The Old Testament set the path and direction for other books of scripture that would follow it, said Michael Wilcox Jan. 10.
The Old Testament can help Church members today in several ways, said Brother Wilcox, a faculty member of the institute of religion adjacent to the University of Utah, during a Church Educational System symposium.Brother Wilcox listed four great purposes that the Old Testament can have:
- The Old Testament is "a constant reminder and testimony that what God did for past generations He will do for future people," Brother Wilcox said.
He noted that just as Moses parted the Red Sea, Joshua parted the River Jordan while leading Israel to the promised land. Then, Brother Wilcox added, Joshua asked the people to take stones from the dry river bed to serve as a reminder of the miracle for future generations. (Joshua 3, 4.)
"The Old Testament is a whole pile of stones, to remind us that whatever God did for past people, He will do for us," he explained. "It is critical that I know those stories, so I know what the Lord will do."
Brother Wilcox explained that there are more stories of God's dealing with men in the Old Testament than in any other book of scripture.
- "The Old Testament is a foundation for all scripture, because it teaches us what we must do," he said. "If the scriptures tell us what God would do for us, they also teach us what the Lord would have us do for Him."
Church members can learn from the wonderful stories of the Old Testament - and the success and failures of the people it teaches of, Brother Wilcox said.
For example, he said, the story of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness is told in Numbers, chapter 9. "What guided them as they wandered in the wilderness? They followed a prophet, Moses," he said.
Brother Wilcox said that members today face the wilderness of life as they search for their promised land or the celestial kingdom. Modern prophets and the Holy Ghost, he added, can guide members today through that wilderness, just as Moses guided the children of Israel.
- The scriptures also persuade people to believe in Christ, Brother Wilcox said. "We call them testaments - Old Testament, New Testament, another testament - because they all testify of the Savior," he said. "The Old Testament is therefore the foundation for all scripture because of the very beautiful and powerful way it gives that testimony and sets the stage for the Savior's coming."
Brother Wilcox said that there is no book in the scripture like Isaiah to persuade members to believe Jesus Christ.
- Finally, he said studying the Old Testament can help members today "because there are many allusions in other scriptures that harken back to Old Testament stories. I will miss much of the power if I don't know that allusion."
For example, Brother Wilcox said the reason many Church members fail to understand much of the Book of Revelations is because they don't catch the allusions to teachings in the Old Testament.
"If you truly understand the Old Testament, new insights to every other book of scripture will begin to come forth," he said.