Friday, May 19, 2006

The Christocentricity of the Old Testament

Much to my surprise, my short article on the Covenantal hermeneutic which responded to a question by Bobby Grow has received a very gracious response from the local blogosphere. While I am wholly convinced that this has no explanation in me as a writer or exegete, I think that this is partly because we don’t often read expositions of these particular texts in today’s literature–published or electronic. And when we do read such exegesis, it often fails to be christocentrically-focused.

But the Old Testament is bursting at the seems with overwhelming richness concerning the treasures of Christ. Dispensationalists would certainly agree. However, they often fail to recognize the Christocentricity of certain Old Testament texts.

Therefore, for the benefit of both Dispensationalists and Federalists, I’d like to turn our attention to quite an amazing Christocentric Old Testament text (one in which we may produce an exegesis that both Dispensationalists and and Federalists would agree with):

Zecariah 2:10-13 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD. And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And the LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.” Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.

The book of Zechariah is one altogether Christ-centered book. It reaches it’s climactic peak when ten chapters later it proclaims, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” The Apostle John rightly recognizes this wonderful prophecy as being fulfilled in Christ (John 19:37).

There are several important things to note from the Zechariah 2 passage:

1. God’s people–his Church, the “daughter of Zion” (as opposed to the “daughter of Babylon,” 2:7)–are to sing and rejoice. Though they were presently in distress, they were to rejoice. Though their lives met many trials, they were to sing.

2. But this rejoicing did not lack reason. Doctrinally uninformed worship fails to make God the true object of worship. Theology always leads to doxology. If your theology does not lead you to a doxology, then the problem lies either in the theology itself or in your heart that fails to respond appropriately to God’s truth. But, by the same token, many attempt to skip the step of theology and immediately enter doxology; their worship, as a result of skipping this crucial step, is ignorant and misplaced. Who can worship a God that he does not know?

Thus, God immediately gives his people a reason to rejoice and be glad: for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD. The immediate fulfillment of this promise was found in the dedication of the Temple and the subsequent regular observing of God’s institutions. But even this text itself hints at something infinitely greater: the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the God-man.

John states in the beginning of his Gospel, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). It is in the Incarnation of Christ, who is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), that God’s glory is most displayed.

3. Two persons of the Trinity are both undeniably present in this text: “I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD. …And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.” It is the Lord who is dwelling, but it is the Lord of hosts who sent him.

A similar distinction is made further on in the prologue of John:

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God. God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Christ the Word, the “only unique God,” who is “at the Father’s side” and “with God” (v. 1), is the single means of knowing God. Outside of Christ, there is not one means of relating personally with the Father. Apart from Christ, we would be doomed sinners with dashed hopes. But since God has made his dwelling among us in Christ, we can sing and rejoice!

And the fact that Christ was sent by the Father is unambiguously evident: and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. Christ testified to this fact on numerous occasions and coupled his assertions with sufficient proof. And yet, despite this, “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8).

3. God’s portion and inheritance will be his people. And he will once again choose Jerusalem that his name might be glorified in it (1 Peter 2:9).

4. While God’s people will “sing and rejoice,” all flesh is command to be silent, for the Lord–and I love this imagery–has roused himself from his holy dwelling. Knowing God initiates in the command to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). But, for God’s people, it does not end here. Knowledge of God should result in jubilant praise.

However, the reprobate who have a heart of stone and no will or ability to please or praise God (Romans 8:7-8) are unable to enjoy obeying this command. They can be silent; indeed, they will be made silent, made to clasp their hands to their mouths before the enthroned Judge Christ as they bow and confess his Lordship (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10). But they will not be given the gift of regeneration, and consequently they will have no love or enjoyment. Their silence will not result in praise; the silence will only call their attention further to the tormenting flames as the experience firsthand the glory of God manifested in his holy wrath.

Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). To live a life that intellectually explores the Scriptures but fails to exalt and exult in the revealed God of the Scriptures is nothing short of a tragedy. It is for this reason, among many others, that we must continually preach Christ from all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27), that those who know him might know him better, and that those who hate him might come to see and savore his love.

“Christ is the very essence of all delights and pleasures, the very soul and substance of them. As all the rivers are gathered into the ocean, which is the meeting-place of all the waters in the world, so Christ is that ocean in which all true delights and pleasures meet” -John Flavel

Evan May.


  1. Evan, Nice work. Very clear. I was waiting for some kind of follow up. You're very quick.

    When we do not see Christ in an O.T. passage, we are not reading that passage correctly.
    When a preacher does not preach Christ crucified from an O.T. text, he is not preaching that text correctly.
    This can be hard work, but He's always there!
    What do we get when Christ is not preached from an O.T. passage? We often get moralism; be like Abraham, don't be like Esau, be like Moses, don't be like Samson... I heard someone once call that kind of exegesis, "The Killer Be's."

    I sat through a 3-year long sermon series on the book of Genesis and every sermon was a completely Christocentric exegesis of the text. I saw Christ in creation, I saw Him in the uncreation of the flood, the tower of Babel, the patriarchs, and perhaps most clearly (to my suprise) in the story of Joseph.
    This comment was too long.

  2. I sat through a 3-year long sermon series on the book of Genesis and every sermon was a completely Christocentric exegesis of the text.

    What a benefit!

  3. In its context, every passage possesses one or more of four redemptive foci. Every text is predictive of the work of Christ, preparatory of the work of Christ, reflective of the work of Christ, and/or resultant of the work of Christ.Brian Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching

  4. I very much appreciate your wisdom on this passage. Check out my facebook page, Lord Jesus Christ Assembly of Reading, PA. Also, yearly over Labor Day weekend we participate in a Christocentric Conference. You may find it very edifying if you join us.