grace notes-pastoral letter 7-27-22

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,

It was a joy to open the Scriptures together with you this past Lord’s Day – learning, growing, and praising our God together.  What a gift we have in the Word of God!  It is something that has been on my mind a lot lately, and particularly this week, as we are dealing with the written Word on Wednesday nights and were able to ponder Christ as the substance of the Old Testament on Sunday.  It is something the Lord stressed, as He spoke to His people about His Word in Deuteronomy 4, telling them to take it to heart and then asking what other people were so blessed as God’s people, to whom He had drawn near and revealed Himself (cf. Deut 4:4-8).  Truly, it is an enormous privilege to have the Bible – the out-breathed Word of God – in our hands, and much more in our hearts.  And, all the more so as we read and reread it, learning to see Christ on every page – gold for the soul, just waiting to be mined from every portion and passage of Scripture.  That He is indeed to be found all throughout the Word is something the Lord Jesus stressed after He had risen from the dead, as He walked and talked two men on the road to Emmaus.  Recognizing their failure to see Him and properly learn of Him from the Old Testament, such that they were surprised by His sufferings and death, we’re told, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Lk 24:27).  In order to teach them about their Savior, that Savior Himself took them back to the Old Testament and walked them through it, showing them how all the Scriptures had something to say of Him.  Naturally, this is true of direct Messianic prophecies.  But, it goes much further than that.  Just think of two examples to see what I mean.

The Bible teaches us that Old Testament history of Israel pointed to and foreshadowed Christ.  The passage I have in mind is Matthew 2:15.  Leading up to this verse, Joseph was warned by an angel in a dream that Herod was about to search for young Jesus, in order to kill Him.  So, following the angel’s direction, Joseph took his family and fled to Egypt.  Then comes verse 15, which says, “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”  The citation is taken from Hosea 11:1, which says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”  What makes this so interesting is that Hosea’s words clearly have direct reference to the Exodus, when the Lord saved the Israelites from Pharaoh’s harsh oppression – leading them out with great signs and wonders.  So, left to ourselves, we might well read Hosea 11:1, understand him to be describing the history of Israel, and go no further.  But, the Lord won’t have it.  Instead, He insists that we look again and understand that Hosea’s words not only pointed backward to what God had done, but also pointed forward to what He would yet do.  Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt and Hosea’s description of it were both given to reveal something about the Lord Jesus Christ, who, in retracing Israel’s steps would prove the perfect Son of God that Israel failed to be, and in accomplishing a far greater Exodus through His death and resurrection, would lead His people not to the earthly land of Canaan, but to that heavenly Canaan wherein righteousness dwells.  In this way, Matthew helps us to see that not only specific, particularly clear Messianic passages, but the whole history of Israel prefigures the Lord Jesus, so that we can better understand His life and ministry if we’ll only take the time to learn about the history He came to bring to completion.  He went into and out of Egypt like Israel, He was tempted in the desert like Israel, He preached about the Law from a mount like Moses, and on it goes.  Which means, the 39 books before Matthew have an awful lot to help us fill out our knowledge of our Savior, enriching our faith and fueling our praise.  The Bible itself teaches that the Old Testament history of Israel pointed to and foreshadowed Jesus Christ.

Likewise, the Bible teaches that particular Old Testament events pointed to and foreshadowed Christ.  Here, I am thinking of Matthew 12:40.  There, having condemned the scribes and Pharisees for demanding a sign from Him when He had already given so many, Jesus said they would be given no other sign than that of Jonah the prophet, adding, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  In short, the Lord Jesus says that well-known events of Jonah’s sea voyage, when he was swallowed by a great fish and didn’t see light until the third day, were pointing to and revealing something about the coming Christ.  As with the reference in Matthew 2 above, this too proves interesting in that, when we turn back to Jonah, we find no clear reference to the Messiah.  Thus, again,  without Matthew’s guidance, we might well read Jonah and think no further than to reach some general conclusions about the character of our God, who dealt so firmly and mercifully with Jonah all at once.  But again, the Lord won’t let us stop there.  He tells us that Jonah and the things that happened to him were a sign, a shadowy picture, leading us to Christ, His death, and His resurrection on the third day.  So that, once more, were pressed to see that if we skim over our Old Testaments, or read them with an eye only to the history of Israel and given individuals, without asking how these things are related to Christ, we fail to see and enjoy much of the treasure the Lord has stored up for us in His Word.  So that, we ought rather to read with the anticipation of meeting Christ in every passage, and with prayers flowing through our lips for the Lord to reveal Him to us.  Yes, the Bible itself teaches that particular Old Testament events pointed to and foreshadowed Christ.

Therefore, as the writer to the Hebrews said when He wanted to impress the same need to diligently study the Old Testament in order to better know Christ, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb 2:1).  Let us take the Lord at His Word, understanding the Lord Jesus Christ to be woven into every leaf of sacred Scripture, and, desiring to know Him better, let us make a habit of careful, prayerful study of the entirety of the Bible, asking the Lord to help us to more clearly see and more deeply love the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.  May God make us a people who ‘bleed Bible’, who know Christ well, and who are prepared to worship and proclaim Him from Genesis, from Revelation, and from everything in between.

In Christ,

Pastor Eric