Getting to Know the Old Testament

by Daniel Rieke

If you’re anything like me, the Old Testament can be a bit confusing to read, and somewhat intimidating. I find myself much more comfortable in the New Testament, especially in Paul’s letters, which tend to be logical and, in format, not unlike what I’m used to reading on an every day basis. I mean, what do we do with passages from books like Nahum and Habakkuk?! I can hardly even pronounce their names, so interpreting those passages can seem daunting!

To most of us, it’s much easier to immediately understand and apply Jesus’ command in Matthew 19 to “love your neighbor as yourself” than it is to know how to apply something like this:

The river gates are opened; the palace melts away; its mistress is stripped; she is carried off, her slave girls lamenting, moaning like doves and beating their breasts. Nineveh is like a pool whose waters run away. “Halt! Halt!” they cry, but none turns back. (Nahum 2:6-8) [1]

It can be tempting to hang out exclusively in the back third of the Bible with an occasional trek into Psalms or Proverbs. But to do so would be to neglect what God’s Word says is absolutely essential for living as a fully equipped Christian! After all, Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and

for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

All Scripture. It’s all important. It’s all profitable. We need to be acquainted with all of it! We need to delight in all of it…because it’s all God’s Word and we love God deeply!

And as a result, we should neglect none of it.

The good news is that we don’t have to figure it out on our own! One of the beauties of the Christian life is that we can glean from our brothers and sisters in Christ as we rely on the Holy Spirit to teach the Word to us (Eph. 1:17-18). In that, I’d like to provide you all with some resources that the Lord used to significantly help me in learning to love, understand, and apply the Old Testament.

At Hope Church, your elders are committed to teaching the whole counsel of God’s Word (Acts 20:27), so you can expect to hear sermons from the Old Testament and for us to teach through entire books of the Old Testament through the course of our church future.

ESV Study Bible – I cannot recommend this resource enough. It is the best study Bible on the market. The scholarship is incredible, it is easy to follow and use, and it’s the translation we teach from at Hope Church. I believe there is no greater investment you can make in learning how to study the Old Testament (and the Bible in general) than to purchase an ESV Study Bible! You can purchase it here.

Devotionals – Here are two phenomenal devotionals (For the Love of God Vol 1 & For the Love of God Vol 2) that you can access for free online and save as a PDF to your computer, iPad, or iPhone to reference as you study the Bible. These devotionals are designed to help you read through the Bible in a year, taking a few chapters per day. Dr. Carson provides comments from one of the passages each day, often from the Old Testament. This insight will help you learn to interpret and apply the Old Testament to your daily life as he models how to do so each morning!

How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth – This is a great book that explains the differences between all the different books of the Bible and how to best approach interpreting them in light of their different literary characteristics. I’ve been greatly helped by this book. You can purchase this book here.

Commit to reading some of the Old Testament and some of the New Testament every day during your quiet times with God! This daily discipline will yield amazing fruit over the long-term!

Hopefully, these resources can help you as much as they've helped me begin to make sense of the Old Testament and begin to delight in every word of the Word of God. I pray that the Lord will powerfully use His Word to shape, transform, and equip each of us for the advance of His Kingdom and to bring Him much glory with our lives!


[1] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.