Acts 13:16-25 (NRSV)
So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak:
“You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.’”
As Christians, we love the story of our savior, Jesus Christ. Let’s never forget how he is rooted in a more ancient story.
Yes, that sometimes intimidating collection of Old Testament texts is very important. God came to save all the world through a particular group of people, and it’s difficult to fully understand salvation without understanding their story.
Paul knew that while speaking to fellow Jews, he needed to keep Christ in context so they could see Jesus as the fulfillment of long-awaited promises made to them. Note, however, that Paul also addressed “others who fear God.” We owe some study time to the story of the Israelites, the one group of humans selected by God to serve as a light to all the world, illuminating the path to salvation.
Paul summarizes the story by beginning with the Israelites’ captivity in and exodus from Egypt, moving through their time in the wilderness and their conquest of the Promised Land. Then he recounts their being led by judges and kings, noting the great King David was in Jesus’ ancestry.
If you find the Old Testament less than familiar, perhaps today is a good day to launch into at least a high-altitude study of what is there. A good study Bible is all you really need, although the amount of information now available to us in a digital world is astonishing. Just be sure your sources are trustworthy!
And of course, you can always ask your pastor and other church leaders for help.
As you immerse yourself in these ancient texts, much of what Jesus Christ has to say in the New Testament will make more sense. Jesus was, after all, a good and faithful Jew, deeply rooted in his people’s history and traditions.
Lord, bless us with a deeper understanding of how the stories in our two testaments are connected. May we find joy in all that is there, knowing these concepts add up to the great story of our salvation. Amen.