Wednesday, April 4, 2018



The use of the Old Testament by the New Testament can be troubling. Sometimes, it might even seem as if the New Testament writers had illegitimately lifted material from their original OT context to prove their points. Let me give you an example. The resurrected Jesus had taught His disciples that His resurrection on the third day was a fulfillment of OT prophecy. However, there is no OT prophecy that explicitly states this:

·       Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” (Luke 24:44-46 ESV; also Matthew 17:22-23)

Elsewhere, Jesus claimed that Jonah’s three days in the great fish was more than just an historic event but also a prophecy about the Messiah spending three days in the grave:

·       “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)

However, the original account provides no evidence that Jonah’s experience in the great fist was also prophetic (Jonah 1:17). This leaves us with a question: “Did Jesus illegitimately make use of this account?” I want to make the case that everything that had been written was more than just historical accounts but also contained valuable lessons for us today:

·       Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)

·       But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord. (Romans 4:23-24)

·       For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

However, does the OT regard its historical accounts as more than just history? Do these accounts also teach spiritual lessons? Of course! Joshua recounted Israel’s history to prove that God is faithful:

·       And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and afterward I brought you out.” (Joshua 24:2-5)

The author of the Book of the Chronicles concluded that Israel, based upon the preceding accounts of their history, had been unfaithful. Consequently, they suffered destruction and exile:

·       The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

However, this alone does not prove that Israel regarded history as prophecy, as the NT usage suggests. Nevertheless, there are numerous OT passages that point to this fact, even to the Crucifixion.

God had asked Abraham to present his son Isaac as a human sacrifice, but just before Abraham was about to plunge the knife into his son, the Angel of the Lord prevented him and provided a ram in the place of Isaac. Nevertheless, Abraham did not name Mt. Moriah, “God has provided,” but “God will provide.”

·       So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:14)

God’s deliverance was a matter of history. However, the name Abraham assigned signified that it was predominantly a matter of prophecy. God had not only provided in the past, but He also would provide in the future. Likewise, I’d like to suggest that Jonah in the great fish was not simply a matter of history but also of prophecy pointing to the Savior. Even the OT understood that it contained deeper meanings hidden beneath the surface.

We find this same principle reflected in other OT passages. After the exiles returned to the Promised Land from Babylon:

·       [God] showed me [Zechariah] Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by. And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. (Zechariah 3:1-9)

While this cleansing from sin pertained to the high priest Joshua, it also pertained to a future Joshua (“the Branch”) through whom the Lord would “remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.” In light of this, Joshua served as a type, shadow, or symbol of One to come, the One who would bring the ultimate release from sin.

Who is this Branch? All the ancient rabbis were in agreement about His identity. The Branch is the promised descendant of David, the Messiah, who would establish an everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7):

·       “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

This Branch had been designed by many names or titles. This one suggests that He is the Lord, “Yahweh” in the Hebrew. This name also points to the Gospel. Instead, of earning our own righteousness, He would be our righteousness.

Afterwards, the Lord directed Zechariah to return with others to Joshua:

·       “Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. And say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’ (Zechariah 6:11-13)

God’s command was highly irregular. A priest could not be a king. Joshua, therefore, could not wear the crown of a king. This privilege was reserved only for the Branch, the Messiah:

·       The Lord said to my Lord [the Branch], "Sit at My right hand (KINGSHIP), till I make Your enemies Your footstool."…The Lord has sworn and will not relent, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." (Psalm 110:1-4)

Therefore, Joshua wearing a crown was history, but it also had to be prophecy of the coming priest/king Joshua (or “Yeshua”). Also perplexing is the fact that the Branch would build the Temple. However, the Jerusalem Temple had already been rebuilt at this point. How then to we resolve this apparent contradiction? Perhaps this history/prophecy was pointing to a different Temple, where Israel would meet their God to find His mercy.

Talking about Himself, Jesus told the Jewish leadership:

·       “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:19-21; 1:14 which suggests that Jesus “templed” among us in His incarnation.)

For the OT Jews, history taught lessons, even about what would happen in the future. For Jesus, the Book of Jonah taught a prophetic lesson about Himself. We should therefore assume that the Holy Spirit also directed the Apostles to other OT lessons pointing to the Messiah.

On our own, we might not be able to discern how Jonah served as a symbol of the coming Branch. However, these things had been revealed by the Spirit to the Apostles, as Jesus had promised them:

·       “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26)

Since the Apostles were taught directly by the Spirit, we might not fully grasp how the Apostles used the Hebrew Scriptures. However, we should be willing to accept their usage:

·       These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10)

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