Knowing the Old Testament
Urim and Thummim
The story ahs been told of a young man who was a recent graduate of a theological seminary. Educated beyond his intelligence, he had arrived at the spot where he thought he knew all the answers to all the theological problems and was eager to parade his knowledge. He came to a certain town where lived an elderly Christian layman who had never been to a Bible school or seminary but had taught himself the Word of God under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. In a very humble way, he had gained a reputation as a man of wise counsel. When the prideful young theologian heard about him, he said, “I’d like to meet that man. I think I could ask him a question or two that he couldn’t answer!”
So a meeting was arranged. The first thing the young man said was, “Sir, I hear that you have quite a reputation as a Bible student. I’d like to ask you a question.” The old man said, “Well, I don’t know if I can answer it, but I’d be glad to try. What is your question?” The young man said, “Tell me, what were the Urim and the Thummim? The old man thought a moment, then said, “Well, sir, I don’t know really, and I don’t think anyone else does either. We do know the names mean ‘lights’ and ‘perfections’ and that these were the instruments by which the high priest could determine the mind of God in specific instances. Beyond that, I don’t think I could go. But you know, I’ve found that if we change just one letter in these words, we have the instrument by which we can know the mind and will of God in our lives.”
The young man was a bit puzzled. “What do you mean?” The old man said, “Well, if you change the ‘r’ in Urim to an ‘s’, you’ll make it ‘Usim and Thummim.’ And when I want to know the mind of God, I just take the pages of my Bible and I ‘Usim and Thummim.’ And by that means I can learn whatever I need to know!”
"THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE CHRISTIAN"
1. What benefit is the Old Testament (OT) to the Christian today?
a. Is the Christian under the OT as a system of justification?
b. Should the Christian look to the OT for guidance regarding the
work, worship, and organization of the Lord's church?
-- If not, why even bother with reading and studying the OT?
2. It is true that Christians are not under the OT...
a. Gentile Christians were never under the OT (or Old Covenant)
1) The Old Covenant was made with the Israelites at
(Sinai) - Deu 5:1-2
2) Not even Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., were under the Old
Covenant - Deu 5:3
-- Therefore Gentile Christians were not required to be
circumcised or keep the Law - Ac 15:1-29
b. Jewish Christians have been delivered from the OT law
1) Through the body of Christ - Ro 7:1-6
2) By His death on the cross, Jesus brought the OT covenant to an
end - Ep 2:14-16
-- Its purpose was to lead the Jews to Christ - Ga 3:23-25
3. Unfortunately, some Christians conclude from this that we need not
read the OT...
a. I have known individuals who have been Christians for more than
sixty years who had never read through the OT once
b. I have heard of some who will not attend services if the Bible
class or sermon series is based upon the OT
-- "Why bother, if we are not under the OT?", is the reasoning of
4. Is that the proper attitude of Christians toward the OT? This
a. Is wrong, contrary to the teaching of the NT itself!
b. Deprives the Christian of a wonderful source of peace and comfort
God provides for His children today!
c. Prevents the Christian from gaining wisdom and understanding
concerning the life that now is, and that which is to come!
[To help us to appreciate the value of the Old Testament, let's begin
I. WHY STUDY THE OLD TESTAMENT?
A. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR OUR ADMONITION - 1 Co 10:11
1. Paul had just reminded the Christians at Corinth of Israel's
fall in the wilderness - 1 Co 10:1-10
2. Note carefully what he says in 1 Co 10:11
a. The events described may have happened to
b. But "they were written for OUR admonition, upon whom the
ends of the ages have come"
-- What we call the OT was written and preserved especially
for the benefit of Christians!
3. We should not be surprised to see how often NT writers
appealed to the OT in admonishing Christians
a. As Paul does here
b. As the writer of Hebrews, in exhorting Christians to remain
steadfast - He 3:12-19
c. As James, in encouraging Christians to be patient in their
suffering - Ja 5:7-11
d. As Peter, in warning of false teachers and scoffers
- 2 Pe 2-3
B. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR OUR LEARNING - Ro 15:4
1. Paul had just appealed to a Messianic prophecy in the OT
- Ro 15:3
2. Note carefully what he said in Ro 15:4
a. Things "written before" (i.e., the OT) were "written for
b. Again, the OT was written and preserved especially for the
c. The OT provides "patience and comfort", that we "might
3. The OT provides a record of God's faithfulness, how He kept
a. To Abraham and the nation of
b. To judge the wicked and avenge the righteous
c. To forgive the penitent, and protect the humble
-- As we read this history of God's dealings with
, it Israel
gives us hope that God will keep His promises to us!
C. IT MAKES ONE WISE REGARDING SALVATION IN CHRIST - 2 Ti 3:14-15
1. Paul noted that Timothy had known the "Holy Scriptures" since
a. When Timothy was a child, the only scriptures available was
b. So Paul clearly had the OT in view
2. He said the OT is "able to make you wise for salvation through
faith which is in Christ Jesus"
3. How is this possible? The OT provides:
a. The fall of man and the rise of sin
b. The background and development of God's scheme of
c. Hundreds of Messianic prophecies which describe what to
expect when He comes
4. One cannot hope to fully understand such books of the New
a. Hebrews, without an understanding of the Levitical
b. Revelation, without an understanding of OT prophecy and
-- If one wishes to be wise concerning their salvation in Christ,
it is imperative to study the Old Testament!
D. IT IS PROFITABLE FOR DOCTRINE, REPROOF, CORRECTION, INSTRUCTION
IN RIGHTEOUSNESS - 2 Ti 3:16-17
1. "All Scripture" would include the OT scriptures, especially in
the context of this passage
2. Therefore the OT is profitable for:
a. Doctrine - such as the nature of God, man, and sin
b. Reproof and correction - the need for repentance
c. Instruction in righteousness - how to live godly lives
3. Note that the apostles frequently appealed to the OT in
instructing Christians concerning their conduct:
a. E.g., Ro 12:19-21; 2 Co 6:16-7:1; 9:7-10
b. E.g., Ja 2:20-26
c. E.g., 1 Pe 3:8-12
[Should the Christian study the Old Testament? Of course! Along with
the NT, it was written:
"that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for
every good work." (2 Ti 3:17)
To not read and study the OT is to deprive one of much admonition,
learning, wisdom, and instruction that God intended for His children!
In encouraging others to study the OT, let me offer some...]
II. SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDYING THE OLD TESTAMENT
A. INCLUDE IT IN YOUR BIBLE READING PROGRAM...
1. Do not limit your daily Bible reading to just the NT
2. I encourage one to read the whole Bible through each year,
both OT and NT
a. I usually start with Genesis and end with Revelation
b. Others prefer reading portions from both OT and NT each day
throughout the year
-- The important thing is to make the OT a part of your regular
study of the Bible
B. CONSIDER USING A MODERN TRANSLATION...
1. I grew up on the KJV, and had little problem with the NT; but
the OT was extremely difficult for me
2. In high school, I began reading the NASB, and the OT came
alive for me!
-- I personally recommend either the NKJV or the NASB
C. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF BIBLE CLASSES OR SERMON SERIES...
1. If your congregation offers a study in the OT, take it!
2. If the preacher presents a series from the OT, give close
attention to it!
-- Don't be like some who won't attend whenever the class or
sermon is on the OT
D. GIVE SPECIAL ATTENTION TO PSALMS, PROVERBS, AND THE PROPHETS...
1. Certainly all of God's word is of great value
2. But one might appreciate the value of the OT more quickly, by
giving attention to:
a. The Psalms - as a great source of comfort, peace, and
drawing near to God, especially in troubling times
b. The Proverbs - as a great source of practical wisdom for
c. The Prophets - as a great source for learning about the
righteousness, justice, mercy and love of God
1. Should one study only those Scriptures that pertain to the covenant
or dispensation under which they live? If so...
a. The Jews should have discarded Genesis, and the first fourteen
chapters of Exodus!
b. We should discard the gospels, since Jesus lived and died under
the Old Covenant!
2. We should not ignore the OT, for it provides...
a. The background and setting of the NT
b. Much in the way of admonition, learning, comfort, hope, even
wisdom concerning our salvation in Christ!
Be careful not to neglect that which was written and preserved for OUR
"For whatever things were written before were written for OUR
learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the
Scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4)
"Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they
were written for OUR admonition, upon whom the ends of the
ages have come." (1 Corinthians 10:11)
And remember that...
"ALL Scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable..."
(2 Timothy 3:16)
Introduction To The Minor Prophets
1. While Christians are not under the Old Testament as a system of
justification, the OT is of great value for us today...
a. Written for our learning, it is a source of comfort and hope
- Ro 15:4
b. Written for our admonition, we learn what mistakes to avoid
- 1 Co 10:11
c. As with all scripture inspired of God, it is profitable "for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness" - cf. 2 Ti 3:14-17
2. This is especially true with regard to "The Minor Prophets"...
a. A collection of twelve books that make up the last part of the
b. Beginning with Hosea, and ending with Malachi
3. Those willing to study these books will find their lives enriched as
a. Their knowledge of God's holiness, righteousness, justice and
b. Their understanding of God's dealings in the nations of men
c. Their appreciation of the Bible as a literary masterpiece
[With this lesson, we begin a series of studies in which we will survey
"The Minor Prophets". Before we examine our first book, some
introductory material may prove helpful...]
I. WHO WERE THE PROPHETS?
A. THE OLD COVENANT HAD DIFFERENT KINDS OF INSTRUCTORS...
1. There was Moses, the lawgiver - Neh 8:1,14; 9:13-14; Jn 1:17;
2. There were the priests, administrators of the law - Lev 10:
8-11; Hos 4:6; Eze 22:26; Mal 2:7
3. There were the wise men, who gave counsel - 2 Sam 14:1-24;
4. There were the psalmists, poets who were the "sweet singers"
- cf. 2 Sam 23:1; 1 Chr 6:33 Israel
5. There were the prophets, communicators of the Word of God
B. A "PROPHET" WAS A SPOKESMAN FOR ANOTHER...
1. Like Aaron was for his brother Moses - Exo 4:16; 7:1
2. The word literally means "to boil up like a fountain"
3. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, a prophet...
a. Was a spokesman for God - 2 Pe 1:21
b. Was given something to say, and had to say it! - Jer 20:7-9
4. A prophet was primarily a "forth-teller", though sometimes a
a. God's word often pertained to future events
b. The fulfilled prophecies of these prophets are therefore a
strong proof of inspiration
-- But much of their word concerned not the future, but
C. OTHER DESIGNATIONS HELP TO DEFINE THE ROLE OF A PROPHET...
1. Early in
's history they were called "seers" - 1 Sam 9:9 Israel
2. Another appellation was "man of God" - 1 Sam 9:6; 1 Kin 17:18
3. Also known as a "servant of God" - 1 Kin 18:36; 1 Chr 6:49
4. They served as God's "messenger" - Isa 42:19
5. They were also assigned the role of "watchman" - Eze 3:17;
[The prophets were therefore servants of God, divinely appointed and
inspired to proclaim His Word. At times, they were messengers of God's
word as it applied to the present, serving as watchmen of the people of
God; other times, God's message pertained to the future, and as such
they were "seers" of things to come.]
II. HOW ARE THE PROPHETS CLASSIFIED?
A. IT IS COMMON TO SPEAK OF "ORAL" AND "LITERARY" PROPHETS...
1. The "oral" prophets are those who left no writings bearing
a. Such as Elijah and Elisha - cf. 1 Kin 17; 2 Kin 2
b. Many others, including Nathan (2 Sam 12), Gad (2 Sam
24:11), Ahijah (1 Kin 11:29)
2. Those who left books bearing their names are called the
B. THE LITERARY PROPHETS ARE CATEGORIZED AS "MAJOR" AND "MINOR"
1. Augustine is credited with being the first to classify them in
2. The distinction pertains only to the length of the books
a. The "major prophets" include the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah,
Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
b. The "minor prophets" are those twelve books from Hosea to
[As we consider the works of the "literary" prophets, we should note
that the order of the books in our Bibles is not chronological.
Therefore it may serve useful to review...]
III. THE LITERARY PROPHETS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
Please note: Dating the prophets is not without controversy, and with
some it can be very difficult. What I provide below are the estimates
among many conservative scholars...
A. NINTH CENTURY (EARLY ASSYRIAN PERIOD)
1. Obadiah (ca. 845 B.C)
2. Joel (ca 830 B.C.)
3. Jonah (790-750 B.C.)
-- This is during the period of "The Divided Kingdom" in
history; to the north and east the empire of
beginning to make its presence known in
B. EIGHTH CENTURY (ASSYRIAN PERIOD)
1. Amos (755 B.C.)
2. Hosea (750-725 B.C.)
3. Isaiah (740-700 B.C.)
4. Micah (735-700 B.C.)
-- In 722 B.C., the northern kingdom of
was taken into Israel
Assyrian captivity; these prophets were proclaiming God's
message as the nation was being threatened from the north
C. SEVENTH CENTURY (CHALDEAN PERIOD)
1. Jeremiah (626-586 B.C.)
2. Zephaniah (630-625 B.C.)
3. Nahum (625-612 B.C.)
4. Habakkuk (625-605 B.C.)
-- Assyria was eventually defeated by
; these prophets Babylon
served as God's messengers when the Babylonian empire
D. SIXTH CENTURY (THE EXILE)
1. Ezekiel (593-570 B.C.)
2. Daniel (605-536 B.C.)
-- Like many of their countrymen, these prophets were taken into
Babylonian captivity; from
they served as God's Babylon
messengers to both captives and kings
E. SIXTH AND FIFTH CENTURIES (POST-EXILIC PERIOD)
1. Haggai (520 B.C.)
2. Zechariah (520-518 B.C.)
3. Malachi (ca. 440 B.C.)
-- After the Jews were allowed to return home from Babylonian
captivity, God used Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the
people to rebuild the temple; later, Malachi was used to
reform the priesthood during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah
[Finally, here are some thoughts on...]
IV. UNDERSTANDING THE MESSAGE OF THE PROPHETS
A. THREE THINGS TO BEAR IN MIND AS YOU STUDY THE PROPHETS...
1. Seek to understand the political, social and religious
conditions of the times
a. Any interpretation must consider how the message was
relevant for the people to whom the prophet spoke
b. Secondary fulfillment of prophecy is often found in the NT,
but this can be understood only when applied by inspired
writers of the NT
c. Guard against making interpretations that are purely
d. Any application to modern events must be carefully
harmonized in light of the NT
2. Consider God's relation to the heathen nations (i.e., other
Israeland ) Judah
a. The prophets often revealed how God directed their destiny
and judged them
b. This may provide insight as to how Christ rules the nations
today! - cf. Mt 28:18; Re 1:5; 2:26;27
3. Note any teaching regarding the Messiah and His coming kingdom
- Ac 26:6-7; 28:20
a. The immediate mission of most prophets was to save God's
people from idolatry and wickedness
b. Failing that, they were sent to announce God's judgment and
the coming destruction of the nation
c. But many prophets left a message of hope for the future,
regarding the Messiah who would come and establish a
kingdom that could never be destroyed!
B. SOME OF THE GREAT THEMES DEVELOPED BY THE PROPHETS...
1. The holiness of God - He is absolutely pure, righteous, just,
merciful, tender, loving, and longsuffering
2. The sovereignty of God - He rules the universe and is above
3. The immutability of God's word
a. He carries out His promises
b. One can depend upon Him to act consistently with His Word
4. The terribleness of sin
a. God abhors iniquity, and will not tolerate, overlook, nor
b. But He is willing to forgive those who humbly repent
5. Repentance and righteousness
a. This is the clarion call of the prophets
b. Though severe is God's punishment of the wicked, yet God's
mercy is great in loving kindness upon the righteous who
are of broken spirit and contrite heart
6. The worship due God - The proper reverence, awe, and respect
for God will cause one to praise Him and give thanks for His
wonderful grace and mercy!
1. Why study "The Minor Prophets"?
a. This question was asked by a dear sister in Christ, when I
preached this series before
b. She did not see the value of Christians studying this portion of
the Old Testament
c. Yet, she later remarked how much she got out of our study
2. Why study "The Minor Prophets"? Because in them we learn about...
a. The nature of God, His holiness, justice, righteousness and mercy
b. The workings of God, as He dealt with nations, bringing judgment
upon the guilty
...which can help us in our relationship with God today, giving us
comfort and hope to face the future, knowing that God is in
I hope this brief introduction has whetted your appetite to study "The
Minor Prophets". Our next lesson will begin the study in earnest with
a look at the book of Obadiah...