Some christians think that the God of the Old Testament is completely different from the God revealed in the New Testament. In their view the God of the Old Testament is more angry and always looking for ways to inflict judgment on people, while the God of the New Testament is far more gracious and loving.
The Bible doesn’t show this difference however. God is in both the Old and the New Testament extremely loving, kind, patient and full of goodness towards us.
In fact the revelation of the overhelming love of God in the Old Testament is so encouraging, that millions of christians turn to it daily, to find comfort, hope and strength in the Psalms. When we look at psalm 103 for example, we find an astonishing revelation of God’s love for us:
‘Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. (Psalms 103:2-5, 8-13)
Another Old Testament scripture that reveals God’s goodness, is psalm 23. This is probably the most comforting chapter in the whole Bible:
‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’ (Psalms 23)
And when we look at what God said about Himself, to the prophet Elijah, we get the most accurate picture of God, painted in the Old Testament:
‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; …’ (Exodus 34:6)
The lovingkindness of God is such a central theme in the entire Old Testament, that it was the anthem of Israel:
‘O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ (1 Chronicles 16:34)
David knew God as the Good Shepherd long before Jesus Christ called Himself the Good Shepherd. Moses knew God as an intimate friend, long before Jesus Christ called His disciples friends. Isaiah knew God as the giver of extraordinary grace, long before Paul discovered the grace of God. Job knew God as a merciful redeemer thousands of years before Peter experienced it. And so on…
God is exactly the same person in both the old and the new covenant. He was just as compassionate and gracious before the cross as He is today. After all: Jesus Christ has always existed and God’s plan and heart were always to pour out the fulness of His love, through the atonement of Christ.
So, where do some people get the idea from, that God is different in the Old Testament? Mainly because of God’s judgments over sin. He destroyed entire cities, like Sodom and Gomorrah, and He commanded the Israelites to kill people who were full blown into demonic idolatry. Many christians think that God doesn’t judge sin anymore, since Jesus Christ took the sins of mankind upon Himself, at the cross. Therefor, they figure, the revelation of God in the New Covenant is far more gracious.
Jesus Christ made some extremely serious predictions about the future judgments, that He Himself will execute! He said He will judge the nations and cast everyone into the lake of fire, who lived selfish and didn’t care for those in need:
‘Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ (Matthew 25:41-43)
In the book Revelation Jesus Christ is also described as the Judge who will throw people in the lake of fire:
‘But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.‘ (Revelation 21:8)
It is the author of the letter to the Hebrew christians, who wrote:
‘It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ (Hebrews 10:31)
The apostles preached the grace of Jesus Christ constantly. It was their heart and their message, it was what the Holy Spirit poured out through them to all mankind: the grace of God has been revealed to all humanity, in Jesus Christ, for those who believe! But while they preached grace for all who accept Jesus Christ, they made it all too clear that there was a demand from God as well, to live new lives, worthy of their call, and to be holy:
‘Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.’ (1 Corinthians 6:9)
‘…fornicators and adulterers God will judge.’ (Hebrews 13:4)
‘…but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ (1 Peter 1:15)
‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ (1 Peter 5:5)
‘Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.’ (James 4:10)
‘…with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.’ (Colossians 3:22)
‘Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy…’ (Revelation 15:4)
‘Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God…’ (2 Corinthians 5:11)
‘Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.’ (1 Peter 2:17)
Jesus Christ did not come to tell us that the revelation of the God of the Old Testament was a big mistake. He came to confirm how God has revealed Himself all throughout Old Testament, and to fulfill God’s countless wonderful promises of healing, salvation, restoration, forgiveness and increasing glory.
The difference between the Old and the New Testament is not God. It is the way we can experience God! Jesus Christ became the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world, and He opened the way for all of us, so we can enter into a much deeper and more intimate relationship with the Father. This was God’s plan from the very beginning of time!
In the New Covenant He has given us the Holy Spirit, who makes it possible for us to become children of God. Now we can be led by His Spirit, as true sons and daughters of God, and walk according to His heart of love, truth and purity.
‘…you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.’ (Ephesians 5:8)
‘…prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.’ (Philippians 2:15)
So whenever someone tries to tell you that the God of the Old Testament was bad news, and the only way we can know God, is by only reading the New Testament, tell this person to start reading the Old Testament again. Because all through the Old Testament God is revealed as a tenderly loving, overwhelmingly gracious and compassionate Father.
Because He loves us dearly and wants to see us prosperous and blessed, He calls us in both the Old and the New Testament to come to Him, turn from your evil ways, love one another, care for those in need, and so on. He wants us to become like He is: loving and honest, shining bright in this world.
God will always be the same. He hates evil, because it only brings suffering and destruction, while He wants to bring joy and life in abundance. Therefor He judges evil. Not because He is a monster, but because He is tender mercy and He cannot see the horrible works of evil. He doesn’t tolerate it. That’s why He will utterly destroy evil and all those who stubbornly chose darkness over light.
Love is His heart, His kingdom, His command. It was so in the Old Testament and it is in the New Testament, and it will be so in all eternity.
May we all know Him truly as He is, and become a true reflection of Him.
David Sorensen had a dramatic encounter with God, which completely transformed his life. He decided to spend the rest of his life showing others show real God is and how much he loves us. David's desire is that people would learn how to experience God as the most beautiful reality there is.
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