A couple of years ago, I was splitting wood with my gas-powered log splitter. After working for an hour or so, I went back into the house for a drink of water. I removed my gloves and hearing protection, satisfied my thirst, then returned to work. The problem was that I couldn’t find where I placed my hearing protection. I looked all around for the bright yellow plastic headset with no success. After scouring the yard, I returned to the kitchen. My daughter saw me pacing and asked what I was looking for. I said, “I removed my hearing protection to get a drink, and now I can’t find it anywhere. You know, they are yellow and look like earphones.” She looked at me and smiled, and pointed right at me. “There they are, on your head,” she said. I never took them off, I simply slid them back behind my ears onto my hat. Even though they were right there, I was blind to see them.
On the day of the resurrection of Christ, two of Jesus’s disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus. As they discussed the missing body and all that had taken place, Jesus came up to them. Even though they knew Jesus and he was walking with them, they were blind to recognize him. There he was, right in front of their faces, and they didn’t know it was him. It wasn’t until after Jesus explained the scriptures and broke bread with them that they realized who he was. Then they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32 ESV)
Two things lit a fire in the hearts of the disciples when Jesus taught them on that road. First, Jesus taught them how the Old Testament pointed forward to him. Secondly, the Spirit of God opened their eyes to that truth, so that they recognized Jesus. The same two things can light a fire in your heart and the heart of your children in your family devotions. Let me explain further.
It is quite possible to know the stories of the Bible but not know the gospel or how those stories connect to the gospel. People read the stories of Noah and the flood, David and Goliath, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, but far fewer families realize that the ark represents Jesus. Just as Noah was safe in the ark, we are safe in Christ. David’s defeat of Goliath is a foreshadowing of Jesus’s defeat over Satan. We, like the fearful Israelites disobey God, but Jesus, like David before him, came to represent us. He lived a perfect life, then defeated Satan by his death on the cross and resurrection. As for Nebuchadnezzar’s fire, he threw the three detractors into the furnace but saw four men dancing unharmed in the flames. So, who is that fourth man? God, the Son!
The disciples walking with Jesus that day knew the teachings of the Old Testament. They describe Jesus as “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Luke 24:19). But they failed to connect Jesus to the words Moses spoke to Israel in Deuteronomy 18:15. He said, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—.” Jesus himself earlier taught the disciples “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21). The disciples on the road to Emmaus also mentioned that it was the third day since his death (Luke 24:21).
The disciples knew Jesus was a descendent of David and the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1-11, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord . . . with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. . . In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people.” They just didn’t put the two together. That is what Jesus did for them. He interpreted the scriptures to show them how the whole Old Testament, written by more than 20 different authors all points to Christ.
That is what makes the Bible come alive and that is what can transform the hardest teenage heart, set against God and his Word. The great pastor John Stott said it this way:
“The Old Testament is a book of hope, of unfulfilled expectation. From beginning to end it looks forward to Christ. . .. Thus Jesus Christ is the seed of the woman who would bruise the serpent’s head, the posterity of Abraham through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed, the star that would come forth out of Jacob and the scepter that would rise out of Israel. Jesus Christ is also the priest after the order of Melchizedek, the king of David’s line, the servant of the Lord God who would suffer and die for the sins of the people, the Son of God who would inherit the nations, and the Son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven, to whom would be given dominion, glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him forever. Directly or indirectly Jesus Christ is the grand theme of the Old Testament.”[i]
Every king of Israel points forward to a day when Jesus would come as king. Every priest of Israel points forward to a day when Jesus would come as the great high priest and offer the last and most pleasing sacrifice. Every prophet of Israel points forward to the day when Jesus, the Word of God, would come to earth in the flesh and introduce us to the Father. Every lamb offered up for the remission of sins points forward to Jesus’s death on the cross, who became our substitute. The lamb of God who takes away our sins. Every salvation wrought by prophet, plague, warrior, king, collapse of a wall, opening of a sea, healing of a disease, providing of food or drink or child for a barren woman points to Jesus and the salvation he purchased for us on the cross.
Some stories like the first Passover shout the work of Christ. If an Israelite family placed the lamb’s blood on the lintel of the door, the angel of death would not bring judgment into that house. You can’t get a clearer prophetic image of Jesus, the Lamb of God, whose blood was spilled that God’s judgment might pass over all who believe.
When you interpret the Old Testament stories so that they showcase Christ, you’ll be presenting the gospel to your children. The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe, including your children (Romans 1:16). The Spirit of God will open your children’s eyes to the truth of the gospel you share. Then their hearts will begin to burn just like the disciples on the road. Then the many Bible stories will come alive to them.
[i] John Stott, Authentic Christianity, pg. 110-111, #224
PARENTING FIRST AID: HOPE FOR THE DISCOURAGED STUDY GUIDE
As a companion small group resource to Parenting First Aid by Marty Machowski, this study guide reminds parents they aren’t alone in their struggles, providing an opportunity to talk about their challenges and pray for and encourage other parents.