“Genesis, Leviticus, Samuel, Chronicles, Psalms, Zechariah, ‘Make us wise for salvation through Jesus.’ That is, you can read your Old Testament and be saved!”
But, “I think many Christian people don’t see Him in there either. I think we see the Old Testament as good guidelines for moral living. Have the faith of Abraham, don’t be an adulterer like David and that’s about it!”
This all started when accomplished author Michael Raiter received a request to write a series of 40 studies for Lent for next year. Lent being the part of the church year that leads up to Good Friday and Easter.
Michael’s new book ‘Shadows of the Cross’ encourages readers to reflect on the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The theme of the book explores how the Old Testament foretold the coming of the death of the Messiah in pictures, poems and prophecies.
Michael Raiter is exceptionally qualified to write such a book. He’s written more than 30 books and articles including the 2004 Christian book of the year ‘Stirrings of the Soul’.
There’s a thread that runs through the Old Testament that looks forward to a time when God will intervene in the plight of sinful humanity.
The Old Testament provides the anticipation of the coming Messiah fulfilling the promises of Abraham that all the nations of the world would have access to the redemption of God.
‘Shadows of the Cross’ is about seeing Jesus in the Old Testament, with Michael extracting the Scriptures that foretell the coming of the biggest issue in history – Jesus of Nazareth.
“It seemed to me appropriate given it’s Lent and we’re thinking about the Cross and the Resurrection that we look at that issue, particularly the Cross and do that in a place where we don’t often go and that’s the Old Testament.”
Michael acknowledged certain well known prophecies such as Isaiah 53 which points to the Cross, but he’s of the opinion that Christians don’t tend to read their Old Testaments with Christ-focused glasses.
“The whole of the Old Testament is a preparation for the coming of the Messiah, the coming of Christ who will die and rise again.”
Although Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter Michael said the book is suitable to be read at any time.
“For centuries we’ve had the church calendar that churches around the world would follow. But what we have left now is Christmas and Easter and probably nothing else.”
But there’s a sector of the church that still follows the events in the church calendar.
“There are strengths in doing that,” Michael commented, saying the church he attends celebrates Trinity Sunday and Pentecost Sunday.
“This is a time to focus on key events in the history of our faith.”
“And Lent is an important part where you take 40 days to reflect on and prepare for the central events of our life of faith – the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and this book is helping people to do that,” Michael said.
What Michael Raiter wants his latest book to achieve most of all is to help people understand how to read the Bible.
“For example I mentioned 2 Timothy 3:15. For me this is a key verse where Paul talks about Scripture by which he means the Old Testament, and says to Timothy, ‘Make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ’.”
Michael said we know the Gospels and Paul’s letters do that in the New Testament. But what about the OT books?
“Genesis, Leviticus, Samuel, Chronicles, Psalms, Zechariah, make us wise for salvation through Jesus. That is, you can read your Old Testament and be saved!”
“You can find the way of salvation in Jesus Christ through reading the Old Testament, and I think most Christians understand that.”
As the title of Michael Raiter’s book states – ‘Shadows of the Cross’ is about what the Old Testament Scriptures reveal.
“But in the light of day there’s enough there in the Old Testament to lead someone to faith in Christ,” Michael declared and said the New Testament believers would have had the stories of Jesus and later Paul’s writings, but their Bibles at the time were Old Testament.
“I think when they gathered together in their homes weekly for a meal together and prayer and singing, they opened their Bibles which was the Old Testament.”
Michael said they would have read them, reflected upon them and understood them in the light of the coming of Jesus.
Yet the Jewish people today still have trouble seeing Jesus as their Messiah and are waiting for another Messiah.
Michael referred to Paul in Romans where he talks about a hardening for a time.
“These things are spiritually revealed and it takes God’s Spirit to open our eyes to see Jesus whether you’re Jewish, Muslim, or Agnostic,” said Michael, repeating that it takes a spiritual work to see the Lord Jesus Christ in the Bible.
“And we pray that He does that in the hearts and minds and eyes of Jewish people.”
“It’s a way for us in the Bible, not as 66 discreet books, but as one story with a beginning a middle and an end.”
Michael said it’s not just Jewish people who don’t see Jesus in the Old Testament.
“I think many Christian people don’t see Him in their either. I think we see the Old Testament as good guidelines for moral living. Have the faith of Abraham, don’t be an adulterer like David and that’s about it!”
“It’s not in our minds for the Old Testament to give us the Way of Salvation.”
It can be recognised that some of those OT prophecies for example, point to the betrayal of Judas and the mocking of Christ, but it’s far more than that.
“It’s the whole story! The story of the Old Testament is the whole story!” Michael emphasised.
“It’s the preparation for the coming of the Messiah. It begins there in Genesis 3 – the promise of One who will come and crush the serpent’s head.”
“And all that God does through history is preparing us for the coming of the One who will right the wrongs that took place at the Fall in the Garden of Eden.”
The answer to the question as to whether Jesus appears in the Bible from the New Testament onwards or whether He was there from the get-go, Michael Raiter would say it’s definitely the latter.
“I would say of course He was there from the very beginning. He’s there in Genesis 1.”
“We know from the New Testament God made the world and in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and by the Word all things were made,” Michael recited.
“So even in Genesis 1 we find the Lord Jesus there as the creative power of all things.”
But as Michael explained, what God gives us is a picture in the nation of Israel. There’s His Son, and there are His people, the people who are meant to be a light to the nations and draw people to Himself. But the story of Israel turns out to be essentially a story of their failure to do that.
“Then comes the Man who calls Himself the true Israel,” Michael stressed.
“The One who’s the true life to the nations, the One who’s the true Son of God whose light and life draws people to Himself.”
“The whole history of Israel is in a sense the preparation for the coming of Jesus.”
‘Shadows of the Cross’ by Michael Raiter is published by Anglican Press Australia.
In these 40 daily devotions, Michael Raiter encourages readers to reflect on the death of the Lord Jesus by exploring how the Old Testament foretold the coming of the death of the Messiah in pictures, poems and prophecies.
While we may not see Jesus as clearly in promise as we do in fulfillment, the Old Testament is like a shadow that points to the reality – the gift of God’s Son which demonstrates the length, breadth, height and depth of God’s love for us. In this way the Old Testament calls all people to put their faith in Jesus.”
– See Christian Education Publications for a preview and ordering details.
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