Reading the Old Testament - General Guidelines

Posted on May 13, 2014.

This introductory post will offer up a few thoughts about reading the OT in general.


1.  Prayer.  This is not unique to the Old Testament.  Any time you open the Bible you should ask God to speak.  It is his book.  And since he wrote it, we should ask him to guide us as we read.  I’ve always loved this 3-fold prayer from Psalm 119:

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Ps. 119:18)

Make me understand the way of your precepts (Ps. 119:27)

Incline my heart to your testimonies (Ps. 119:36)

2.  Expectation.  I’ve done Bible reading plans before.  Do the reading.  Get the satisfaction from checking the box.  How about something different?  How about expecting that God will speak to you through his Word as you read it.  If you begin with prayer asking him to open your eyes to his Word, a natural expectation is that he will speak to you each day.

How to Read the Old Testament

1.  OLD.  Remember it’s old, just like its title says.  Parts of the Old Testament date back 3,500 years.  And in those years many things have changed.  The Old Testament has a unique culture, unique customs, its own idioms, etc.  It’s thought patterns and approach to life are thoroughly non-modern and non-Western.

This means that you need to find a good study Bible to help you bridge all of the gaps between the world of the Old Testament and the world that we live in now.  You can go to the NET Study Bible online for free if you don’t have a study Bible.

2.  Christ.  It’s always good as you read passages of the Old Testament to consider how Jesus Christ has fulfilled the OT.  It is not possible (nor healthy) on this side of the cross to read the Old Testament without thinking about the person that it all points forward to.  One, admittedly over simplified, view of the way the OT and NT work together is this…the OT is promises made.  The NT is promises kept.