Finding Jesus in the Old Testament – Christophanies

My roommates first semester at Capernwray Hall, 1992.

In the earliest days of my time at Capernwray Bible School in England in the Fall of 1992, the beloved Principal, Billy Strachan, explained that each of us would read through the Old Testament in its entirety during the six-month term.

As the enormity of the assignment settled in, Mr. Strachan rose to his tiptoes to lean over the podium and issue a warning. In his Scottish accent, with wild eyes and a silly grin, Billy Strachan warned all of us to, “Beware of Leviticus!”

He went on to explain that when most people set out to read the Old Testament, they start in Genesis and come to a screeching halt in Leviticus when the droning details of the law and the tabernacle instructions make them fall asleep. Mr. Strachan wanted us to keep going!

I think this is how most people feel when they try to read through the Old Testament. It is overwhelming and can be dry and boring. But if you know what to look for, the Old Testament can usher us into a powerful encounter with Jesus Himself.

Today, I want to start with one of my favorite ways to encounter Jesus in the Old Testament. I’ll save the others for another day.

First off:

Christophanies – Okay, christophany is just a fancy theological term to say that Jesus appears in person in the Old Testament before He was born to Mary. Think of it as an Old Testament Jesus photo bomb.

Jesus existed before time began. He was there at creation, so of course, He didn’t just twiddle His thumbs until He made His grand entrance as a baby. Many times in the Old Testament He showed up, in person, almost like when Stan Lee makes cameo appearances in the Marvel movies.

If you need a little proof that this phenomena is true, start by reading Exodus 33:19-20, John 1:18, John 6:46 and 1 Timothy 6:15-16. All of these verses declare that no one had ever seen the Father and lived. Therefore, any time in the Old Testament when God is “seen” it is Jesus—in his pre-incarnate form. How cool is that!?!

The primary clue that the mystery person is Jesus and not an angel is that He accepts the worship of the people He encounters. Check out this encounter Joshua experiences near Jericho in Joshua 5:13-15. When the Being says, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground,” (Josha 5:15, NIV) the deal is sealed. This visitor is Divine. Since no one has seen the Father and lived, it must be Jesus. What an awesome glimpse of Jesus!

There are many other examples of christophanies in the Old Testament. If you want to explore further read the Creation account (look for plural pronouns to give you a clue and remember that Jesus is the Word, therefore whatever is spoken is done through Jesus!), Genesis 18:1-15, Genesis 32:22-32, Daniel 3:19-30, just to name a few.

I hope you have a ball discovering Jesus in the Old Testament! Someday I will tell you how you can find Jesus in Levitcus! But that will have to wait for another time. Right now, I have to go make dinner.

Let me leave you with this quote:

There are many Christophanies in the Old Testament. Christ has always been—our Savior did not come into existence on the day of His birth—He came into flesh on that day.  -Charles T. Buntin*

* “The Person of Christ” article by Charles T Buntin

The next article in this series can be found here.

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