Bible Studies

How to Take On the Old Testament and Not Die Trying

Seminary professor Dr. Mark Futato answers our questions about overcoming our struggles with reading the Old Testament.

Elliott Dodge with Dr. Mark Futato

The Old Testament isn’t just a daunting book. It can be 39 separate daunting books. That’s why many of us find one-year Bible reading plans such a challenge.

Many of us struggle to wade through the dense lists of commands, genealogies and prophecies in the Old Testament. So how do we apply any of it, let alone enjoy it?

We asked Dr. Mark Futato, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, his thoughts.

You obviously love the Old Testament, but what would you say to those of us who find it hard work?

“One thing to do is just start with Paul’s perspective, that the Old Testament was written for our encouragement and to give us hope, even the dark stories. As we read the Old Testament, we’re looking to be instructed and encouraged so that we can have hope.”

What do you think stops us from enjoying the Old Testament?

“There’s a big disconnect between the person reading the Old Testament and the text itself. We can really feel the gap between the world of the Old Testament and our world, so we struggle to understand what the text means.”

So what can we learn about Jesus through the Old Testament?

“The main thing we can learn is that He’s coming as Messiah. The New Testament really unpacks for us what that means. The Old Testament is like a movie trailer telling us what’s coming in the Gospel with the Messiah. When we go back, we see things an original Old Testament reader wouldn’t have gotten. But we’ll read these passages more clearly after we’ve ‘seen the movie,’ after we’ve read and understood the New Testament. We’re re-watching with the end in view, so to speak.”

So how do we apply the Old Testament?

“First, we need to understand the Old Testament in its original context. And then we have to see how the text drives us to who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Once we see how that text relates to Christ, we’re in a position to understand how that applies to us.”

If you want to dive deeper into the Old testament, here are some ways you can start.

Other helpful resources:

Dr. Mark Futato has worked at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando since 1999. He currently teaches Old Testament and Hebrew. Prior to joining RTS, Dr. Futato served as a pastor for five years and taught for more than 10 years at Westminster Seminary California. Dr. Futato and his wife, Adele, have four children: William, Evan, Mark Jr. and Annie.

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