The Old Testament, from the Assembly point of view (as taught by G. Geftakys based on 19th and early 20th century Exclusive Plymouth Brethren writers) is to be read mainly as an allegory of the Christian life–i.e. Christians can wander in the wilderness as Israel did; but only a few will enter the promised land with Joshua and Caleb; and those who sin will be judged as Israel was, etc. In The Bible Jesus Read Yancey takes a very different approach, paying attention to how the character of God is revealed in the Old Testament. This book comes through on what the flyleaf promises:
The Bible Jesus Read will give you abundant new insights into the hear of God the Father. And as you read with a fresh eye the prayers, poems, songs, and bedtime stories that Jesus so revered you will gain a profound new understanding of Christ. “The more we comprehend the Old Testament,” Yancey writes, “the more we comprehend Jesus.”
Yancey always writes from the heart. He honestly chronicles his own doubts and struggles with his subject matter. He tells of being weighed down by a feeling that the vastness of the world’s problems made it seem unlikely that his own personal struggles mattered at all to the God of the universe.
During that time of wavering faith he was invited to speak at a conference on the subject of Isaiah 49, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” “Bad timing,” he thought to himself. But as he studied the context of the verse, he realized that God made this declaration to his people at the lowest point in their history.
“It suddenly dawned on me that the Hebrews in Babylon who received the message of Isaiah 49 were agonizing over the very same question I had been asking. Do we matter to God?“
Isaiah chapters 42-53 contain some of the most explicit prophecies of the coming Messiah, who is God’s answer to the Hebrews’ question.
In effect, God puts his reputation on the line. He will answer the Hebrews’ bitter complaint with an act of boldness, imagination, and courage that none of them could have dreamed of, an event that will test the limits of human credibility and divine humiliation. God agrees to join them on planet earth…
[T]he God who visits Earth comes not in a raging whirlwind, nor in a devouring fire. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, ‘God with us.'” He arrives instead in the tiniest, least threatening from imaginable: as an ovum, and then fetus, growing cell by cell inside a peasant virgin….finally a single baby bursts forth from Mary’s loins to join the puny human human beings on their speck of a planet….
In effect, the holiday we celebrate as Christmas memorializes God’s answer to the Hebrews’ question, Do we matter? Here on earth, for thirty-three years, God experienced in flesh what it is like to be one of us. In the stories he told, and the people whose lives he touched, Jesus answered for all time that vexing question.
Jesus said God is like a shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep inside the fence to hunt frantically for one stray; like a father who can’t stop thinking about his rebellious ingrate of a son though he has another who is respectful and obedient; like a rich host who opens the doors of the banquet hall to a menagerie of bag ladies and bums. God loves people not as a race or species, but rather just as you and I love them: one at a time. We matter to God. In a rare moment when he pulled back the curtain between seen and unseen worlds, Jesus said that angels rejoice when a single sinner repents. A solitary act on this speck of a planet reverberates throughout the cosmos….
What the prophets spoke about, Jesus lived. “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands,” God said in Isaiah’s day. When he visited earth in the form of a Servant, he showed that the hand of God is not too big for the smallest person in the world. It is a hand engraved with our individual names and engraved also with wounds, the cost to God of loving us so much.”
Yancey concludes his study of the OT prophets:
“We may never figure out the toes and horns of Daniel’s beasts, or the intricacies of Revelation 12…..I confess that, despite long hours of study in the prophets, I have no clearer understanding of what will happen next year, or in 2025. But I have a much clearer idea of what God wants to accomplish in my life right now. And I am gaining, gradually, the confidence to believe in the present what will fully make sense only when seen from the future.
The Bible Jesus Read will not only help to clear away some of the mistaken interpretations of the Old Testament handed down to us from the old-time exclusive Brethren via George Geftakys; it paints a broad picture of God’s overall plan from a fresh perspective. It rekindles faith in a wise, good and loving God.