Did the Old Testament Offer Only One Way to God?

The exclusivity of salvation isn't a new question.

Of course, we can only approach God’s presence God’s way. The New Testament clearly reveals that only through Jesus can anyone come to God the Father (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:23). But what about in the Old Testament? Are there multiple ways? 

Did the Old Testament Offer Only One Way to God?

(Photo courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After King David conquered Jerusalem and secured it as his capital, he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath-Jearim into his new City of David. But in his passion to have God’s presence, David neglected to follow God’s principles. That negligence of improperly transporting the Ark cost a man his life (2 Samuel 6).

Three months later, David correctly transported the Ark into Jerusalem and placed it in a tent he pitched for its keeping.

In this experience, David gained a profound respect for God’s holiness.

This principle directly relates to the question: did the Old Testament offer only one way to God?

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The Gates of Jerusalem Today and Tomorrow

8 gates today and 12 in the future.

Every time I see them, they fascinate me. The walls and gates of Jerusalem have expanded and contracted over the centuries like the breathing of a living being. Even today, the Old City of Jerusalem is such that we have to enter the city through gates—just as people did for thousands of years.

Golden Gate

(Photo: Jerusalem’s Golden Gate. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Gates were more than passageways. They served as places for personal business and civic affairs (see Ruth 4:1). Gates often took their names from the distant cities they faced, like Jaffa, Damascus, and Shechem.

There are 8 gates of Jerusalem today. But the Bible promises 12 in the future.

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Hezekiah’s Tunnel and Wall Give a Lesson from Archaeology

Scripture is supported by what we can dig out of the ground.

The ancient world had a bully system that worked in straightforward terms. A nation would conquer a region and demand tribute—annual payment of money and goods. If you didn’t pay tribute, they’d come and kill you. Pretty simple system.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

(Photo: Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

King Hezekiah refused to pay tribute to the bully. So the Assyrians invaded Judah.

Archaeology has unearthed treasures that reveal Hezekiah’s faith in God. How does it strengthen your faith to see the Bible in archaeology?

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Must-Have Resources for Bible Lands Study

I've boiled down an essential list for you.

Not everybody can travel to Israel. But everyone can benefit from including Bible lands in their personal Bible study. You just need some good tools.

Tabernacle model and courtyard

(Photo: Tabernacle Model. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

I have discovered that including Bible lands in my study has given me more understanding of the Bible than I ever imagined. The benefits of including Bible lands in the study of Scripture are available to everyone.

Many people have asked what resources I recommend. So I’ve created what I consider a must-have list. These are the tools I reach for first when I study—those resources that have proven most helpful to me for years.

I’ll give you the full list, and then I’ll suggest which ones to get first.

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Compare Jerusalem’s Mountains to God’s Presence in Your Life

How Jerusalem's Geography Can Relieve Your Doubts

Life is full of moments that expose our doubts. In spite of all the Scripture we’ve learned and all the past victories the Lord has given us, occasionally something will happen that causes serious doubt.

How Jerusalem's Geography Can Relieve Your Doubts

(Photo: Jerusalem’s Temple Mount near sunset. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Maybe it’s a financial situation that undercuts future security. Or it might be a miserable marriage. Perhaps it’s a pastor or a leader who has failed. Maybe it’s our own failure.

Whatever the reason, seasons of doubts and confusion can come even to the most committed followers of Jesus:

  • John the Baptist struggled with doubts about his own beliefs about Jesus (Matt. 11:2-3).
  • The apostle Thomas found the resurrection of Christ something he had to see before he’d believe (John 20:25).
  • Some of the disciples had doubts about Jesus’ appearing to them, even at the Great Commission (Matt. 28:17).

I confess, I’ve had my doubts as well. Sometimes circumstances literally demanded I doubt God. A simple walk in Jerusalem one evening gave me an essential reminder.

I’m convinced it can help you.

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The Kidron Valley – How Your Burial Can Point to Your Faith

Even after death, we can have a powerful witness to the living.

Have you thought where you’ll be buried? The place where someone chooses to get buried is always significant.

  • A hometown family plot is common.
  • The place where one’s ashes are scattered or stored often holds a special association.
  • Even unknown soldiers who die in battle occasionally receive a prominent interment.
The Kidron Valley with olive trees and graves

(Photo: The Kidron Valley with olives trees and graves. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But in Israel, a burial place often exposed one’s faith. The tombs beside the Kidron Valley bear witness to this truth.

Each one offers a connection to resurrection.

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There’s Only One Gate Jesus Won’t Enter

The keys are in your pocket.

Dotted along Jerusalem’s slopes on either side of the Kidron Valley lie thousands of graves. Some Jewish. Some Muslim. Ironically, both cemeteries lie there, in part, because of the Messiah.

Golden Gate

(Photo: Golden Gate at Jerusalem’s eastern side. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The largest Jewish cemetery in the world dots the side of the Mount of Olives as it slopes down into the valley that separates it from Jerusalem.

Why be buried here?

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Nebi Samwil—A Site with Wisdom Ignored

Solomon's defining moment can also become ours.

Most travelers to Jerusalem never think to come to Nebi Samwil. The minaret towering above the hill looks like a misplaced lighthouse searching for the sea. On a clear day, a visitor can spy the Mediterranean to the west.

Nebi Samwil

(Photo: Nebi Samwil. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Although few come here today, there were few more important places in David’s and Solomon’s time—if any. In fact, it signified Solomon’s most defining moment.

What’s more, it represents the potential for ours as well.

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Hope from the Upper Room and David’s Tomb

How events of history and tradition combine to offer an answer to David’s prayer.

One of King David’s most poignant prayers came after one of his greatest mistakes. “Do not cast me away from Your presence,” he prayed, “and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).

Hope from the Upper Room and David Tomb

(Photo: Upper Room Interior. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

At the traditional site of the Upper Room, pieces of Hebrew and Christian scripture come together in an ancient building. Here, on Jerusalem’s Western Hill, events of history and tradition combine to offer the ultimate answer to David’s prayer.

In fact, the place offers hope for all of us.

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What’s Your Motive? There’s One Way to Tell

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

I find it fascinating that when the New Testament talks about God judging our motives, it uses the metaphor of a burnt house. In Jerusalem, one site I pass always begs the question: “What’s your motive?”

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

(Photo: The Burnt House in Jerusalem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Some call it coincidence. Some call it Providence. But according to tradition, both the First and Second Temples (in 586 BC and AD 70) were destroyed on the same date in history. Tisha B’Av marks the 9th day of the month of Av—the fifth Jewish month. During the exile, the Jews instituted a fast to commemorate the Temple’s destruction. After they returned to Jerusalem, they asked God a question about Tisha B’Av:

Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years? —Zechariah 7:3

Their question made sense.

They had observed the fast in exile, but should they continue to fast on Tisha B’Av now that they were building the Second Temple? God’s answer to their question reaches beyond them to the heart of why we do what we do.

One question gets to the heart of our heart.

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