Ceremonial washings, purification rituals, and animal sacrifices aren’t your typical Bible study topics. Studying the Pentateuch, especially Exodus through Deuteronomy, can be daunting.

Nancy Guthrie has met this challenge with compelling clarity in her latest book, The Lamb of God: Seeing Jesus in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (Crossway). Guthrie takes these often-neglected books of the Bible and makes them come alive. Rather than framing the discussion moralistically around an endless list of rules, she shows how all of God’s law points us to the coming One who would fulfill it completely—-the Lamb who would be the final, flawless sacrifice for sin. Guthrie uses her winsome, personal touch to help us see how all of God’s Word is profitable and powerful. Yes, even the Pentateuch.

I corresponded with Guthrie about the purpose of the law today, the theme of “salvation through judgment” that permeates so many Old Testament books, and more. Once you’ve finished reading, be sure to check out our Preaching Christ in the Old Testament database, complete with commentaries, articles, workshops, and sermons by many of today’s leading evangelical voices. The most recent addition, focusing on Deuteronomy, includes resources from Richard Pratt, Edmund Clowney, Christopher Wright, and several others.

What surprised you most as you studied Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy?

How much I had not grasped the flow of the story after a lifetime spent hearing the stories in Sunday school, college Bible classes, and Bible studies! As I work on creating this five-book series of Christ-centered Old Testament Bible studies, I figure those who will use these studies are likely a lot like me. So studying these books has helped me to more firmly grasp the flow of events in Israel’s emergence from slavery in Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, receiving the law at Mt. Sinai, spending 40 years in the wilderness, and receiving Moses’s final reminders before entering the land. So in one sense I think, Now I get it, and yet in another sense I think, Now I have the foundation to begin to get it.

How can we, this side of the Cross, benefit from studying the Pentateuch—-and Exodus through Deuteronomy in particular?

This story of salvation is really our story. Israel’s emergence from slavery shows us how God brings us out of our slavery to sin. We are saved only as we come under the covering of the blood of the lamb. Only as we “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” do we pass from death to life. Our story is one of being guided and provided for as we walk through the wilderness called life in this world.

Only when we grasp how the various sacrifices dealt with sin can we grasp the full forgiveness provided to us in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. And only when we see how the purity laws allowed for what was unclean to be made clean and what was clean to be made holy can we grasp that we who are unclean can be made clean through the sacrifice of Christ, and that we who are clean can even made holy so that we might enter into the very presence of God.

You contend “salvation through judgment” is a theme that permeates the Scriptures. How do you see the Old Testament depictions of salvation as foreshadowing our ultimate salvation?

I was tremendously helped to see this theme throughout the Scriptures by reading James Hamilton’s book God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. Salvation through judgment begins in Genesis as Adam and Eve were saved from eternal death through the judgment of exile from the Garden. In Exodus we see that God’s people were saved through the judgment that came down on Egypt in the form of the plagues. We see it most profoundly, however, in the cross of Christ. The salvation of sinners is made possible through the judgment of God that came down on Christ. And as we look into the future we recognize that our final salvation into the New Heaven and New Earth will come through the final judgment that will put a decisive end to this world’s evil.

There are many ideas swirling around about the purpose of the law for Christians today. How does this study help the reader gain a biblical framework for the law’s purpose both in the Old Testament and today?

The basis for his laying down the law at Sinai was that he was their God and redeemer. He doesn’t come to his people telling us to obey so that we can belong to him. Rather, he comes in grace and mercy to bring us out of our bondage to sin by his mighty power, and on the basis of that saving relationship we are subject to his covenant law. In grace he holds up a mirror before us so that we can see the extent of our sinfulness. Until we look into that mirror and see how far we’ve fallen short of God’s righteous standard, we will never see our need for a Savior. God’s exercise of grace, then, is not that he relaxes his demand for full obedience to his law but rather that he opens our eyes to see our desperate need for one who obeyed God’s commands fully in our stead.

In addition to this study, what resources would you commend to those desiring to more faithfully read the Pentateuch with Christ in view?

Philip Ryken’s commentary Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (all 1,200 pages of it!) is wonderfully Christ-focused. His tracing of the progression throughout the Bible of one lamb for one person when Abraham offered a ram in place of his son Isaac, one lamb for one household at the Passover, one lamb for the whole nation on the Day of Atonement, and finally one lamb for the whole world (see John 1:29), provided a tremendous “Aha!” moment for me. Additionally, John Woodhouse’s sermon series on Exodus and Deuteronomy opened up those books to me. I was also helped by a Leviticus sermon by Paul Blackham, delivered at All Souls Church in London. In fact, reading his Book by Book Study Guide: Leviticus sent me back to the drawing board on my chapter on Leviticus as he put the purity laws in context of the purity of Eden and the New Heaven and New Earth. Further, a sermon on Hebrews 13 by Liam Goligher helped me to grasp the contrast between coming to God at Mt. Sinai versus coming to him at Mt. Zion.

In his article “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament,” Sinclair Ferguson says, “Most of us probably develop the instinct for biblical-theological and redemptive-historical preaching best by the osmosis involved in listening to those who do it well.” And I’m very grateful to live in a time when technology allows me to listen to so many capable communicators present Christ so clearly from these ancient books, teaching me by example how to do so.