplishing regeneration, wisdom, joy, and understanding. Greater than any possession (v 10a) and any pleasure (v 10b), the word becomes our greatest protection (v 11) and greatest purifier (v 13). But nowhere are the instructional benefits of the Old Testament more clearly delineated than in Psalm 119. The text is replete with instructions for the believer's growth and maturation, both of which are gained through the study of it. For example, the psalmist repeatedly highlights the priority of obeying the Word (vv 1-8), memorizing the Word (v 11), meditating on the Word (vv 15, 23, 48), guidance from the Word (v 105), and praying for understanding the Word (v 73). "The truths of God's Word are like spiritual wealth that we should continually be depositing into our minds and hearts. Like deposits of money into our bank account, those deposits of divine truth become spiritual assets that we can draw on readily when confronting temptation, when making moral choices and when seeking God's specific will and guidance for our lives."6

Taken from Preaching the Minor Prophets by Irvin Busenitz, Copyright © 2023, pp. v–6. Published by The Master's Seminary Press.


[1] Because of this eastward orientation, one of the Hebrew words for south is "right," and one of the words for north is "left."

[2] One author likens it to children playing with a piñata: "There is a target out there they are aiming at, but they are blindfolded. ... They flail wildly at the air and become frustrated with an exercise that offers so little in return for their efforts." John Walton and Andrew Hill, Old Testament Today (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), xiii.

[3] This axiom is adapted form a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson, "If the heart is right, the feet are swift."

[4] Walter Kaiser, Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003) 51.

[5] Discipline, at its core, is discipleship. As such, discipline is something one does for someone not to someone. While the consequences of sinful choices may include a punitive aspect, punishment is not the goal of discipline; sanctification and discipleship is.

[6] John MacArthur, 2 Timothy, in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 157.