Searching for Jesus in the Old Testament

Give me faith like Daniel, hope like Moses, and a heart like David. If you grew up attending Sunday School, this may have been the way you were taught to look up to Old Testament characters. These lessons are significant, but there’s more gold deeper down if we’re willing to look.

Just like Israel longed for a king that could only be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, we often look to Bible “heroes” for inspiration on how to follow the Lord. And yet Jesus taught his disciples to read Scripture in a more unified way. The classic text for this is Luke 24 when the resurrected Jesus appears to two travelers on the road to Emmaus and showed them how all of the Scriptures pointed to himself.

This passage in Luke 24 is one of the reasons why the tagline of Haven has for decades been, “It’s all about Jesus.” That’s no exaggeration. In some way, every page of Scripture is pointing us to Christ.

In the Old Testament, we can see this in the three offices instituted by God among his people—prophets, priests, and kings. Israel needed all three, but no human could ever fulfill their assigned role perfectly, let alone do all three. Not until God became man. There we see Jesus fulfilling them all.

A great way to illustrate this is in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. It’s in the middle of the Old Testament and does not mention Jesus by name, but it’s clear that God is foreshadowing the Anointed King to come—the Messiah. Let’s dig into the text to see how.

In 1 Samuel, the children of Israel yearn for a king … but clearly not the true King they needed. In 8:19, the truth of the matter becomes clear after Samuel warns the people of Israel that this will come at a terrible cost.

… the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

They were asking because, in their hearts, they were rejecting the Lord. Which is what the Lord had already told Samuel they were doing. Jumping back to verse 6.

… And the LORD told him [Samuel]: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

Israel did not seek nor wait upon the Lord. A trait, unfortunately, their soon-to-be king would share.

Eventually, Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. A man who fit every expectation for a king at the time—but he was far from perfect. And then, about halfway through 1 Samuel, we are introduced to young David.

Many of us are familiar with David’s life. He is known as Israel’s finest king. He was given a great promise of an everlasting kingdom, but even this king “after God’s own heart” had his shortcomings.

Following David’s path in 1 Samuel, we see his ascendency filled with great difficulty. He is rejected by King Saul and is persecuted by him. David is frequently accused of wrongdoing. Things are so bad near the end of the book that David finds refuge, not among the people of God, but for a short time among their rivals, the Philistines.

So where do we find Jesus in this narrative? The text is, as Sally Lloyd-Jones famously coined in the Jesus Storybook Bible, “whispering His name.”

Samuel, Saul, and David are all unique individuals. And they each uniquely reveal something about the King to come. Here are just a few examples:

  • The life of Samuel as Israel’s final judge points to the fulfillment of a promised leader who will be a faithful priest and deliverer.
  • The life of Saul points to Jesus in a different way, by showing us what not to expect. Just as the Lord rejected Saul as king, Jesus also subverted expectations by ushering in a kingdom that is not of this world. (John 18:36)
  • The life of David points to Jesus by modeling the path of the coming Messiah. Like David, the promised King would undergo a life of suffering before a crown rested upon his head. It’s through the line of David that the Messiah would finally be born. Psalms that could apply to David are often applied to Christ, such as Psalm 16:8-10:

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

From Malachi 3:1 to Genesis 3:15, there are many direct and indirect passages of Scripture that point us to Christ. Sometimes it’s obvious, like Isaiah’s famous servant songs (42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9, and 52:13-53:12). Other times, the presence of Jesus is more like a whisper because of what’s lacking, like the rejection of Saul as king.

Wherever you may be in your reading of God’s Word, may the Spirit lead you to behold a clearer picture of our true King Jesus. He’s the greater Samuel, Saul, and David. He was not the King Israel expected, but He was and is the king we all need.

But this only scratches the surface. For a deeper dive into how 1 and 2 Samuel points us to Jesus, listen to the full 10-part Haven Today series.


President of Haven Ministries since November 2023, David Wollen is the host of the daily Haven Today radio broadcast. He resides in the greater Chicago area with his wife, Marci, and their three children. They are active leaders in their church where David serves as an elder and part of the preaching team, and Marci leads women’s ministries. David is passionate about teaching God’s Word with God’s heart. He sees this as synonymous with Haven’s longtime tagline: “Telling the Great Story … it’s all about Jesus!”

Christ In All The Scriptures

Haven is excited to announce their newly published book! It was written to help you read and pray through all of Scripture — with the eyes of your heart fixed on Jesus!

Christ in All the Scriptures: Reading and Praying Through the Bible in a Year is a 264-page resource written with you in mind and is the first of its kind from Haven. This easy‑to‑navigate book contains overviews of each book in the Bible and prayers centered on each reading. It helps you see more of Jesus on every page of your Bible … and that, in turn, will help draw you nearer to Christ as you engage with Him through the Word.

  • 66 Contextual Book Summaries
  • Guided Prayers
  • 365 Daily Readings
  • Ribbon Bookmark
  • Clothbound

You can use it to help you read the Bible in a year — with a reading for each week — or as a reference to pray through the Scriptures at whatever pace and place in Scripture you are reading God’s Word.

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