Below is part one of a two-part interview with well-known conservative and Christian author David Limbaugh on his new book, The Emmaus Code. Limbaugh wrote his latest book to help unlock the complexities many have in reading and studying the Old Testament, including many Christians.
Limbaugh argues the Old Testament continually points to the person and work of Jesus Christ and the plan to reconcile us to the Trinitarian fellowship and love of God.
CP: While you have written a good deal on Christianity, you are primarily known for political commentary. What prompted a book about the Christocentric nature of the Old Testament?
Limbaugh: Yes, I have written seven books now. The first five were political books – though one of those, Persecution, concerned discrimination against Christians in the United States. Then I wrote Jesus on Trial last year, which chronicled my personal journey from skeptic to believer, and was also a book on Christian apologetics. This book, The Emmaus Code: Finding Jesus in the Old Testament, is the culmination of an idea I had more than twenty years ago. The messianic prophecies of the Old Testament were pivotal for me. It's probably not an overstatement to say that I came to Christ through the Old Testament.
After becoming a Christian I was on fire to learn as much as I could about the Bible and theology. I was blessed to have good mentors and to read books from trustworthy scholars who emphasized the Christ-centeredness of the Old Testament. Seeing Christ throughout the Old Testament allowed me to read Scripture in an entirely different light. I was immensely enthusiastic about it and wanted to share what I'd learned with others. I began writing a book that I called Roadmap to the Cross, which I intended to be an Old Testament introduction for the lay reader, featuring the Christ-centeredness of it. For various reasons that project didn't get very far.
Twenty years later, with six books and some 1,700 columns under my belt, I decided to return to this project. I had written Jesus on Trial and now it was time to complete what had been but a dream two decades ago. By that I don't mean that I dusted off my old, partial manuscript and began where I left off. No, I started this book anew, with much more knowledge and understanding than I had when I began Roadmap to the Cross. Understanding that Christ pervades the Old Testament has been incredibly faith building and fulfilling and I hope that I can help others understand this. It's sad how much certain Christians miss by undervaluing and ignoring the riches of the Old Testament. I want to do my small part in correcting that.
CP: Sometimes Evangelicals deemphasize the humanity or incarnational nature of Christ for his divine nature and atoning death on the Cross. Give us a few examples of important themes of the incarnational nature of Christ in the OT?
Limbaugh: In my book Jesus on Trial I made that very point: to fully appreciate Jesus we must understand he is both fully man and fully God. His humanity is paramount because it is a major reason we can relate to Him. He experienced much of His suffering on our behalf through His humanity. He felt the full force of God's wrath for our sins in His humanity. We must understand that. In the Emmaus Code, I detail the many ways Christ is prefigured in the Old Testament and one of those is the Christophanies.
These were events where Christ appeared in human form and interacted in Old Testament history. These were different from His actual incarnation in which He actually has a permanent human nature.
The Christophanies were temporary appearances of Christ in the form of a man, but He wasn't yet actually in the nature of a man. These Old Testament Christophanies were important because through them God revealed information about Himself to man. They made the invisible God visible to man, and they set the stage for His full bodily appearance as a human being in His incarnation. Examples of Christophanies include those instances in which the Old Testament speaks of the Angel of the Lord or Messenger of the Lord, such as when He appeared to Abraham and told him not to go through with the sacrifice of his son Isaac.
CP: You point out many times about believers struggling with reading the Old Testament. What is the most important advice you have for those who currently feel overwhelmed in finding fulfillment in or just making sense of the Old Testament?
Limbaugh: This is one of the many goals with this book – to provide an overview of the Old Testament for Christians who struggle to get through it. I summarize each book and emphasize how each one specifically points to Christ. I also provide an outline and summary of Old Testament history to help readers get a better understanding of the grand sweep of Old Testament history so that they will see how it all fits together. I would encourage people to reorient themselves in the direction of Christ when reading the Old Testament so that they can begin to see how He dominates each and every page. I trust my book will give them a jump-start in that process. In all modesty, this is the book I wish I'd had available to me when I first became a Christian and was on fire for the Bible and yearning to learn and understand more about the Old Testament and the entire Bible.
Your world will change when you get a better grasp of what Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser calls God's promise-plan for our salvation – His promise to redeem mankind for an eternal relationship with Himself – and see how it courses through the entirety of the Old Testament and finds its fulfillment in Christ in the New Testament. But I must stress that no human book, mine or anyone else's, can serve as a substitute for or in any way improve upon God's Holy Bible. So my ultimate advice is that people must go to God in prayer and seek the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit as they read all of Scripture. But by all means take Him at His word.
He tells us that all of His Word is God breathed and that means the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Whether or not we find certain portions of the Old Testament tedious, we must understand that God doesn't waste words. Every letter in the Bible is included for a purpose. Use whatever study aids you find that you can trust and diligently read and meditate upon Scripture.
Read the Bible at least one time from beginning to end and you will begin to see its marvelous unity. The character of God, His messages, His faithfulness, His love, His infinite wisdom, His loving kindness – are consistent throughout. The more you study the Word, the more this will become apparent to you.
So please read the Old Testament with the desire to better understand the grand sweep of Old Testament history and the Christocentric threads that dominate it, and then read and study the Old Testament with the aid of the Holy Spirit and see if it doesn't open up for you. I'm betting it will.