Author’s Note: This is a devotional I recently prepared for a seminary class, and I offer it hopefully for your benefit.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2a, NKJV)
These verses summarize the fact of God’s speaking both in the past and in the time of Jesus’ coming. It especially describes the Old Testament revelation as being given in “many portions” (NKJV, footnote) and “various ways.” This refers to the various utterances spoken by the prophets and the varied circumstances in which they spoke. We should understand that God has revealed himself not all at once. This idea is what theologians call progressive revelation.
When each book of the Bible is read, one can easily observe that new things are said. Yes, there is some repetition and exhortation to live by that what was already revealed. However, each message from God can also bring with it new revelation (see for example Isa. 7:3ff and Eph. 3:5ff) or even changes to something previously revealed (see an example in Jer. 31:31ff). Truth does not change in its absolute sense because God does not change (Mal. 3:6). However, God’s expectations for man can change and, in fact, do change.
When we study the Word, we should carefully note what God was revealing through each book at the time it was written. There is a temptation to read New Testament truths into the Old, but we should fit each book together according to its original meaning and recognize the development that has taken place. This is crucial to properly apply the Bible. Study of the Word takes time and effort, but we must seek to do so in order to grow (as in 1 Pet. 2:2).
NKJV is the Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used with permission.