The Importance of Teaching the Old Testament with David Murray, Part 2

Teaching the Old Testament is important. Without it, we miss (at least) half the story. Here is the rest of my interview with David Murray, author of Jesus on Every Page.

Pat: How does teaching/preaching the Old Testament to children differ from teaching/preaching it to adults?

David: When teaching children, our focus is usually on the stories, the Old Testament narratives. It’s harder for kids to appreciate the prophets. However, the psalms help kids form devotional habits and the Proverbs also give lots of practical advice, especially for teens.

Pat: How do you teach the Old Testament to your children?

David: We read through the Old Testament in our morning family worship and the New Testament in the evening. We usually spend about five minutes or so asking our children questions or answering their questions. We encourage our children to read through the Old Testament books in their own private reading.

Pat: How is the church currently teaching the Old Testament well and how is it doing it poorly?

David: Although the Old Testament had fallen out of favor with the church for many years, I see a bit of a revival in interest in it, especially in preaching and teaching it in a Christ-centered way. The gospel-centered movement and the surge of interest in biblical theology has also produced a revival of interest in the Old Testament.

The one area I’d like to see more growth in is in seeing Christ in the Old Testament. Not just seeing the Old Testament as pointing to him, but actually revealing him as present in the Old Testament.

Pat: What advice would give to both parent and children's ministry leaders/workers when teaching the Old Testament to children?

David: The most important advice I’d give is to teach the children that the Old Testament believers were saved exactly the same way we are – by grace through faith in Christ. The only two differences being that they looked forward in faith to Christ’s person and work and we look back, and they saw less clearly than we do. But Hebrews 11 teaches us to view them as Christian brothers and sisters.

The second piece of advice is to use a simple Old Testament timeline so that the kids can build up an overall view of the course of Biblical history.

I'm thankful for David Murray for a lot of reasons. For him taking the time to grant this interview, for his writing; both books and his blog, and his pastor's heart. Get a copy of the book, and get into the Old Testament.

The Importance of Teaching the Old Testament with David Murray, Part 1

As we wrap up our month long series of posts on teaching the Old Testament to Kids, I wanted to get the perspective of David Murray. He is a pastor, professor, author and blogger. His book, Jesus on Every Page is an awesome reminder and resource on this topic. Here is my interview:

Pat: In your own words, why would say teaching the Old Testament is important?

David: Apart from it being the Word of God and profitable for our instruction, reproof, etc. (2 Tim. 3:16), I’d give the following reasons.

1. The Old Testament reveals Christ.

The Old Testament does not just “point forward” to Christ; it reveals him. It is not merely a series of signposts to Christ; his bright and revealing shadow falls on every page, exciting faith and love in believing hearts.

2. The Old Testament is a dictionary of Christian vocabulary.

When we come to a word, phrase, or concept in the New Testament, our first question should be, “What does the Old Testament say about this?” Remember, the New Testament was originally written by Jews, and much of it was written to Jews. It assumes a knowledge of the Old Testament, and builds upon it. 

3. The Old Testament presents doctrine in story form.

God’s not only given us laws, He’s given us lives. He’s incarnated His ten moral principles in the lives of Old Testament characters, providing us with fascinating biographies to inspire and warn (1 Cor. 10:11; Luke 17:32). 

We also see New Testament doctrines worked out in Old Testament believers’ lives: through typology we learn most about Christ’s priesthood from Aaron, Christ’s kingship from David, and Christ’s prophetic office from Moses. Abraham demonstrates justifying faith, Elijah portrays effectual and fervent prayer, Ruth and Naomi display the communion of saints, Job perseveres through the Lord’s preservation, and David exhibits how forgiveness and chastisement are often experienced together. And it’s all in the vivid Technicolor and Dolby of flesh and blood humanity.

4. The Old Testamentcomforts and encourages us.

As we read the Old Testament narratives, we experience the beautiful comfort and hope that Paul promised us would accompany such study (Rom. 15:4). We are comforted with God’s sovereign love, majestic power, and covenant faithfulness in his relationship with Israel. 

When we know the Old Testament backgrounds of the “Hall of Fathers” in Hebrews 11, we are encouraged to follow their Christ-focused faith and spirituality.  

In the Psalms, we’re given songs that have comforted and encouraged believers throughout the world and throughout the centuries.

And when we see the way that hundreds of Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Christ, our faith in God and his Word is strengthened. 

5. The Old Testament saves souls.

When Paul assured Timothy that “the Holy Scriptures [are] able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” he was speaking of the Old Testament (2 Tim. 3:15). Like the New Testament, the Old Testament also saved (and still saves) souls through faith in Christ.

6. The Old Testament helps us appreciate the New Testament more.

For all that the Old Testament reveals of Jesus, and of Christian doctrine and experience, we must concede that it also conceals, that there is a lot of often frustrating shadow, that there is unfulfilled longing and desire, that there is often something, or rather Someone missing. The more we read it, the more we long for and love the incarnate Christ of the New Testament. The dawn is beautiful, but the sunrise is stunning.

What do you think? Do you exhibit confidence and hope in the present Christ when you teach the Old Testament?

How to Teach the Old Testament to Kids

(c) Sweet Publishing ( and distributed by Distant Shores Media.

(c) Sweet Publishing ( and distributed by Distant Shores Media.

We've looked at why kids need to be taught the Old Testament. It's historical fact. It's "His"-story. It all points to Jesus. But how do we do it? More importantly, how do we teach the Old Testament in a way that is redemptive, and how do we do it well? Here are two things to keep in mind when considering this topic.

  1. Teach it as a whole. It is a disservice when we skip around and just hit certain stories. This doesn't give them a complete picture and hinders our kids from seeing it as one story of redemption. We need to help them see how it all fits together as well as how it all points to Christ.
  2. Teach the different genres. There are narrative, poetry, and prophesy in the Old Testament. Each needs to be handled, studied, and taught differently. Teaching narrative is arguably the easiest. It's teaching the story of what happened and why it's important. Teaching poetry (or wisdom literature if you prefer) to kids is difficult, because most kids haven't developed the ability think abstractly. But that doesn't mean we can skip it. The best way to introduce kids to the genre may be to help them memorize it. As far as prophesy is concerned, help students to see and wrestle with the prophet versus the establishment. This is a concept they are familiar with through movies, TV, video games, and books. Engaging kids with the dramatic situations the prophets found themselves in (Jeremiah in the well, Isaiah after Uriah's death, Jonah headed to Nineveh) will help kids connect with the message the prophet was communicating. 

If we keep these things in mind as we teach the Old Testament, the kids we teach will benefit because they will see God. They will have a more full and complete picture of what he has done. And that can help them see what he is doing in them as well what he has promised to do in the future. Seeing God and what he does is the pathway to growth.

Do We Even Need The Old Testament?

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
— Luke 24:25-27 ESV

I was having a conversation with a friend about God and the Old Testament when my friend responded, "Yeah, I don't even know why read the Old Testament anymore. We live by Christ so I say we don't waste our time in the Old Testament." I was honestly a little speechless after he made this remark. I think my response was something like, "Well, yeah we do!" But in the moment I was thinking inside, "Do we?" 

On Thursday, Pat wrote a post entitled 3 Reasons for Teaching the Old Testament to Kids. Pat's post showed its importance. But I find myself asking, how often do I read from the Old Testament? How often do I meditate on OT passages? Many people are intimidated by the former covenant's sacrifices and prophecies and so they question its relevance. When pastors avoid preaching from the Old Testament for the same reasons, this is to the detriment of churches.

We need to be a people who love God's word. All of it. Not just the red letters. Not just the New Testament. All of it. I have been reading through the Bible in (what was supposed to be) 90 days. It is turning into a 180 days, but what I have seen sitting down and reading the Bible quickly is a 30,000 foot view. I see how God loves Israel and is constantly reminding them of his faithfulness in their story.

The Old Testament sets the scene for Jesus.  I wish I could have been there to experience and hear Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Luke 24:13-35 tells us about two believers who were traveling along the road after Jesus' death. Jesus joins these two men but, "but their eyes were kept from recognizing him". The verse that sticks out is verse 35 when they say, "They said to each other, 'Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" Remarkable! The men had not recognized Jesus in person, but they were stirred by seeing Jesus pictured and prophesied throughout Old Testament. I want that to be me. I want our kids to see and experience a fire within when we're teaching Old Testament stories. If I am not feeling that way about the Old Testament, how will my family?

If you are new to the Old Testament and you are looking for a couple of resources to help you out, here are two great ones. 

What tools have you found that have helped open up the Old Testament?