The Historical Books of the Old Testament

Psalm 102:18
       This shall be written for the generation to come.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): There are many foolish people who say that there is no point in a Christian reading the Old Testament. “Ah,” they say, “we have finished with that, we are in the New Testament. Old Testament Jewish history is quite interesting in its way, but it has nothing to give us as Christians.” That is not what the New Testament says about the Old Testament―Paul, for instance, in 1st Corinthians 10.

ROBERT HALDANE (1764-1842): In the tenth chapter of 1st Corinthians, the essential importance of the historical parts of the Old Testament Scriptures is placed beyond all doubt. After referring to the recorded history of Israel, concerning their passage through the Red Sea, and the manner in which they were conducted in the wilderness, the apostle adds, “Now all these things happened unto them for examples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” Here the purpose and value of the historical parts of Scripture are demonstrated. They are intended for the admonition of the people of God. Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope, Romans 15:4. In this passage it is expressly affirmed that every part of the Old Testament Scriptures was written for the use and edification of believers.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I have heard very stupid people say, “Well, I do not care to read the historical parts of Scripture.” Beloved friends, you do not know what you are talking about when you say so. I say to you now by experience that I have sometimes found even a greater depth of spirituality in the histories than I have in the Psalms.
      You will say, “How is that?” I assert that when you reach the inner and spiritual meaning of a history you are often surprised at the wondrous clearness—the realistic force—with which the teaching comes home to your soul. Some of the most marvellous mysteries of revelation are better understood by being set before our eyes in the histories than they are by the verbal declaration of them. When we have the statement to explain the illustration, the illustration expands and vivifies the statement. For instance, when our Lord himself would explain to us what faith was, he sent us to the history of the brazen serpent; and who that has ever read the story of the brazen serpent has not felt that he has had a better idea of faith through the picture of the dying snake-bitten persons looking to the serpent of brass and living, than from any description which even Paul has given us, wondrously as he defines and describes. Never, I pray you, depreciate the historical portions of God’s word―hidden within their letter, like pearls in oyster shells, lie grand spiritual truths couched in allegory and metaphor.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): And it is the application of all the doctrinal and historical parts of Scripture, when we are reading them, that must render them profitable to us, as they were designed for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and to make every child of God perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work.

C. H. SPURGEON: Remember that the historical books were almost the only Scriptures possessed by the early saints; and from those they learned the mind of God. David sang the blessedness of the man who delighted in law of the Lord, yet he had only the first five books, and, perhaps, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, all books of history, in which to meditate day and night. The psalmist himself spoke most lovingly of these books, which were the only statutes and testimonies of the Lord to him, with, perhaps, the addition of the Book of Job. Other saints delighted in the histories of the word before the more spiritual books came in their way at all. If rightly viewed, the histories of the Old Testament are full of instruction. They supply us both with warnings and examples in the realm of practical morals.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): By not taking pains to discover the practical lessons which may be drawn from historical events, we are greatly the losers.

RICHARD STEELE (1629-1692): Some parts abound with the most entertaining histories, which are the more instructive, as they not only relate the external actions of men, but the internal motives from whence they proceeded, free from all fiction and falsehood.

ROBERT HALDANE: In those histories, the thoughts and secret motives of men are often unfolded and referred to.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): And in this the Bible excels. The sacred writers describe to the very life. They fear no displeasure; they conceal no imperfection; they spare no censure. And while they discover their impartiality, they equally prove their wisdom and prudence. This appears from the examples they delineate…we are led into private life; we contemplate ordinary scenes; we see goodness in our own relations and circumstances; we behold blemishes which we are to avoid, excellencies which we are to pursue, advantages which we are to acquire. Thus, the Scripture becomes not a glaring comet, but a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path, Psalm 119:105.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: And when you read about some of these characters in the Old Testament, David and so on, you’re not reading a history book, you’re reading about yourself. You say, “That’s me! It’s all very well; it looks terrible in David, but I’ve got that sort of thing in me.”

C. H. SPURGEON: In the case of every errant course there is always a first wrong step. If we can trace that wrong step, we may be able to avoid it and its results.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: A wise man always learns from the mistakes of others who are in the same business, whatever it may be. He sees a man going to disaster, and he asks, “Well, what exactly did that man do that he should not have done? Where did he go wrong, where did he make a mistake? Ah,” he says, “it was at this or that point. Very well, I am going to watch that point.” Now that is wisdom…We can learn, and learn tremendously, from the Old Testament. Let us make use of it, let us read it, let us take it in; and it will make us strong. As we see warnings, and the dangers, we are strengthened, we are on guard, and we are ready to quit ourselves as men.

WILLIAM JAY: Christians stand in the same relation to God now, as the Jews of old. And are we better than they? In no wise. And were not God’s dealings with them designed to be typical of His dealings with us? They were: and in reading their history, we may peruse our own.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK (1628-1680): The Old Testament is therefore to be read for the strengthening of our faith.


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