“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and you do not understand these things? (John 3:10-11)
Nicodemus was not only a Pharisee, he was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He was a top dog among the religious officials. He was steeped in the knowledge of the scriptures. You could probably ask him any religious question, and the answer was on the tip of his tongue.
Yet what Jesus said stumped Nicodemus. What was all this talk of being born again, and of the Spirit? “How can this be?” he asked.
Jesus answered him by saying, “Wait a minute. You’re the one who instructs all the Jews. How can you not get this?”
Ouch! But, as the Ellicotts Commentary for English Readers puts it, “Do teachers of Israel know not these things when they lie beneath every page of the Old Testament Scriptures?”
There were truths in the Old Testament that should have switched on a light bulb for Nicodemus when he heard Jesus teach them. Look at these passages:
- I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them. (Ez 11:19a)
- I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ez 36:26)
- I will put My Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. (Ez 37:14)
- The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted . . . until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high. (Isa 32:14a, 15a)
- I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. (Isa 44:3b)
- And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. (Joel 2:28a)
- And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. (Zech 12:1)
And that’s a challenge for us. Is the Old Testament switching on light bulbs for us? How much do we know it? How much are we reading it, to remind ourselves of all that is there?
Paul told Timothy, “You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” (II Tim 3:5) The holy scriptures Paul was referring to had to include the Old Testament writings, because when Timothy was growing up, the New Testament books were just being penned. So Paul said the Old Testament scriptures are a great source of knowledge for salvation.
I have a friend who attended church for years, but didn’t come to a saving faith. Finally, she started reading the Bible on her own, starting in Genesis, and going all the way through. The more she read, the more she fell in love with the gracious and amazing God she discovered. Then as she got to Jesus, her heart opened up as she saw how he reflected everything else she had studied. It was the knowledge of the Old Testament, put together with the New Testament scriptures, that converted her. She was baptized a few weeks ago.
The thing is, that’s just the beginning. There’s so much in the Old Testament that can open up our hearts in cool ways. We’ll find that almost everything in the New Testament has a basis in the Old Testament. The more we understand the Old, the more we’ll understand the New.
So I’ve been getting convicted that I need to start regularly reading through the whole Bible. Sure, I have daily devotionals. (Well, mostly!) But I need to have a regimen of exposing myself to the all of scriptures, not just bits and pieces. There’s a wealth of great stuff that God put in there for a reason.
There’s this turn of the century Bible teacher I admire, James A. Harding. Harding was known for his knowledge of the Bible. He read through the Old Testament 60 times, and the New Testament 130 times. And everywhere he went, he urged people to do the same. It was said in his eulogy that he, “set more people to reading the Bible … than any other preacher; and he infused his own love and appreciation of the Word into those who came under his sway.”
I so want to infuse my love and appreciation of the Word into those around me. That’s the reason I blog.
Here’s a great verse, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.” (Matt 13:52)
We can have a storehouse of gems of truth from both the New Testament and Old.
You know, Nicodemus was a good guy. He sought out Jesus and put his faith in him. But he was a teacher of the law, and Jesus expected him to understand the scriptures.
Today, we are Christ’s ambassadors (II Cor 5:20), and Jesus expects us to understand the scriptures as well.
Let me encourage you to find a way to read the Old Testament more. If you’re a new Christian, don’t get overwhelmed. Start by reading all of the New Testament, book by book. Then develop a system to read the Old Testament as well.
There are all kinds of reading plans on Bible apps and web sites. You can listen to the Bible. There are online devotionals that study books of the Bible, including first5, which some of my friends love. I just bought a chronological Bible that is divided up into daily reading plans.
Let’s make this our challenge: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” ( II Tim 2:15)
Let’s do our best to correctly handle the word of truth. It’s going to take work. We’ll have to be intentional.
But the light bulbs are worth it. The gems of truth we will gain are worth it. And the love and appreciation of the Word that we will infuse to those around us will be a tremendous blessing.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Ps 119:103)