Understanding Scripture 2

Understanding the OT

The testimony of Scripture   Honouring God   Moses wrote of me   Summary
In a previous article some thoughts were offered as to how to understand scripture. It was emphasised that we need to accept that the Bible as God's inspired and infallible  word; we must be born anew and be filled with His Spirit; and not least acknowledge that the central message of the Scriptures is the Lord Jesus Himself. In this article we shall give some further thought particularly looking at as to  how we can understand the OT.

One of the tips given in the previous article was " Because of its unity the Bible, is its own commentary". This is very important because if scripture is, as we have stated, inspired then the only inspired commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. Other commentaries may be helpful, but they are not scripture and certainly not infallible. Scripture alone is infallible, and when it interprets a passage of scripture then that is the true and settled meaning, irrespective of men's ideas.
Let us start our investigation with some words of Jesus.

I. The Testimony of Scripture

 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. [Ye] Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?


This discourse took place just after the man at the pool Bethesda  had been healed. The Jews were angry that it had taken place on the Sabbath day, and then tried to kill Him because of His claim of deity. In answer to this Jesus said that there were certain things that witnessed (testified) of Him

1) John the Baptist.

It was John's mission to prepare the way for Jesus (Mk.1:2) and in his preaching he always spoke of Him who was to come (eg. Mtt.3:11). Indeed  John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God, and the Baptiser in the Holy Spirit ( Jn.1:29-33). The people heard John and rejoiced in his light for a season. John Baptist truly bore witness of Christ to the Jews.

2) The works His Father gave Him

Already by the time we get to this miracle Jesus had done many mighty works that they could not deny. Indeed they didn't deny the healing of this man at Bethesda, they were just angry that  it happened on a Sabbath day. The sign of the Father's works were evident, they did not deny them, instead they chose to ignore them.

3) The Father Himself had borne witness.

Notably at Jesus' baptism. When the Sprit descended and the Father said 'this is my beloved Son.'

4) The Scriptures

The Jews thought that the scriptures gave life, but not so according to Jesus. Life only comes from coming to Jesus, the scriptures TESTIFY of Jesus. s! It is worth pausing a moment and remember at this stage none of the NT had bee written. So Jesus is clearly speaking of the OT scriptures. So we conclude without doubt that the OT speaks of Christ NT

The Jews had missed the point of their own scripture. But why did they miss it? Well Jesus gives us the reason, and it is an eye opener  to say the least!

II. Honouring God

The key to this is the fact that Jesus said that these people did not seek honour from God, instead they sought honour from one another. Jesus then said that Moses, the one in whom they trust ( or pinned their hopes on), would accuse them.

 This is then our first discovery: to believe we must seek the honour that comes from God, and not from men.

 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?


If anyone is willing to do God's will then he shall know if the doctrine of Jesus is of God. This is one way of seeking the honour that comes from God, willing to do God's will. This immediately  takes away the seeking of honour that comes from men. Further to that Jesus said that those who speaks of himself seeks his own glory. We need to seek His glory for then no unrighteousness will be in him.

There is an interesting passage later on in John's Gospel record after another healing. This time it was the man who was born blind (Jn.9). Jesus healed him. The resulting dispute with man a resulted in the man being cast out of the synagogue. But just before they did they asked his parents as to what happened, and we read this:

 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.


 The parents were afraid of being cast out themselves, that is why they answered thus. Their fear was of man, seeking honour from man. Their son on the other hand was bold: he spoke of what he knew, and was cast out from the synagogue for it. When face to face with Jesus afterwards his cry was "who is he that I might believe?"(Jn.9:36). And when Jesus revealed Himself the man believed. He was willing to do God's will, and not to fear man. He was seeking that honour from God, he obeyed Jesus for his healing, and  as a result of his seeking thereafter He believed the words of Jesus.

The following discourse with the Jesus, in Jn 10 shows that the Jews did not understand His words, and here we can see that they were only seeking honour and approval from each other. No wonder they never understood what Jesus was saying!

To believe the Scriptures it is important that our hearts are seeking the will of God. This is a starting point. For we can never gain a true understanding unless we believe, and we can't believe unless we are seeking God's will. Then we shall know that the teaching of Jesus is true.

III. Moses wrote of Me

In the passage with which we began this study Jesus spoke very clearly about the OT scriptures:

1) They testify of Him
2) Moses wrote of Him
3) The Jews to whom He was talking didn't believe Moses!

Now the first two points come as no surprise to any student of the Bible. But the third? Jesus was saying to these Jews, who had been brought up on Moses. They would have been taught from childhood the commandments, the stories of Israel, in fact the Jews revered their history. Now they were being told they didn't believe Moses! Jesus said they even put their trust in him, but didn't believe him! How can this be?

We have a similar saying of Jesus in Luke's Gospel.

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.


In the story/parable  of the rich man an Lazarus it finishes with the words if they don't hear Moses, and the prophets they will not be persuaded even if one  is raised from the dead! The natural way of thinking is that if one comes back from the dead people will believe, yet Jesus said that this is not the case. After all many didn't believe when Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus put the emphasis on believing the  scriptures.

The failure of the Jews in Jn.5 to believe Moses resulted in a failure to believe Jesus! This is clear message to us all. One  reason, if not the  main reason for men and women throughout the ages not believing Jesus as the scripture reveals Him to be, is simply not  believing Moses!

Jesus made it clear that the OT spoke specifically of HIM. And our second point of understanding the OT is that the scriptures clearly testify and point to Jesus. As we read and study the OT this is the principal point we need to keep in mind.

After the resurrection Jesus made it abundantly clear that all of the OT spoke of Him. Lk.24:25--27; 44-46.
Indeed in the first of the Luke passages mentioned it seemed that Jesus expected the two on the road to Emmaus to have realised this already.

We shall now look at the books of Moses and consider some of the scriptures that speak of Christ. This will not be a detailed examination of the scriptures mentioned, but a brief survey of some of them. The difficulty is not finding such scriptures, but rather which ones to leave out. We shall take one example from each of the five books, and see how the NT comments on it. So it will also be seen that the Bible does indeed commentate upon itself.

(1)  Genesis - Christ the seed

 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ...

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise
Gal.3:15-16; 26-29 (Gen.12:1-3;17:1-8)

Reading the  passages concerning Abraham, without the insight of the NT, one would think that the promises were t do with Abraham's physical descendents alone. Yet moving into the NT we have the inspired revelation of what was God's intention all those centuries previous.

When commentating on Abraham's call and the promise God made to him, Paul says that the seed is Christ. In fact Paul labours the point that the word used is singular rather than plural. This revelation shows that behind all of God's dealing with Abraham and the nation of Israel was the preparation for the coming of Christ. The promised seed is Christ.

Paul then makes the logical deduction that if we are in Christ, and since Christ is the seed promised, then we too are Abraham's seed, and as Paull says in Romans Abraham is our f\ther.This continues the thought of Christ the seed from the first promise in Gen.3:15, which promises Christ will bruise Satan's head.

(2)  Exodus-Christ the Passover

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I Cor.6:7-8 ( Ex.12-14)

In redeeming His people from Egypt God brought ten plagues upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The last of these was the death of the firstborn and the Passover was introduced. Great details were given: each house had to slay a lamb; its blood sprinkled on the door posts and lintel; the lamb had to be eaten inside the house and the people ready to leave for the promised land. Then each year thereafter Israel was obliged to remember this event as one of the 'feasts' laid down in the Mosaic law.

Turning to the NT Paul make it clear that Christ is our Passover, who was sacrificed for us I Cor.5:7-8. In Luke's account of the Transfiguration we read that the conversation was of Jesus' EXODUS (literal Greek). Thus we see that the Passover events point clearly to Jesus and His death. We also note that Jesus' death for us was at the time of the Jewish feast of Passover. Again we are not looking at the details here of these scriptures, but  pointing out  that the NT gives us a clear commentary that  these events speak of Christ.

(3) Leviticus- Christ the offerer and offerring

 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

Heb.9:6-15 ( Lev.16)

The whole of the Hebrew letter is a commentary on how the OT is fulfilled in Christ. This passage mentions the Day of Atonement when the high Priest went in once a year to the Holiest of all. This great Day in Israel's life is set out in Lev.16. The writer to the Hebrews tells us how it points to Christ. He became  a High priest of a more perfect tabernacle, and the sacrifice was Himself and by offering his own blood ahs entered the Holy place and consequently has obtained eternal redemption for us. This commentary of the day of Atonement clearly and unquestionably shows that Moses spoke of Jesus.

As part of the day of Atonement  two goats were chosen, one was slain and whose blood was sprinkled in the Holiest of all by the High priest; the second was the scapegoat, all the sins of the nation were symbolically laid on it and it was driven into the  wilderness. Jesus entered the true tabernacle with His blood, and also was made sin for us. He was also the scapegoat for us. II Cor.5:21.

(4)  Numbers-Christ the  lifted up one

... And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Jn.3:13-18 (Num.21:4-9)

 In His discourse with Nicodemus Jesus talking of the new birth, uses an incident in Israel's wilderness's wonderings to introduce His coming crucifixion. The people of Israel were murmuring and God sent snakes. On crying out to Moses God instructed Moses to make a brass snake and place it on a pole. He was the to lift it up that whoever was to look on it would live.

Jesus takes this incident and applies it to Himself, that just as  Moses lifted up this snake, so Jesus would be lifted up that whoever looks to Him would be saved. Nothing can be clearer than Jesus Himself pointing out what He was to say later to the Jews who claimed to trust in Moses!

(5)  Deuteronomy-Christ the Word of faith

 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed

Rom.10:1-11( Dt.30:11-14)

This quote is taken from Deuteronomy when Moses was giving Israel the law a second time and preparing them for their entry into the promised land. The context in which Paul speaking concerns comparing the righteousness of the law with the righteousness of faith.

Israel, whilst having a zeal for God it is not according to knowledge. Now that thought is interesting since it was they to whom God gave the scriptures. This thought may tie up with what Jesus says about them not believing Moses, but  this is beyond our present train of thought.

Paul also quotes Lev.18:5: Ye shall therefore keep My statutes and my judgements which if a man do he shall live in them .. This is the righteousness of the law doing and keeping them! 25-29.  From previous arguments in Romans Paul has shown that this is not possible.

But what is the righteousness of faith? Well Christ is the end of the law for righteousness but how does Moses speak of this?  This is where  the quote from Deuteronomy comes in. Moses  The whole of Dt 30 is to do with God prophesying Israel's captivity! Dt.30:1-3. He then says that after that He will gather them again back to the land.Dt.30:4-5. He then promises that their hearts will be circumcised!! Dt.30:6-10.We know from the NT that this is the language of new birth, the new heart all prophesised in Jer 31:31-34; Ez.36:24-28 indeed Paul in Rom.2:25-29. says that the true Jew is one which is circumcised in heart.

Then Moses goes on to say that this commandment is not hidden, they need not go up to heaven to bring it down nor is it beyond the sea that they should go and bring it, but it is near in their mouth and heart. Dt.30:11-14. Paul quotes this and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says it is Christ! The going up to heaven and gong down to fetch him is simply the works of the law/flesh.

But the word of faith is near in  your mouth and heart, and note that is in this context that Rom.10:9 is said. Also Paul goes on to expound it further by saying that faith comes by hearing the [spoken] word of God. It is not by works.

The righteousness of faith is thus explained, and Moses wrote of it! That if we confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God has raise Him from the dead we will be saved. We do nothing to bring Him down or bring Him up, the word is near our hearts and mouths if we would only believe!

IV. Summary

We have seen that in order to gain a true understanding of the OT we must seek the honour that comes from God, and not man. We need to realise that the OT scriptures testify and speak of Christ. Finally the Bible itself gives us the interpretation of those scripture. To  illustrate this we this we took one example from each of the books of the Pentateuch. We   conclude that the Old Testament is to be understood in the light of the New Testament, and never the other way round.