When the church does tackle the OT nowadays it’s most often to do some kind of character study so that we can learn from the life of Noah, David, Samson, etc. The teaching rarely rises above the level of what our children get on Sesame Street. Be nice. Be good. Share. Be courageous. Don’t be bad. Don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s moralism. This kind of teaching sees the OT as merely giving us examples of how to live or not live instead of a storyline that is pointing us to a rescuer who will save us. We don’t need an example first and foremost, but we do need a Savior!
This means when we preach Noah we won’t talk about being nice to pets, but will instead preach about God’s mercy to save people from the judgment to come. When we preach the blessings and cursings of Deuteronomy 28 we won’t teach prosperity for the “good” and torment for the “bad,” but instead how the covenant keeper Jesus receives the cursings in place of the covenant breakers and offers the blessings to them if they’ll repent and believe.
The OT is about Jesus (cf. Luke 24). It presents to us our sin and our need for a Savior. It promises him, anticipates him, foreshadows him, gives types of him, and prepares us for Him.
3. Misusing the text for our own purposes
Churches will often misuse the OT for their own ends. The classic example is using some story in the OT (like Nehemiah) to promote the building campaign or finance some project. Recently, churches have actually used prophecies about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple to justify millions of dollars worth of construction projects.
This kind of misuse and abuse models a false way of reading the OT for our people. It also invites them to use whatever fanciful interpretation they can find to justify their actions. This is concerning.
We need to recover the OT as the Church’s Scripture. We need to reject the strong division that has been placed between it and the NT. We need to reject moralistic applications to be bold like David, to pray like Daniel, and to be nice to our in-laws like Ruth. We need to stop abusing the OT to confuse our people and pursue our own ends. We need to recover the Scriptures that call us to Jesus. May we heed the call of Jesus that we have Moses and the Prophets; let us hear them (Luke 16:29)!