The Hebrew Scriptures
The Hebrew scriptures constitute the major portion, volume wise, of our Bible. In total, there are 39 books we call the Hebrew scriptures, Genesis through Malachi. These Hebrew books span a period of time of over 4, 000 years. They include two important dispensations or periods of time known simply as Patriarchy (Genesis 4 through Exodus 20) and the Law of Moses (Exodus 20 through Acts 2). Most people think of the Ten Commandment Law God gave Israel in connection with the Hebrew books (Ex. 20, Deut. 5, mostly originally written in Hebrew). Some distinguish these 39 books from the 27 books of the New Testament by designating the 39 books as the "Old Testament," in contrast to the New Testament. The scriptures are unmistakable in declaring the Law of Moses as being superceded by the Law of Christ and grace. John wrote, "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (Jn. 1: 17). The "handwriting of ordinances" (Law of Moses) was "blotted out," "took out of the way," and "nailed to his cross" (Col. 2: 14, see also 2 Cor. 3). Since no man is to attempt justification by the Law of Moses today, of what value are the Hebrew scriptures (Gal. 5: 4)?
The Hebrew scriptures are inspired of God. The expression "thus saith the Lord" occurs approximately 2, 000 times in the Hebrew books (cp. Ex. 20: 1). Many Hebrew authors clearly claimed and declared inspiration (2 Sam. 23: 1, 2, Ezek. 1: 3, Jere. 1: 6-9). The New Testament confirms the inspiration of the first covenant books (2 Pet. 1: 21, Heb. 1: 1, 2 Tim. 3: 16, 17). Regarding the Hebrew scriptures, Peter wrote the following: "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1: 21).
Genesis through Malachi contain many examples in general for us today. The Hebrew scriptures are replete with both positive and negative examples and how God responded to these situations. In this vein, Paul penned the following in an effort to teach and warn the Christians at Corinth regarding their lofty and arrogant attitudes:
"5: But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6: Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7: Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8: Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9: Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10: Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11: Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12: Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 13: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Cor. 10, references are made to the examples found in Num. 14; Ex. 32; Num. 21; and Num. 10).
From the first 39 books, we learn the recurring principle "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door " (Gen. 4: 7).
The Old Covenant scriptures constitute the foundation for the New Covenant. It was prophesied that there would be a "new covenant" "not according to the covenant" God made with Israel (Jere. 31: 31-34, see fulfillment in Hebrews 8: 7-13). From the Hebrew scriptures we learn of the origin of all things created, the beginning of sin, the great global flood, and the beginning of nations and tongues (Gen. 1; 3; 6-9; Gen. 10; Gen. 11). Hundreds of prophecies point to Christ, his virgin birth; vicarious death; his church; his reign; and the salvation he would offer (Isa. 7: 14; 53; 2; Zech. 6: 12, 13; Isa. 2). One has remarked that "the Old Covenant is the New Covenant prophetically viewed and the New Covenant is the Old Covenant in fulfillment." The Hebrew scriptures can "make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3: 15-17). The New Testament without the Hebrew scriptures has been compared to a house without a foundation.
The Old Covenant contains moral enunciations. As noticed, the Old Covenant that God made with Israel was superceded by the New Covenant that is designed for all nations (Mk. 16: 15 ff.). However, many of the teachings found in the Hebrew scriptures are of a moral nature that cannot be circumvented to any dispensational considerations. In fact, nine of the moral enunciations we call the Ten Commandments are found in God's New Covenant (cp. Ex. 20: 3-17 with Rom. 13: 9 and Jas. 2: 8-12). Care must be taken, though, lest one confuse a law that peculiarly pertained to Israel (Deut. 5: 3, Gal. 5: 4). Many of our civil laws are based on God's theocratic structure that existed within the framework of the Law of Moses.
Genesis through Malachi contain numerous presentations of exemplary saving faith. There is the wonderful example of the three Hebrew children Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 3). In fact, there is a chapter in the New Testament that man has come to think of as containing "inspiration's hall of fame" (Heb. 11). Notice some of these instances and how they illustrate saving faith:
"1: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2: For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3: Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. 4: By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. 5: By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6: But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 7: By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. 8: By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9: By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11: Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised" (Heb. 11).
Notice that "faith" is active and transitive in grammatical application. Abel offered; Noah prepared; and Abraham sojourned (Heb. 11: 4; 7; 8, see also vs. 12-40). Saving faith is always active and obedient, regardless of the dispensation in which faith is being considered (Jas. 2: 14-26).
In conclusion, I again stress we are not under the theocratic system set forth in the Hebrew scriptures. As Gentiles, we were never officially under the Law of Moses. However, these books are indispensable in understanding the 27 books that constitute the New Testament, the last and final covenant of Jesus Christ (Heb. 1: 1-3, 7; 8). The attitude that the books of Genesis through Malachi are without value is patently wrong. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime," Paul wrote regarding the Hebrew books, "were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15: 4, to read relevant additonal material, click on "Jesus and the Law of Moses").