What significance does the Old Testament have for Christians?

If we read the Old Testament well, it can teach us how to "read" our own lives correctly. We can learn to see God's hand in our everyday lives. He wants to speak to us in every circumstance, we just have to learn how to listen.

In the Old Testament God reveals himself as the Creator and preserver of the world and as the leader and instructor of mankind. The Old Testament books are also God's Word and Sacred Scripture. Without the Old Testament, we cannot understand Jesus. [CCC 121-123, 128-130, 140]

In the Old Testament a great history of learning the faith begins, which takes a decisive turn in the New Testament and arrives at its destination with the end of the world and Christ's second coming. The Old Testament is far more that a mere prelude for the New. The commandments and prophecies for the people of the Old Covenant and the promises that are contained in it for all men were never revoked. In the books of the Old Covenant we find an irreplaceable treasure of prayers and wisdom; in particular, the Psalms are part of the Church's daily prayer.


The Old Testament relates how God created, led, and prepared His people. God drew this people to Himself in order to prepare their hearts: ¨The principal purpose to which the plan of the old covenant was directed was to prepare for the coming of Christ¨. (Dei Verbum 15) And that makes sense. Weren´t your parents excited before you were born? They probably spent almost nine months getting the whole family, relatives, friends, coworkers and neighborhood ready for the big event with their anticipation and excitement. Nine months isn’t bad. But how about thousands of years? What Jesus was going to do and say was to be so powerful that God needed a vast amount of time in order to tell them about it and get them ready.

In two ways, the Old testament announced Jesus’ coming: through the prophets and through types. The prophets spoke God´s word and told of the savior´s coming. The ¨types¨ of Christ in the Old Testament help us to understand what His coming means. Typology ¨ discerns in God's works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son¨(CCC 128). The Old Testament sheds light on the New Testament and the New Testament helps decipher the Old Testament (St. Augustine). Even though part of what is in the Old Testament has ¨passed away¨ because it was only a stage in God’s idea of how to help us, it still shows forth and is a integral part God´s eternal plan.

In fact, the Old Testament is just a much a part of Sacred Scripture and God’s revelation as the New Testament. The Church tells us that, “The books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author.” (Dei Verbum 11) And you have to remember that the Bible isn’t just any other book: “For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life.”  (Dei Verbum 21)

If we read the Old Testament well, it can teach us how to ¨read¨ our own lives correctly. We can learn to see God´s hand in our everyday lives. He wants to speak to us in every circumstance, we just have to learn how to listen. St. John Chrysostom expressed his desire that we may "learn the gentle kindness of God, which words cannot express, and how far He has gone in adapting His language with thoughtful concern for our weak human nature."

I’ll give you a few scenarios that you could be going through in your life to get you started on reading and experiencing God’s voice in the Old Testament.

Are you tired?
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Is 40:31)

Confused?
“God is our shelter, our strength, ever ready to help in time of trouble.” (Ps 46)
“He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Feeling alone?
“When Israel was a child I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But the more I called to them, the further they went from me…I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in my arms; yet they have not understood that I was the one looking after them. I led them with reigns of kindness, with leading-strings of love…how could I part with you? How could I give you up?” (Hosea 11:1-3,7)
“You are precious in my eyes and I love you.” (Is 43:4)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Sad?
God doesn´t want us to give in to sadness, because it does us a lot of harm: ¨Do not abandon yourself to sadness, do not torment yourself with brooding…Beguile your cares (Delight your soul), console your heart, chase sorrow far away; for sorrow has been the ruin of many, and is of no use to anybody.¨ (Prov 30: 21-25)
“Like a son comforted by his mother will I comfort you.” (Is 66:13)

Overwhelmed?
“Your salvation lies in conversion and staying calm, / your strength, in complete trust and serenity.” (Is 30:15)
“Lord, my heart will live for you, my spirit will live for you alone. You will cure me and give me life, my suffering will turn to health.” (Is 38:16)
Psalm 55: “My heart aches in my breast…horror overwhelms me… For my part, I put my trust in you”, etc.

Scared?
“God frees me from all my fears. / Every face turned to Him grows brighter / and is never ashamed. A cry goes up from the poor man, and God hears, / and helps him in all his troubles…. / How good God is – only taste and see! (Ps 34)
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Gen 26:24)
“I will be with you.” (Gen 26:3)
“God is with you in all your doing.” (Gen 21:22)
“Do not be afraid for I am with you.” (Is 43:5)

Happy?
“You have done great things; who, God, is comparable to you?” (Ps 71:19)
“Happy the man who puts his trust in God… Joy and gladness / for all who seek you! To all who love your saving power / give constant cause to say, ‘God is great!’” (Ps 40:4, 16)

Excited?
“As the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.” (Is 62:5)

Need advice and don´t know where to turn?
“I was like someone who lifts an infant close against his cheek; stooping down to him I gave him his food.” (Hosea 11:4)
“Is Ephraim not my favored son, my child in whom I delight? I must still be deeply moved for him, and let my tenderness yearn for him. (Jer 31:20)

Forgotten?
God never forgets you, even if you forget Him. “If I forget you, may my right hand wither! May I never speak again, if I forget you! If I do not count you the greatest of my joys!” (Ps 137: 5-6)

Misunderstood?
God knows what’s in your heart, your true intentions, what you really want and He helps us when we’re down: “You read my thoughts from far away.” (Ps 139: 2)
“God would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” (Ex 33:11)

Feeling God’s correction?
He corrects us so that we can have a better life: “You correct those who offend, you admonish and remind them of how they have sinned, so that they may abstain from evil and trust in you, Lord.” (Wis 12:2)

Does it seem like God is far away?
“Not a thought escapes Him, not a single word is hidden from Him.” (Ecclesiasticus 42:20)
“The spirit of the Lord, indeed, fills the whole world, and that which holds all things together knows every word that is said.” (Wis 1: 7)
“Yahweh, you examine me and know me, / You know if I am standing or sitting, / You read my thoughts from far away, / Whether I walk or lie down, you are watching, / You know every detail of my conduct.” (Ps 139)