3 Simple Questions to Change the Way You Understand the Old Testament

The Old Testament is full of things that seem foreign and quite strange when looked at from the glow of our smartphones. It can be really hard to read the OT and know how it is supposed to inform your daily walk with God. These three simple questions will help you see how the OT continues to speak today. 
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD's table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.(Malachi 1:6-8 ESV)

Question 1: How has Jesus completed this?

This passage focuses on priests, sacrifices, and altars; all things that seem pretty foreign to you and me. Don't let your eyes glaze over! God put those
elements there to teach mankind about himself and his relationship with humanity. For instance, the sacrifices taught us that a) sin was real and needed to be punished, and b) the sacrifice to atone for sin needed to be perfect.

Now Jesus enters the picture: Not only is he your perfect high priest (Heb 4:14-16), but he is also your "spotless lamb" (1 Peter 1:19). The perfect sacrifice.

This changes the way you read Malachi 1. Their sinful priests are replaced by Christ. Their rejected sacrifices have been replaced by the cross. Use this passage to motivate your thankfulness to God for the work of Jesus. You have a perfect high-priest who gave a perfect sacrifice for you.

Question 2: What is this (priest, sacrifice, battle, offering, altar) in itself?

Ultimately, the work of the temple (sacrifices, priests, offerings, etc) was all worship. This is something you are far more familiar with.

Malachi confronts you with sinful, rebellious worship. The priest thinks it's 'wearisome' to obey God. The Israelite would rather give lame or injured animals than his best. God just isn't worth the effort.

But what is going on here? God told his people how he was to be worshiped, and they decided they would rather worship him their own way.

Are you called to worship? Are you called to worship God a particular way? Spend some time considering how you desire to change worship from what God has required.

Question 3: What does the New Testament say about this?

We've already covered that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, but how else does the NT describe sacrifices?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV)
The NT calls you to see your obedience and holiness as a sacrifice before God. It also makes the same connection as I did in question 2--sacrifices were worship.

How have you turned your obedience and holiness into a checklist? Where do you think it's OK to go through the motions? Where do you look obedient, but in reality you know you are living for yourself?

There's a lot more that could be said about understanding and applying the Old Testament. But these 3 questions should keep you from getting lost the next time you read the OT.

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