Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

 Part 2 of an interview with Kristen Hatton,
Author of The Gospel Centered Life
in Exodus for Students

For many, Sunday school as a child is fondly remembered, with the introduction to the gospel story helped along with large picture books and easy-to-digest stories. Growing older, we made the move to Bibles with fewer pictures and more words and began to find the gospel in the Old Testament as well. However, we may have missed key instruction on how to make that transition. The new Gospel-Centered Life for Students series for teens and young adults will help make the connections clearer.

In the first book of the series, The Gospel-Centered Life in Exodus for Students, author Kristen Hatton leads readers in finding and meeting Jesus in unexpected places as well as seeing the pattern of redemption present even in the Old Testament. As they learn the entire Bible is one unfolding story about Jesus, and the same God who spoke to Moses also sent his son to redeem our sins, study participants will better understand how to read Scripture and view it as the “manna” needed for their daily life.

Q: Why did you feel it was so important to write a Bible study specifically for teens?

Years ago, after starting a small group Bible study for my daughter and some her friends, I realized quite quickly there was very little in the way of Bible study curriculum for teens. Instead everything at the Christian bookstore appeared to be topical, feel-good messages for navigating a happy, successful teen life. I wanted something more.

Teens need to have their eyes lifted off themselves to see the truth about who Jesus is for them. They need to be deeply rooted in Scripture, to learn who God is beyond Sunday-school sound bites. They need to see his Word as the one unfolding story about his Son. Otherwise, Scripture can just seem like disjointed bits of advice and rules. If that is all it is to them, it’s no wonder their Bibles are read more with the goal of checking quiet time off the to-do list than seeing it as the daily “manna” needed for all of life. Therefore, my hope in writing The Gospel-Centered Life in Exodus for Students is to bring teens into the bigger story of the gospel so that they see Jesus as central in all of God’s Word and to their lives.

Additionally, in bringing teens to the Word of God, I hope they develop a habit of being in God’s Word and a desire for greater biblical literacy. Unfortunately, many of today’s younger generation of Christians have not grown up in the Word and have very little knowledge of the stories and how everything fits together. Instead, they are often spoon-fed moralistic teaching and given single verses pulled out of context. So as the church, youth leaders and parents, we must strive to teach our students how to read and approach the Bible through studies in books of the Bible.

Q: Why did you decide to focus your first study on the book of Exodus?

The reason I proposed to write a study in Exodus came from having used my pastor-husband’s sermon series from Exodus as a springboard for crafting my own Bible study lessons when I was wasn’t able to find the kind of studies I was looking for. What I love about Exodus is how clearly God’s pattern of redemption is laid out.

For most of my group, seeing Jesus in the Old Testament was eye-opening. They didn’t expect him to show up in such places as the tenth plague, the wilderness and the tabernacle. They also didn’t expect to see how we’re just like the Israelites. As I had hoped, Exodus helped me show them how the Old Testament speaks forth the gospel and is still relevant to us today.

Q: In what ways will students be able to relate lessons about the Israelites from the time of Moses to their everyday lives today?

It’s easy to read Exodus and look down on the Israelites for grumbling and so quickly turning away from God when He continues to pursue and bless them. When students see how sin taints their motives and desires and shows up in the false gods they turn to looking for an identity (whether it’s their appearance, performance, perfectionism, the desire for recognition or acceptance), they will be faced with how much they are like the Israelites with their golden calf.

Furthermore, our view of the Ten Commandments tends to be very black and white. For instance, we are told not to commit murder and because we have not killed a man assume we have kept the law. With this perspective we think much more highly of ourselves than we ought. If sin is more than our outward behavior and includes our thoughts and desires, we are faced with the realization our dismissal of someone or lack of love toward a classmate is in effect killing them. The Ten Commandments read in this way exposes to students how they fail to measure up to the law, and therefore, need Christ’s righteousness.

Q: The book was designed for small group study, but could it be used for individual study or for the entire congregation? How does the book target teens specifically, and is it a study all ages could participate in?

The book was designed as a small group resource, but will work just as well for individual use. In fact, one of my teenage sons has already started using it for his daily quiet time. I would also recommend families use it together around the dinner table. In both of these scenarios, an individual or family could break each hour-long lesson into smaller chunks and spend multiple days or a week on each lesson.

For a parent reading it alongside their teen (the same would be true for adult small groups or individual adults using it), I believe they will find the gospel truth and application of the lesson no less relevant for them than it is for students. While the “Bible Conversation” and “Article” in each chapter is written with the high school or college student in mind, the application of the Word is the same for us all because our hearts are all the same. So while the outward manifestation of sin may present itself differently in a teenager versus an adult, the particular scenarios used in the book will still expose the root sin. Ultimately, seeing how Jesus shows up in each passage and the gospel He brings to bear is the truth we all—no matter our age—need to hear.

Q: How do we sometimes fail at teaching children how to study the Bible? How does the Gospel-Centered Life series instruct students how to better study the Bible?

Unfortunately, children are not taught how to study the Bible correctly because so many adults use it primarily as an instruction book or moral guide. By this I mean we see it as a book of laws—do’s and don’ts—for living the Christian life. If that’s all it is, like I said before, I can see why we wouldn’t want to spend time reading and studying it. However, when we see it as the one unfolding story about Christ’s worth and work for us, it changes our approach.

The Gospel-Centered Life series will seek to elevate Christ throughout scripture. It will lead students to make observations and ask questions of the text and encourage them to read a book in context so they gain a fuller picture of who the author is writing to and why. By slowing down to think and read critically, along with the discussion and exercise sections, students should gain a deeper understanding of particular books. Throughout they will be coached to see the gospel centrality, and the relevance of the gospel to all of life.

Q: What is the format for each lesson in the study?

Each lesson focuses on one primary passage or event so that by the end of the twelve lessons a student should have a good grasp of the entire book of Exodus. The lessons are structured so they could be done within an hour, and a suggested amount of time to spend in each section of the lesson is given. They are designed to be interactive with a leader facilitating but can be done solo as well.

At the beginning of each lesson the “Big Idea” or main takeaway is clearly stated. To get started there is a time of “Bible Conversation” that includes a related icebreaker conversation, the reading of the passage and follow-up discussion questions. This time is followed by an “Article” to help unpack what was read in the text and includes more discussion questions. Before “Wrap-Up and Prayer” an “Exercise” is given. Some exercises are group-driven while others call for more introspection and journaling. The point of the exercises is to further personalize and apply the lessons to the individual readers. Except for two lessons that cover more chapters in Exodus than others, there is no take-home reading or work.

Learn more about Kirsten Hatton and The Gospel-Centered Life in Exodus for Students at She is also active on Facebook (@kristenbhatton), Twitter (@Hattonkb) and Instagram (@kristen_hatton).