There is a simple secret that ties together the Old and New Testaments and makes the study of the Old Testament a never-ending delight. The Old Testament is designed to be a picture book, illustrating with fascinating stories the spiritual truths presented in the New Testament. This is especially true of the books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and the book of Joshua, for in the life histories of men like Abraham, Jacob, and Moses, we also have a symbolic representation of the progress of spiritual growth.
One of the most convincing proofs of the inspiration of the Bible is the facility with which the Spirit of God took simple history—facts as they were lived out day by day—and recorded them in such a way as to weave together a totally accurate pattern of the development of spiritual life. In other words, what took place physically in the Old Testament is a picture for believers today of what takes place spiritually in their own growth in grace.
It is not imagination to view the Old Testament in this manner; ample proof is found in the New Testament itself to indicate that this is how God planned the structure of His book. Paul refers to many incidents in the history of Israel and concludes the account with these words:
These things happened to them as examples [literally, types] and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11).
There is need, of course, to be on guard against wild and fanciful interpretations. We must move with care so as not to overstep the laws of interpretation. But it would be a pity to miss the Old Testament illustrations of the great truths of the Christian faith reflected in the book of Romans and elsewhere. Perhaps the clearest and most helpful of all these Old Testament portraits is the record of Abraham's life, beginning in distant Ur of the Chaldees and ending at last in the cave of Machpelah near Hebron in Canaan. Abraham is clearly the pattern for the man of faith. Again and again in the New Testament, he is held up in our view as the example of how God works in the life of a man to fulfill His promises of grace. He is obviously chief of all the heroes of faith recorded in Hebrews 11, and in addition to the Christian faith, two of the great religions of the earth hold him in high esteem.
Therefore, we may well begin the study of this man's life with a sense of excitement. We will find ourselves reflected in Abraham. In tracing his life's story, we shall discover the very secrets by which the Spirit of God intends to transform us from faltering pilgrims to men and women of stalwart faith, worthy to stand beside the heroes of Hebrews 11.