When I travel down the six lane highway that is Great Eastern Highway, leading from the Perth airport into Perth City, Western Australia, it is hard to remember the roadworks that disrupted the highway for many months while it was being redeveloped. But back then it was hard for people to imagine what the highway was going to look like, and there were plenty of complaints at the time about the disruptions to traffic, the cost to business in the area and the general frustration of having to negotiate multiple signs and detours that controlled where and how we could travel.
When I read the Old Testament sometimes it seems confusing, excessively detailed, and often frustrating. But perhaps it is useful to see the events of the Old Testament as roadworks in progress. God had a master plan to bring his Kingdom to earth through Jesus and everything that occurred leading up to Jesus was a major worksite preparing the way for what was to come.
The Great Eastern Highway redevelopment required a lot of detailed work. With extensive services, including water, power and gas, running underground, no work could be carried out without careful planning and preparation to ensure that the job was done well and the final outcome could be achieved successfully. In the same way, the detailed preparation that we see in the Old Testament was part of the blueprint that was necessary for God to achieve his purposes for humanity.
Take, for example, the details that were given in relation to the building of the Tabernacle. There were instructions about the materials that were used, the colours, sizes and shapes. We may well scratch our head over the level of detail, but the writer to the Hebrews describes this as a copy or shadow (perhaps a blueprint) of what was to come.
The Hebrews writer said: “But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.” If the final outcome of the roadworks is superior, the preparation and planning – the roadworks – had to be carried out with detail and care.
For me, it’s helpful reading the Old Testament as a major roadworks exercise. Everything was done for a reason and while the detour signs may not always make sense, they were part of Gods’ blueprint for the future – every part of it pointing to Jesus.
Does this illustration help in your understanding of the Old Testament?