Why Kids Need to Know the Old Testament

For our kids to appreciate the cross, they must understand the need for the cross.
6 min read

In another post I talked about why kids need to know how to apply the Scriptures in specific ways to answer specific questions.

I made the case that kids need systematic theology to understand what God is like. But kids also need biblical theology to know who God is.

Biblical theology is the overarching story of Scripture; it is the story of God’s redemptive love for his children. We so often reduce the Gospel to Jesus’s death and resurrection. It is that, to be sure, but it is more than that.

The Old Testament starts with the story of a perfect world, which the first man broke through his willing disobedience. The rest of the Old Testament is the story of God keeping His promises to humanity, and us breaking our promises by trying to save ourselves.

Without the Old Testament’s hard stories (which so often get skipped in kids’ church), the stories of Jesus in the New Testament lack the power they were intended to have.

I remember one of my kids going through a stage where he asked “Why?” constantly. I would explain further, and he would respond with “Why?” It was an infinite loop of information and curiosity, frustrating and exhausting for me at the time.

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Image Credit: Hero Images/Getty Images

Looking back, I can see that he was filling in the gaps I had taken for granted that a young boy of three should understand about the world. I skipped vital information because I knew what was in the gaps.

I think we do the same thing in our kids’ ministries. We give kids lots of information and lots of stories, but we’ve left gaps that the Old Testament is meant to fill.

We give kids lots of information and lots of stories, but we’ve left gaps that the Old Testament is meant to fill.

So why do kids need to know the Old Testament?

So they can long for Christ’s return.

Kids need to learn what it was like to anticipate the Messiah so they will anticipate his return.

We spend a lot of time telling kids that Jesus has come to forgive them of their sins. We should do this—don’t get me wrong. But if that is all we do, kids will not understand the truth the Old Testament reveals: that we cannot save ourselves.

They will not long for the promised return of Christ in the same way the Old Testament saints longed for the coming of the Messiah. It was always on their minds, and their worship in all sorts of circumstances was centered around a far greater reality that Messiah was coming.

We too must live in light of His promised return. Remembering fills us with a hope that can never be destroyed.

So they can know a God who redeems.

Kids need to hear hard stories from the Old Testament to know that we serve a God who redeems. Without hard stories like Gomer and Hosea, David at Ziklag, and the stoning of Achan, kids think that you must be good for God to love and forgive you.

Little-girl-teaching-sister-draw-restaurant
Image Credit: Tang Ming Tung/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Without hard stories, kids will never see the beauty of Christ’s redeeming love. Rather than seeing Christ as beautiful, they will only see Him as useful.

Without hard stories, kids will never see the beauty of Christ’s redeeming love.

Every story in the Bible is for kids. It is, however, important for us to know how to contextualize those stories and tell them in a way that is Biblically faithful and yet age appropriate.

66 Short Bible Verses Perfect for Kids to Memorize cover

66 Short Bible Verses Perfect for Kids to Memorize

Memorized verses are the rails the Spirit’s instructions run on. How much track have we laid? Download this guide on Short Bible Verses. With 1 verse from every book, kids will learn to hide God’s Word in their hearts!
Free Guide
66 Short Bible Verses Perfect for Kids to Memorize cover

66 Short Bible Verses Perfect for Kids to Memorize

Memorized verses are the rails the Spirit’s instructions run on. How much track have we laid? Download this guide on Short Bible Verses. With 1 verse from every book, kids will learn to hide God’s Word in their hearts!
Free Guide
66 Short Bible Verses Perfect for Kids to Memorize cover

66 Short Bible Verses Perfect for Kids to Memorize

Memorized verses are the rails the Spirit’s instructions run on. How much track have we laid? Download this guide on Short Bible Verses. With 1 verse from every book, kids will learn to hide God’s Word in their hearts!
Free Guide

So they can rightly appreciate grace.

I remember when I got a job and could buy food for myself. My first job was at McDonald’s. Growing up we never had money for McDonald’s (to this day I still have never had a Happy Meal). As a result, I bought a lot of it while working there. It was amazing for a while, yet over time became something I no longer liked and actively avoided.

For a few years, McDonald’s was my primary food source. I loved it, yet had I continued to eat McDonald’s at such a pace, I would be twice the man I am today!

Why this story? A McDonald’s-only diet is like teaching kids grace without the law. Kids need the Old Testament law to understand, appreciate, and apply grace.

Is God love? Yes! Kids need to understand that because of His love, God gives grace to the least deserving. But when we elevate any attribute over the others, we get into dangerous territory. (Like me with McDonald’s.)

God is equally just, merciful, holy and loving—at all times. For our kids to appreciate the cross, they must understand the need for the cross. We need to show our kids how Christ embodies grace and how grace always comes before the law.

Telling our kids to obey their parents is essential; introducing them to the grace God provides in Christ is better.

Before God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He reminded Moses and all of Israel that He would grant the power to do what He commanded. We see this in Exodus 20:2 where before God gives His people the command to have no other gods before Him, He reminds them of the power of His saving grace and His empowering presence.

Obedience doesn’t come from us, but from the same gracious God that rescued Israel from the land of slavery.

We were slaves, and God set us free. Therefore we obey. Kids will misunderstand law and grace if they don’t see it throughout the whole Bible.

Kids will misunderstand law and grace if they don’t see it throughout the whole Bible.

So they know Jesus is the hero.

Kids need the Old Testament because it is all about Jesus.

boy-reading-book-desk
Image Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Jesus in Luke 24 said all of Scripture points to Him. When we fail to point to Jesus in every story, it’s easy to make the story about us.

If we don’t make Jesus the hero of every story, we will be tempted to make ourselves the hero. And make our messages about lessons we have learned along the way rather than relentlessly pointing kids to Jesus…

  • The one who was silent but present in Esther.
  • Who showed us in Hosea how He never lets go of us even when we let go of Him.
  • How He prefers mercy over judgment in Jonah.
  • How He uses broken families and always keeps His promises in Genesis.

These are just a few of the stories that show us the beauty and richness of who God is and how He revealed himself to us.

Teach kids the hard stories of the Old Testament so they grow up into a faith that is rich and many-faceted. A faith that is about the Bigness of God and His mercy-filled love of us. Kids need the Old Testament.

Really, we all need the Old Testament for its promises, hope, and the message that teaches how to properly long for heaven.

Big God Story cover

The Big God Story

In this fast-paced journey through the Bible, kids will hear the stories of the Garden of Eden, the great flood, the Promised Land, the kings of Israel, the holy baby born in a stable, and some unlikely friends who started a new church. Each part of the narrative highlights a different aspect of God’s faithfulness. Ultimately, readers will see how they fit into God’s big story of love when they write their names in the book on the last page!

This beautiful picture book teaches children about God’s promise of a redeemer through insightful connections back to the person of Jesus on almost every page.

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  Updated on July 24, 2019

About the Author

  • Sam Luce has been a pastor at Redeemer Church in Utica, NY since 2000. His first 14 years were dedicated to serving as children’s pastor, but Sam now serves as the Utica Campus Children’s Pastor and the Global Pastor to Families. In addition to discipling families, he helps equip kids' pastors on leadership, family ministry, and theology through his blog at SamLuce.com. Sam is passionate about the power of the gospel, becoming a better leader, ministering to kids, technology, humorous anything, and being the best dad and husband for his family.

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