A lot of times, the distinctions between the Old and New Testaments are exaggerated and caricatured. People talk about “the God of the Old Testament” versus “the God of the New Testament.” They will (mistakenly) emphasize that the Old Testament is all about law while the New Testament is all about grace. They may even argue that we don’t even need the Old Testament, because as Christians, we live under a different age. I have written about some of these problems before.
Increasingly though, as I study more and more, I am struck by just how well the two testaments of God’s Word—Old and New—fit together. This year for my daily Bible reading, instead of reading, I have actually been listening to Scripture, specifically to Max McLean’s reading of the ESV while I drive around in my car. This is the first time that I have attempted to make it through the entire Bible by listening to it, and it has been interesting, and has brought out certain elements of the text that I had missed before. One example of this occurred just yesterday, as I was driving in the car and the recordings transitioned from the end of the Old Testament to the beginning of the New.
The end of Malachi reads:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
Transitioning into Matthew, you get the genealogy and birth story of Jesus, and then we get this:
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
(Matthew 3.1-6 )
I have long known that John the Baptist was the “second Elijah” prophesied about in the Old Testament, who would prepare people for Jesus to come, and I think I knew that Malachi contained such a prophecy (in addition to Isaiah, etc.), but the unity of these two books was never emphasized to me as much as it was yesterday, when I heard both of these passages back-to-back in one short car ride. Matthew picks up where Malachi left off: with the coming of God’s representative who would prepare people for the coming of God Himself in the flesh.
This might be a really obvious example that you have noticed before, but for me, it is a reminder of a great truth: Scripture is not comprised of two disjointed halves, but is instead a seamless whole—a well-woven story crafted by God’s Spirit, relating God’s creation of the world and His quest to redeem and reconcile that creation.