Can I Claim the Old Testament Promises for my Life Today?
The Old Testament promises were often made to specific people, at a specific time, for a specific purpose. However, if we say that we cannot claim these promises for ourselves at all, then we are saying that there are parts of God’s word that are not useful to us. We know that this is not correct because “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. So, there must be some way in which we can use these verses.
One possibility is that they teach us about God’s character, and the way in which He relates to us. God is unchanging (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17) so the way He related to His people in the Old Testament must teach us about how He relates to us today.
We must also realize that New Testament writers do take a number of the Old Testament promises and explain how they apply to us today, for example Joel 2:28 is used by Peter when he addressed the crowd at Pentecost to explain what was happening as the Holy Spirit was poured out.
Other Old Testament promises are not directly used in the New Testament, but there are similar promises in the New Testament, for example:
In Jeremiah 29:11-13, God says “For I know the plans I have you ... plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future (Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose”). Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you (Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart” (Matthew 7:8 “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened”).
In Joshua 1:9 God said to Joshua “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”. In 2 Corinthians 13:11 Paul says “Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of peace will be with you” and in Philippians 4:9 he says “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you”. Finally, in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus told the disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations ... and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. In all these passages we are called to obey God’s word to us, and then He will be with us.
God does not change. Therefore His character is consistent as He relates with different people in both the Old and New Testaments. However, we need to be careful to understand the context of His promises to those people - otherwise we may be forcing a meaning which was never intended by Holy Spirit through the writer. We can check by looking at other passages to see if the meaning is the same - because the Holy Spirit inspired all the writers and He does not change. Then we should pray to ask the Lord if the particular promises we are looking at apply to our lives, and if so - how do they apply.
All scripture quotations taken from NIV84.