How To Read the Old Testament For All It’s Worth

Cup of hot coffee in hand, I sat in my usual spot at the kitchen counter, positioned to watch the sun rise through an East-facing window. I have been following this Bible reading plan this year, and on this particular morning I opened my Bible to 2 Chronicles.

As often happens, I caught myself reading quickly to “knock out” my Old Testament reading for the day. Although I know that every page of the Old Testament points to Christ, it’s tempting for me to gloss over the words in 2 Chronicles as history that I’ve read before, not expecting to see my Savior and understand the Gospel on these pages.

But I think of what Philip said in John 1:45, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.” Philip recognized Jesus when he saw him because Philip knew the Old Testament, and I’m reminded that God says that every passage in both the Old and New Testaments is necessary and helpful to establish and equip me for my life in Christ (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Since 2 Chronicles (and all of the Old Testament) is God’s communicating to me about Himself and His Son, I have been working hard over the last few weeks to practice staying engaged with the text while I read in the Old Testament. These ideas are by no means exhaustive, but here is what I have been doing for the last few weeks to see and savor Christ when I read the Old Testament. I also created a little printable worksheet to use as I work through reading Old Testament passages (see below). I suggest using the printable worksheet for a few days, and then try reading and praying through a passage without the aid of the printable. As you learn skills for looking at Christ through the Old Testament, you can transition to using a notebook to work through your Old Testament reading using the principles here in this post and in the worksheet. I hope these suggestions and the printable will be helpful for you!

(I am loosely following an inductive Bible study framework {observation, interpretation, and then application}.)

Do you struggle to read the Old Testament? Do you long to see and savor Christ in the Old Testament? How to read the Old Testament for all it's worth!

1. Observe (What does this passage say?)

As we approach the text, first we want to gather some facts to be able to accurately comprehend what this passage is communicating. We don’t want to jump directly to making personal applications before answering some basic questions. Pray, and then start asking questions of the text.

Ask questions to get my bearings:

  • What genre of literature am I reading?
    • Is this passage narrative or history? Poetry (a psalm or proverb)? Law?
  • At what time in redemptive history was the book written?
    • Where am I in the Big-Gospel-Story? For example, Was this written before or after: The Flood? Abraham? Moses and The Law? The judges? The kings? The Prophets and the 70-year captivity? Christ’s incarnation?
    • You will likely be able to get your bearings simply by stopping and thinking about where you are reading. But if you still are unsure exactly where you are in redemptive history, most study Bibles have an editor’s introduction to each book of the Bible, and after reading the book’s introduction, you will be able to better get your bearings.
  • How does the passage that I am reading fit into the book of the Bible in which it is found?
    • I can check out the first and last chapters of the book to remind myself what’s going on in this book of the Bible.

Now, READ the passage. Slowly read the passage with the goal of comprehending what the author is saying.

Look closer:

  • Note repeated words, phrases.
    • Often a particular phrase is repeated frequently in a book, or a specific word occurs frequently in a passage. These recurring words and phrases are called “key words” and will begin to give me an idea of what this passage is all about and where it’s headed.
  • Look up definitions of words as needed.
    • Use a regular or online dictionary, or consider investing in a Vine’s Expository Dictionary like this one (also available for free online).
  • Ask very basic questions of the text using the 5W’s and an H (who-what-when-where-why-how).
    • I ask simple questions such as, “Who are the people in this passage?” “What happened in the chapter before this one?” “Where did this happen geographically?” “What is going on here?”
  • Jot down or star anything I don’t understand right away.
    • When I come across anything that I don’t understand right away, I can star it in the margin of my Bible, or make a note of it in a notebook, and then I keep reading. Often the question will be answered further on in the passage or later in the book.

2. Interpret (What does this passage mean?)

We’ll soon work to apply what we’re learning so that we more fully treasure Christ, but first we want to enter the author’s context before applying the Word to our context.

In a notebook or in the margin of my Bible, I write down anything I want to remember regarding the following questions:

  • Are there other Bible verses or stories (cross-references) that I remember while studying this passage?
  • What do I learn in this passage about God’s attributes or His character?
  • How does this passage point me to Jesus?
  • How can I view myself more clearly in light of what I have learned in this passage about who God is?
  • What other truths do I want to remember from today’s reading?

(As a final step in interpretation, I can consult the commentary notes in my study Bible.)

3. Apply (How should this passage change me?)

How will I submit to this passage of Scripture so that it changes me? At every point, I must pray and ask the Author of the Word to open my eyes to see Jesus.


  • Considering the aspects of God’s character revealed in this passage, what concern or responsibility can I entrust to Him today?
    • I ask myself, “Because of who God IS, how can I trust Him?”
  • Considering how this passage points to Jesus, what hope have I found? What beauty about Christ Jesus do I behold in this passage that encourages me today?
  • What steps of obedience will I take today in response to all I have considered? (Faithful obedience involves a change in attitude and belief that will result in a change of behavior.)


When we look for how the Old Testament points to Christ, those ancient, living words become more precious to us because they draw us closer to our Savior. They change us as the Spirit works God’s Word within us. And they train our hearts to treasure Christ more fully as the Bread of Life when we feast upon every word of God.

Download the printable to help you stay engaged as you read the Old Testament:

Treasuring Christ in the Old Testament

Amanda Easley Criss

Amanda Criss is a wife, stay-at-home mom, and blogger at Bless Your Heart and Home. She writes to encourage the hearts of women through the good news of Jesus Christ. She and her husband, Jody, have two children and live in their home state of Mississippi

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