I recently finished up the first part of a two part preface to a planned verse by verse exposition of the Gospel of John and this past Sunday, I started on part two. I don’t think that is so unusual, especially among churches where preaching and teaching is taken seriously. In churches devoted to expository preaching introductory messages are often preached before a new sermon series. What is unusual is that part one of this preface was a verse by verse exposition of all of the Servant songs of Isaiah and part two will be an exposition of all of the songs of ascent, Psalms 120-134. I began this preface in mid-August and Lord willing it will wrap up some time around the beginning of April. And it is all Old Testament. Why? Because our faith should be rooted in the Old Testament.
The Old Testament gets short shrift. And it is not just from those who say outrageous things like the Christian faith ought to be unhitched from the Old Testament or “when people struggle to believe, the Old Testament is usually the culprit.” It is also manifest in how infrequently the Old Testament is preached in a systematic manner in “solid churches” dedicated to expository preaching. Sure the occasional Psalm is preached and sometimes a series on creation is preached, but very seldom is a truly expository series in the Old Testament preached. Even when a series is preached on the Old Testament in expository preaching churches, too often the series is actually topical or theological (not that there is anything inherently wrong with a topical or theological sermon) where the Old Testament text is used primarily as a jumping off point rather than forming the backbone of the series. (And yes, I know, I’m broad brushing.)
I don’t think it is intentional or malicious, but I think a disservice is done to the church by not preaching the Old Testament. All Scripture is God breathed and profitable as 2 Tim 3:16 says; and when those words were penned Paul had the Old Testament in mind. To illustrate how rooting our faith in the Old Testament is profitable,let me explain how these Old Testament series will inform the upcoming series in the Gospel of John.
The Servant Songs
The Gospel of John has an explicit purpose statement.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. – John 20:30-31
The Gospel is evangelistic. And it was written for a primarily Jewish audience. Why were these particular things chosen by the Holy Spirit? Because they proved that the messiah who came was the messiah who should have been expected. And where is the messiah most clearly pictured and anticipated in the Old Testament? The Servant songs of Isaiah. What better way to prepare for the presentation on the Messiah in John than to be immersed in the anticipation of the Messiah in Isaiah? (And if the only Servant song you are familiar with is the fourth that begins in Isa 52 and spans Isa 53, take the time and make the effort to know and understand Isa 42:1-9, Isa 49:1-7, and Isa 50:4-11.)
The Songs of Ascent
If the Psalms are the songbook of Israel, the Songs of Ascent form a songbook within that songbook. These psalms were sung by pilgrims as they “went up” or ascended to Jerusalem to worship at the temple for the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Booths. (In some older commentaries they are referred to as the pilgrim songs.) These psalms were sung many times over as the pilgrims made the long trek to Jerusalem from every corner of ancient Israel by Old Testament saints to prepare their hearts for corporate worship.
What is the proper response to the Messiah? Worship! What better way to prepare for the presentation of Jesus as the Messiah in John than to tune your heart for worship? And what better way to prepare to tune your heart for worship than to meditate of the one section of Scripture that is expressly intended to prepare hearts for corporate worship? That is why we are going through the Songs of Ascent as a church to prepare for the preaching of the gospel of John.
Cards on the table, I love the Old Testament. I love the Hebrew language, and I especially love Hebrew poetry. But that doesn’t color my thinking on this, what does is my belief in the inspiration of Scripture; I believe that the Old Testament is no less inspired than the New. I believe that the coming of Christ in no way diminished the significance of the Old Testament (Matt 5:17). I believe that the Old Testament is instructional to New Testament believers (Rom15:4). Furthermore the vast majority of God’s special revelation to His people is found in the Old Testament. So don’t unhitch your faith from the Old Testament or ignore the Old Testament. Root your faith in the Old Testament.
(You can listen to PBC’s series on the Servant Songs as well as our ongoing series on the Songs of Ascent here.)
 Andy Stanley. Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed For The World. P.278