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Finding Jesus Christ in the Old Testament
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“Finding Jesus Christ in the Old Testament,” Liahona, January 2022

Finding Jesus Christ in the Old Testament

These five truths can help us come to know our Savior in our scripture study this year.

Light of the World - Jesus Christ

Light of the World, by Walter Rane, may not be copied

One day, Jesus Christ met two of His disciples on a road between Jerusalem and Emmaus. As they walked, He taught them about His role as described in scriptures we now refer to as the Old Testament.

“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Learning about the Savior and His mission was a deeply spiritual experience for the disciples, and they begged Him to stay longer (see Luke 24:28–32).

Like those early followers of Christ, we have the opportunity to come to know our Savior in a more meaningful way as we explore the Old Testament this year. This record, coupled with the books of Moses and Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, give us a more complete understanding of who He is—His nature, His mission, and His relationship with His Father and each of us. We need this understanding to receive the gift of eternal life (see John 17:3).

Below are five truths that can help us recognize and better understand Jesus Christ throughout this ancient, holy book.

Truth 1: Jesus Christ Is Jehovah

In the New Testament, we read about a time when Jesus Christ identified Himself as Jehovah (see John 8:58, footnote b). The people were outraged and tried to stone Him for blasphemy (see John 8:59). They didn’t realize a precious truth that continues to be misunderstood by many today: that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, God of the Old Testament.1

Perhaps part of the reason the Savior’s identity in the Old Testament is often misunderstood is because the name “Jesus Christ” isn’t used in the book. Instead, authors used a number of titles to refer to Him, such as “God,” “I Am,” or “the Lord.”2 Once we know this, we begin to see Jesus Christ more clearly throughout all scripture. For example:

  • When Moses spoke to “God” in the burning bush, he was talking to Jesus Christ (see Exodus 3:6)3

  • Likewise, Jesus Christ identified Himself as “the Great I Am” to Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants 29:1).

  • John the Baptist was called to prepare the way of “the Lord” (Matthew 3:3). This is a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, which was prophesying of Jesus Christ.

  • See the chart on page 17 for other examples of Jehovah throughout the scriptures.

Truth 2: Objects and Events Can Teach Us about Our Savior

Adam and Eve Offering Sacrifices

Adam and Eve were commanded to sacrifice animals as part of their worship. Such sacrifices remind us that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, allowed Himself to be killed as part of His Atonement.

Adam and Eve Offering Sacrifices, by Keith Larson

The Old Testament is rich with symbols and stories that can remind us of the help the Savior offers. For example:

  • Many scriptures describe times where faithful people were commanded to sacrifice animals as part of their worship. For example, the children of Israel were told to sacrifice a lamb and mark their doorways with its blood. Those who did this were protected from a deadly plague in Egypt. Such sacrifices remind us that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, allowed Himself to be killed as part of His Atonement. His sacrifice saves us from physical and spiritual death. (See Exodus 12:13.)

  • When the prophet Elijah had to flee for his life and hide in the desert, he felt sorrowful and said that he wished he were dead. While he slept, bread and water miraculously appeared to nourish and refresh him, strengthening him to carry on. This can remind us that Jesus Christ is the Living Water and Bread of Life. He is our ultimate source of hope. (See 1 Kings 19:1–8.)4

  • “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet,” one psalmist wrote (Psalm 119:105; emphasis added). Micah testified, “When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me” (Micah 7:8; emphasis added). Their words remind us that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, guiding us back to our heavenly home.

As you read, you may discover other things that remind you of Jesus Christ and His ability to save us—like when Noah’s family was saved from the flood in the ark, or when Jonah was given a time to repent while in the whale. These events can remind us that the Savior can carry us through the storms of life, and that He will always give us opportunities to get back on the right course. (See Genesis 7:1; Jonah 1:17.)

Truth 3: Jehovah Is a Personal God

At times it may seem like the God of the Old Testament is angry and vengeful. We should keep in mind that the original authors of the book belonged to ancient cultures with customs and descriptions that may be difficult for us to fully understand today. The Come, Follow Me manual, group discussions, and enlightenment from the Holy Ghost can help us reconcile what we read in the Old Testament with what we know about Jesus Christ from other books of scripture.

And here’s one noticeable characteristic of Jehovah that will be familiar to students of the Savior: He is a personal God. His intervention, in both majestic and minor ways, illustrates that He is ever ready to deliver those who trust Him. Here are some examples of His Old Testament ministry:

  • After Adam and Eve transgressed, the Lord clothed, or covered, them with coats of skins (see Genesis 3:21). The Hebrew word for Atonement means “to cover” or “to forgive.”

  • He invited Enoch to walk with Him (see Moses 6:34) and lifted up the people of Zion (see Moses 7:69).

  • He prepared Joseph to deliver his family and countless others from starvation (see Genesis 37–46).

  • He led the children of Israel through the wilderness (see Exodus 13:21–22).

  • He visited Aaron and Miriam to strengthen their faith in the living prophet (see Numbers 12:5).

  • He guided Ruth and preserved His ancestry through her seed (see Ruth 3:10–11; 4:14–17).

  • He called the boy Samuel by name (see 1 Samuel 3:3–10).

  • He empowered Esther to courageously save her people (see Esther 2:17; 8:4–11).

Truth 4: Jesus Christ Helps Us Fight Our Battles

Sometimes daily life feels like a battle. We are indeed in the middle of a spiritual battle between good and evil, not unlike the wars described in the Old Testament. With the soldiers of old, we cry, “Guide us, O thou great Jehovah.”5 In these scriptures, we hear His reassuring reply:

  • “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1:5).

  • “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

  • “I will strengthen thee; … yea, I will uphold thee” (Isaiah 41:10).

  • “I am with thee to deliver thee” (Jeremiah 1:8).

Truth 5: The Lord’s Promises Continue

We are more connected to the faithful people of the Old Testament than we might realize. Ancient seers looked forward to and wrote about the mortal life of Jesus Christ. Isaiah, for example, described the Lord with words so powerful that they became part of the music we often share at Easter and Christmas (see Isaiah 7; 9; 40; and 53).6

Like those prophets, we also look forward to the coming of Christ—this time anticipating His return to reign personally on the earth.7 And as we prepare the world for His Second Coming, we draw strength from the truths and promises first recorded in the Old Testament, such as:

  • Patriarchal blessings, which include a declaration of the house of Israel we belong to. The covenant the Lord made with Abraham thousands of years ago applies to us as covenant Church members today, regardless of what tribe we are part of. (See Genesis 13:14–17; Abraham 2:9–11.)

  • The commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, which the Lord said would be “a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you” (Exodus 31:13).

  • Sacred washings, anointings, and clothing that are part of temple worship today were first given to Aaron and his posterity (see Leviticus 8).

Think about how many righteous men and women sacrificed to bring us to this point in human history. We build upon their sacred efforts and share their vision of a world led by the Savior. As President Russell M. Nelson taught: “After some 4,000 years of anticipation and preparation, this is the appointed day when the gospel is to be taken to the kindreds of the earth. This is the time of the promised gathering of Israel. And we get to participate!”8

An Epic Year of Study

Christ In A Red Robe

Christ in a Red Robe, by Minerva Teichert, courtesy of Church History Museum

We have in our hands the story of the beginning of humankind—our story as covenant Christians. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we know how this epic journey will end. Satan will be destroyed, and the righteous will be victorious. But how will our individual story unfold?

Will we choose to walk with Jesus Christ this year? Will we plead with Him to stay with us, eagerly listening to what He teaches?

He is the loving, personal Savior whose voice we hear in the Doctrine and Covenants, whose life is recorded in the New Testament, and whose teachings are plainly taught in the Book of Mormon. With a little practice, we will be able to find His ministry woven throughout the pages of the Old Testament as well. He is central to humanity’s past, present, and future. He has been—and always will be—beside us every step of the way.