Friday, August 12, 2011

A Christocentric Hermeneutic

In a previous post, we have discussed the importance of a Christocentric hermeneutic when dealing with the Old Testament. Christ tells us that He is the focus of everything in the Scriptures (by which He meant the Old Testament). For instance, when rebuking the unbelieving Jews said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39. Some might think that Christ didn’t refer to everything in the Old Testament. But, Christ dispels this misunderstanding in Luke 24:27 by expounding from Moses and the prophets the things concerning Himself. And lest that weren’t enough, a few verses later (v. 44-46), He opens their understanding to see Him in all the Scriptures of the Old Testament – dividing it into the three parts: Law, Prophets, and Psalms. I have noted it before, but it seems rather odd to many people today to think they can find Christ in the Psalms.

I said all that to say this: We greatly err when we do not see Christ as the focus of the Old Testament. If the story of Daniel serves only to teach our children in Sunday School to “dare to be a Daniel,” then we are in trouble. This is simply moralism or pietism: Law, not grace. If bravery is the moral of the story of David and Goliath, we are not better off than those without the Bible. The Old Testament becomes little more than a collection of fables, like Aesop’s, with a nice moral lesson attached. The great battles of the Old Testament, the marvelous adventures of the Patriarchs, the miraculous rescues of underdogs – these are not object lessons for us to teach our kids about kindness, bravery, cooperation, loyalty and friendship. They are shining examples of God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises. He preserved His elect people in the Old Testament in order to bring about the circumstances surrounding the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ and the salvation and preservation of His elect people in the New Testament.

Take the famine during the days of Jacob as exhibit A. Jacob and his family suffers from a famine. Meanwhile, Pharaoh in Egypt is prospering with the most abundant harvests he’s ever seen. Little does Jacob know that his son Joseph is in Egypt. Joseph has been passed off a dead by his jealous brothers. After having been sold as a slave and chastely resisting the seduction of his master’s wife, he is thrown in prison. God uses this to make Joseph a special favorite of Pharaoh. Was this merely a lesson on long-suffering for Jacob and/or Joseph? Not at all. These circumstances conspire to bring Jacob down to Egypt. Jacob dies, leaving his whole family there. All this make way for the future miracles of the glorious exodus which is a type of our spiritual deliverance wrought by Christ.

I hope everyone can see how much more profound this view of the Old Testament is than the view that turns all the stories into cute little object lessons.

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