I wrote an article about 4 Questions to ask when reading the Bible a year or so back while I was reading the Psalms and New Testament. I genuinely never realised just how much our identity in Christ is emphasised throughout the New Testament. But once I started asking the 4Qs I was floored. Even the Letter of James, which is said to be mostly practical is full of beautiful identity truths.
Now I’m reading Genesis and I know that Exodus to Deuteronomy is coming too with all the tabernacle furniture, sacrifices, feasts and laws. So how do the 4Qs work before Christ dies and rises again? How do we ask them before the New Testament comes into play?
I mean there are issues here. If we start asking Q3 “who am I in this passage?” We start reading ourselves into the Old Testament narrative in places we aren’t meant to be; I’m not a patriarch, as you’re aware. I’m also not an Israelite living in Canaan under the Old Covenant. Also, if we start asking Q4 “how do I apply this passage to my life?” Then do we start walking our children up mountains with wood on their backs...? Not a good idea for a Sunday School outing.
However, as I’ve tweaked the 4Qs to suit the Old Testament better, I’ve found some rich truths. It’s like reading Genesis for the first time, or more accurately, its like watching it in 4K when I’ve been watching it in black and white. The patriarchs of Genesis are constantly responding to God’s revelation of who He is and who they are because of that.
One example is found in Genesis 14. It’s beautiful. Abram has just rescued Lot from the invading kings and he then spends some time with the King of Salem and the King of Sodom (v17-18).
The King of Salem (v18-20)
Abram is told that God is the Most High God who possesses heaven and earth (v19, Q1). He is told that it was God who gave him the victory (v20, Q2). He is told that he is blessed by God (v19, Q3). These are the first three questions of the 4Qs. Abram's response (Q4) is seen in how he answers the next king.
The King of Sodom (v21-24)
Abram is offered a bunch of stuff for having defeated the invading kings. Abram’s reply is amazing. It comes right out of what the King of Salem has just told him about who God is (Q1, the God Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth), what God has done (Q2, given him the victory over the invading kings) and who he is (Q3, blessed).
Abram tells the King of Sodom who God is; Lord, God Most High, the one who possesses heaven and earth (v22, Q1). Abram knows that, because he is blessed (Q3) by God Most High (Q1) and that God gave him the victory (Q2), he doesn’t need anything from the King of Sodom. Therefore, he refuses to take even a thread or sandal strap from him (Q4).
How amazing is this! Abram is responding (Q4) to the beautiful truths he has just learned from the King of Salem.
I'm Not Abram
But here’s the thing; I am not Abram. I didn’t inherit the land of Canaan and I haven’t been promised an innumerable seed with kings coming from my line. I don’t want to read myself into the story. I don’t want to make myself Abram. I’m a spectator here, not a participator.
So how do I read the Old Testament with the 4Qs and not read myself into it where I am not meant to be? It’s easy enough, and it has been richly rewarding to me. I just rephrased the last two questions.
4Qs in the OT
Q1 and Q2 remain the same; who is God and what does God do in this passage?
Q3 becomes “who were they because of who God is and what God does in the passage?”
Who were they in their sin and rebellion?
Who are they because of grace?
Who will they be because of grace?
Q4 becomes “how did they apply these truths to their lives?” Or “how did they respond to God’s revelation of Himself?”
I hope these questions enrich your reading of the Old Testament. It is such a beautiful portion of scripture that is constantly pointing forward to the coming of Jesus Christ.
Click here for a pdf worksheet of the 4Qs
Click here for an audio teaching on the 4Qs