Roadblocks when Reading the Old Testament

Andrew Fountain
Sun, 2021-05-02

Video cover image by Washington State Dept of Transportation BY-NC-ND 2.0

  • Quite often, when people start reading the Old Testament. they hit roadblocks such as
    • obscure language,
    • stories that seem to condone violence or abuse,
    • and moose strange or problematic laws, for example regarding women.
  • All of these roadblocks can be shifted, and we do at least some shifting here.
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Sermon Outline - Roadblocks when Reading the Old Testament

Old Testament

Old Testament

Three types of Roadblock

  1. Confusing
  2. Violence or abuse
  3. Strange or problematic laws
  • We can end up with the attitude:

“The Psalms are OK. I like the Psalms.”

  • (most of them anyway)

1. Confusing

Confusing: Ezekiel 17

  1. Thus says the Lord GOD: A great eagle with great wings and long pinions, rich in plumage of many colors, came to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar.
  2. He broke off the topmost of its young twigs and carried it to a land of trade and set it in a city of merchants.
  3. Then he took of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters. He set it like a willow twig,...
  4. “And there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage, and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and shot forth its branches toward him from the bed where it was planted, that he might water it…

Roadblock 1: Confusing

  • Weird visions with no explanation
  • Doesn’t seem to all be in order
    • e.g. Kings & Chronicles repeat the same set of stories. Isaiah and other prophets are not in chronological order
    • another place where a study Bible can really help
  • Great detail on lives of some seemingly unimportant people
    • e.g. book of Ruth. But most of it is revealing how God relates to people
  • Seems like a string of failures
    • That is the point. God wants to show how his love and power can rise above our failure
    • And if the O.T. system was a wonderful success, there would be no need for Jesus to come!
  • Answer: A study Bible or a good friend

2. Violence or abuse

Roadblock 2: Violence or abuse

  • Animal sacrifices -to please God?
  • Commands to the Israelite to attack and kill
  • Slavery

Slaves: Exodus 21

  1. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing.

3. Strange or problematic laws

Roadblock 3: Strange or problematic laws e.g.

  • Regulations, e.g. Harvesting laws
  • Treatment of Women
  • Very detailed laws about food, clothing & religious structure

Matt 19 & Mark 10

  1. And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”
    He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”
  2. They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”…
  3. He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

Not under Moses
but under Jesus

“For the law was given through Moses;
but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)

Galatians 3

  1. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
  2. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
  3. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,
  4. for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God, through faith…
  5. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Very detailed laws about food, clothing & religious structure

Three main approaches to O.T.

Continuity – Discontinuity

  1. Everything is the same, with different names
  2. There is really no connection
  3. It was a signpost, and now we have the reality

Riverdale Sign

Riverdale Sign

Image source: Tripadvisor

Riverdale Farm

Riverdale Farm

Image source: Mauricio Alas

Read the Bible in 2021

  • Read the Old Testament as well as the new
  • I recommend getting a Study Bible
  • Jesus was the ultimate O.T. study Bible:
    “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
    They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Luke 24:27,32)


Yes, read the Old Testament,
but don’t see it as a destination,
but a journey to Jesus

Updated on 2021-04-19 by Andrew Fountain