How Should I read the Old Testament? This is a pertinent question to Christians, especially in a social context that seems far removed from that of the ancient Near East. First, we must accept it as being Holy Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). Second, we must read it in the context of Jesus Himself (Matthew 5:17).
The first part is by far the easier answer, as we have plenty of apostolic teaching in the New Testament that shows the full meaning of Old Testament passages. Paul, for example, constantly draws from the prophets, the Psalms, and the Torah. Peter, in his Pentecost sermon that saw 3,000 saved, quoted from Joel. It is obvious that the writers of the New Testament then believed the Old Testament to be theopneustos, God-breathed. This is exactly how Christians are to view it as well.
The aspect of being God-breathed means that every Old Testament action that has taken place, and its recording in the Bible, is from God. Obviously, there are several horrible, violent acts that disgusted God and incurred His judgement, but we see how He works all of it together to form a separate nation, Israel, from which the Messiah would come.
It is here that we reach the second part of how a Christian should read the Old Testament. Once we see it as a precursor to the ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ, it all makes much more sense. The minute details of Joseph being sold into slavery suddenly take on a powerful meaning when put into the context of his being a type and shadow of Christ being betrayed. Sacrificial law, with its killing of thousands upon thousands of goats and sheep, actually becomes acutely convicting when we see the weight of sin, and the price of being made right with God. It actually puts everything in its correct place, and gives weight to the words in Hebrews that “There will never be another sacrifice” after Jesus.
So, though this was just a short treatment of the need for Christians to be people that honor the whole of God’s Words, I believe that it is now clear that we should read the Old Testament because of Who Christ is, and because of its divine authorship.