One of the ways that Christians approach the Old Testament is with an eye to see where it reveals Jesus Christ. This could be through direct prophecy, poetic and symbolic allusions or through reading the text typologically. In patristic and medieval exegesis this became somewhat fanciful, but the Reformers and their evangelical heirs have also followed a similar method, albeit in a chastened manner. In The Lamb of God, author Nancy Guthrie explores where Jesus is revealed in four of the books of the Pentateuch (the Torah): Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. She writes from the conviction that Jesus himself declared, ” For if you believe Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. (John 5:46).”
So in a 10-week Bible study she explores the various ways that Christ is revealed in this part of the Old Testament:
- In the burning bush
- In Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (the Exodus) and especially Passover.
- In the giving of the law on Sinai
- In the details and design of the Tabernacle.
- In the manna
- In the water from a rock
- In the sacrificial system
- In the wilderness wanderings and through symbols of salvation (like the bronze serpent)
- In and through God’s covenant relationship with his people Israel.
Guthrie is a gifted Bible teacher and has her readers explore the text in various ways. Each of the ten sections begin with a section for personal Bible study in which Guthrie provides guided questions to help readers engage the biblical text. This is followed by a ‘Teaching Chapter’ where she presents her understanding of the significant themes in the text. The teaching chapter ends with a section called ‘Looking Forward’ which picks up on the themes that Guthrie explored and draws them forward. Finally there are discussion questions which make this a good choice for a small group Bible study.
I appreciate that Guthrie has spent time here engaging the text and what she has presented here is not fluff. Readers who are more accustomed to the ‘seeker sensitive’ or ‘investigative Bible study’ approach, may find that in jumping into this Bible Study, they have dived into the deep end. A quick scan of Guthrie’s bibliography will reveal that many of her insights into the text are garnered from sermons and podcasts of well known reformed Evangelicals (in addition to books, commentaries and articles). Guthrie’s gifts seem to lie in helping others appropriate Biblical truths. I found Guthrie’s illustrations engaging and appreciated her good humor and grace. That isn’t to say I agreed with her on every point, but I love the detailed approach she commends.
I have no problem recommending this for small group Bible study with two small caveats. First, I wish the later part of the Pentateuch received a more detailed treatment. The way that the lessons break down is that there is an introductory lesson, six weeks in Exodus and a week in Leviticus, a week in Numbers and a week in Deuteronomy. Certainly I like the attention given to Exodus but how many attempts to read through the entire Bible were wrecked on the shoals of Leviticus and against the rocky crags of the book of Numbers? I found myself wishing that more attention was given here because this is one of the sections of scripture that ordinary readers need the most help.
Secondly, my critique is tempered by the fact that I did not read this book the way I was supposed to. I did not read this as a 10-week Bible Study along side my reading of this portion of scripture. I found myself skimming her personal Bible Study and discussion questions, giving more of my attention to her ‘teaching chapters.’ I think I have read attentively enough to assess the merits of this study, but had I read this book properly most of my time would have been spent in personal Bible study on this part of the Pentateuch. So in the category of ‘for what it’sworth,’ I think this is a good investment of your time and think that Guthrie is faithful guide through this section of the Old Testament.
And so go ahead. I promise you’ll learn something, and if you do it right, you will meet Jesus in these pages and see how this part of the Bible whispers His name.
Thank you to Crossway books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.