It is true that much of the Old Testament is written directly to Israel; for they were God’s chosen people; they were the people God had chosen to work with and to become His instruments of His righteousness and truth. So what do we do as Gentile believers when we read the Old Testament? How can we benefit from scripture that was not written to us?
Well first of all, let me say that it is not only the Old Testament that was not written to us. Each book of the New Testament was also not written directly to us. Each book had its own recipient, none of which was any one of us now; but each recipient was someone that was living in that time. In fact, there is no part of the Bible that was written directly to us.
With that said, we should not at all be disappointed, because 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all scripture (every word) is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for us. Think of that. Every word of the Bible is breathed out by God. And He made all of it profitable for everyone. It is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. And even the Old Testament is profitable for our learning (Rom. 15:4). We can benefit in some way by each and every chapter and verse.
And the way that it all happens is by the Holy Spirit. When we read His word and meditate on it, His Spirit applies His word to our heart. And He somehow shows us the truth that we need for just that day and for just that hour.
Now the foundational reason why we as Gentiles can benefit from every part of the Bible, even the books written to Israel, is because God has grafted us into the Jewish olive tree (or the line of Abraham). Thus all Gentiles who believe in God become heirs of Abraham (Rom. 11:17).
But here is a point of difference. There are some things that apply only to Israel as a nation, which the Christian church cannot apply. For instance, all through the prophetical books, God speaks of such things as the gathering of His people to Israel (“[He] will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isa 11:12). These passages and promises are only for Israel—promises that will be fulfilled in the coming kingdom.
Now, as we read these promises for Israel God will bless us; however, the church will never become part of Israel and replace Israel as a people. Israel will always exist as a special people. Some day in fact God will save a remnant of them and make them great on the earth.
But again, how can we as Gentile believers benefit from the scriptures and promises made to Israel? Here is how: since God has grafted us into the olive tree and since we can now partake of the root and fatness of the tree (Rom. 11:17), every verse, every promise that will bless them spiritually, we can claim as well. Here are some examples:
God said to Israel in Isaiah 40:31,
Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
When He said these things to Israel, we as Gentile Christians can also claim every part of that verse for our own spiritual strength. Again in Isaiah 41:10, when God said to Israel,
‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
We as Gentiles can regard that God is now also saying these things to us. Again in Isaiah 43:2, when God said to Israel,
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.
We can also apply this to us; that when we are going through trials as Israel went through, He will be with us, and he will protect us just as He protected Israel.