Many Christians reject the teachings of the Old Testament because, in their view, the Old Testament has no relevance for the church today. What these Christians fail to realize is that the Old Testament comprises three-fourths of the Bible. Thus, when one comes to the gospel of Matthew, three-fourths of God’s story has already been told.
The Old Testament is part of God’s story, of how he wants to save his lost creation. And this story is being told by God himself through the writers he chose to preserve a record of what he did in the history of Israel.
When we look from a Christian perspective, the hope of human beings is that one day God will intervene in human history and bring justice and salvation to all nations of the earth. On that day the nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” (Micah 4:2).
This wonderful day will be ushered in by the coming of God’s Messiah. The messianic hope of Israel was based on the promise God made to David: “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).
After the monarchy was destroyed in 587 B.C. and the house of David was no more, the people of Israel hoped for the coming of a new David who would restore Israel and bring salvation to the nations.
There are several passages in the Old Testament that have been classified as messianic prophecies. Most Christians classify as messianic prophecies some passages that do not contain a messianic hope. For instance, Genesis 3:15 is not a messianic prophecy of the coming of Christ (see here, here, and here).
In the four studies below I discuss how to preach from the Old Testament using messianic texts. I then provide three specific examples of how to understand these texts messianically.
In his book Approaches to Old Testament Interpretation, John Goldingay wrote (p. 117): “The NT is actually rather restrained in quoting ‘messianic’ prophecies. It does not refer to many of the texts which were later appealed to by Christians, but whose messianic reference historical criticism questions (e.g. Gn. 3:15 . . . Isa.9:6) . . . nor even to many of the texts that scholarship does regard as originally messianic (Is.11:1-5; Je. 23:5-6).”
In the studies below I deal with two of these passages: Isaiah 9:1-7 and Jeremiah 23:5-6. I do so because these passages have a future orientation. They look at what God is going to do in the future through a kingly individual. In my view, this future hope finds fulfillment in the person of Christ.
I just hope that my approach to preaching from messianic prophecies may serve as a model for studying, interpreting, and preaching from the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.
Preaching on Messianic Prophecies
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
John Goldingay, Approaches to Old Testament Interpretation. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1990.