When we are reading a passage from the Old Testament, how should we seek to apply it to our lives? How should we seek to encourage others to live? If “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful” (2 Timothy 3:16-17), what is the right way to use it?
When you read a passage of the Old Testament, look for how it foreshadows, illustrates, or points forward to The Gospel. Consider how it fits into the historic narrative of God’s unfolding plan for His people.
Do not make the mistake of allegorizing and moralizing:
- Dare to be like Daniel!
- Face your Goliaths with courage and “five smooth stones!” like David!
- “March” around your “enemy city” seven times while “blowing trumpets” like Joshua!
- Pare your “army” down to “300 men” like Gideon!
This sort of application is a mistake. We are not to put ourselves in the hero’s place in the story to try and discover how this passage applies to us personally. The personal application of the Old Testament passage is to realize that it is telling your family history.
These things were written for our instruction (Romans 15:4), that is, to teach us who we are and what we are like as a people. To teach us that we are great sinners in need of a great savior (Galatians 3:23-24), and most of all, they point forward to the promised Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 24:27).
I have been surprised recently by a fair amount of pushback to this idea. I believe the primary reason for the pushback is because of how we evangelical kids were taught in Sunday school. Good-hearted, untrained teachers, not knowing how to handle the passages and following curriculum created by people looking for patterns to apply and behaviors to teach, taught us to moralize, allegorize, and ultimately to mishandle the Scriptures.
But I believe there is something deeper at play as well. This is not simply a theological or hermeneutical problem. More on this later.