The 39 books which comprise the Old Testament seem very different. They relate ancient happenings and portray very old cultures. The stories and events seem really distant. We read of God destroying the whole earth through rain, people travelling on foot, old currencies like shekel and strange musical instruments like timbrels. The world seems quite strange to us and we might conclude that it has nothing for us today. However, this is a false conclusion. It is true that the era covered by these books was very different from ours. Nevertheless, certain considerations should make us take these writings seriously and carefully consider what they can teach us today*.
The God revealed in the OT who called Abraham out and brought him to the promised land; who led Israel out of Egypt and made them cross the Red Sea on dry land; who punished his people for their unfaithfulness by allowing foreign countries to conquer and uproot them from their land but eventually restored them back after several generations; this is the same God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are not two Gods but one. The apostle John himself bears witness to this in the opening lines of his gospel by identifying the eternal God who created the world with the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John1: 1-14). Therefore, what the Old Testament teaches us about the character of God or the nature of man are quite valid for us today. We know what God is like through his self-declaration to Moses at the Burning bush as well as through the life of Jesus. His character does not change (Heb. 1:10-12; James 1:17) and neither does his covenant promises to his people (Heb. 6:17; Gen. 9:16; 17: 1-22). His eternal purpose during the Old Testament era aligns with his plan for today . It does not change (Isa.46:10).
We live in a world that is basically the same. The world we inhabit was formed by God, but now broken on account of man’s rebellion. The faithful Jews then faced opposition from the world just as Christians experience today. And just as they sought help in God for deliverance from their troubles (Psalm 25: 1-2; 55: 16-18) so God asks us to call upon him in our difficulties (James 5: 13a; 1 Peter 5:6,7).
In addition, the world of the Old Testament forms the background for the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. They were all Jews and so Jewish history and experience is reflected in their writings. The coming of Christ is itself a fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises concerning the Messiah.
Same kinds of People
Since the Bible teaches that all mankind was created in God’s image, it follows that there is a basic unity within the human race. In spite of the cultural and historical differences among the various groups of people, we have much to learn from one another. This applies to the people of the OT and our world today. Also, since the fall all humans have been divided into three groups: those who are lost because they are outside of God’s covenant (Philistines, Amalekites, various Canaanite tribes), those within the covenant but who are still lost (unfaithful and godless Jews), those in covenant who are saved through faith in God’s promises (godly Jews, e.g. Abraham, Noah, David, etc). This same distinction applies today and this makes the teachings, commands, and events of that era much relevant to us today.
*I am indebted to Dr Richard L.Pratt of Third Millennium Ministries for these points.