May 25, 2020 by Dan Waugh
Psalm 119:89, Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.
Recently a friend from church asked me to read a book with him because it made him so angry. It’s a bad book, so bad that I have unfriended the person who asked me to read it. Friends don’t do that to one another!
At one point, the author claims, “The Bible is not perfect. Parts of it are now obsolete. Surely you admit this.” No, I do not, and don’t call me Shirley. And, the Psalmist seems to take an entirely different view – “Your word, Lord, is eternal.”
All of God’s revelation indeed culminates in Jesus, the Word incarnate. While the author of Psalms had God’s commands and the written word in mind when he penned Psalm 119, it is true that God’s Word, Jesus, is the ultimate expression of the truths he is proclaiming.
It is not true, however, that since Jesus’ advent, the older parts of the Bible are obsolete. They lead us to Jesus, and they have done so. But we do not, should not at least, cut out the Old Testament now that Jesus has come. Doing so would be like saying we don’t need arithmetic now because we’re in Calculus 101. See how calculus works for you without arithmetic; see how well Jesus makes sense without the Old Testament. He isn’t just a miracle-working religious teacher; he is the fulfillment of promises God made to our first parents in the Garden, to Abraham as the Father of all who have faith, to Moses, to David, to Israel, and to us. We read the Old Testament in light of Jesus and the New, as well we should. But, we also read the New Testament and Jesus in light of the Old Testament,
Of course, some will say that we don’t apply the Old Testament to ourselves anymore. Now that Jesus has come, it is irrelevant. I’m afraid I have to disagree. In fact, I’ve preached sermons from Genesis, Exodus, Number, Deuteronomy, Psalms, the historical books, wisdom lit, and prophets, and I always have a section called “application.” True, we apply it to ourselves differently than the original people in the text did, but that is because we have changed (our context), not because God’s word has changed. For example, I buckle up when I’m driving because it’s the law. When I’m in the back seat of a car, I do not usually – the law doesn’t mandate that I do. The law didn’t change; my position did.
Throughout the Bible, God progressively reveals himself to his people. We know more about God, shockingly, than Abraham or Moses did. In that way, our relationship with God is like any other relationship. I didn’t learn all about my wife on our first date. Certain truths wouldn’t have made sense if they hadn’t followed others. I learned that Lynn had two sisters, Lisa and LuAnn, before I learned about their husbands/boyfriends. The fact that I now know about George and Mont doesn’t negate the truth that Lynn has two sisters. Likewise, God didn’t reveal to Abraham or the people of Israel all the truths about him at once, but progressively through time, culminating in Jesus. Jesus’ arrival, however, does not make earlier revealed truths less true, only less ultimate.
God’s word stands as a firm foundation. We can trust it; we can build our lives and venture our eternities on it. As the prophet Isaiah declares, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”