Some of us may have read part of the Old Testament or heard others talk about the Old Testament as if the God represented in the Old Testament is angry and vengeful and full of wrath far different than the way Jesus represented God in the New Testament.
It is true that God is going to make all things right.
One day, there will be justice, but God’s loving character has never changed.
A God Who Loves All
Throughout the Scriptures that Jesus studied (the Old Testament), a phrase is used 9 times to describe God’s character:
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” – Psalm 103:8
God’s heart for all nations was evident from the beginning and can be seen through the history of the people of Israel as depicted in the Old Testament.
In Genesis 12, God chose Abraham and blessed him so that he would be a blessing to all nations. Abraham’s family came to be known as the people of Israel. They were a peculiar people with laws and standards like no other people in the ancient world. They were called to be holy just as they followed their holy God. At times they brought justice as they followed their just God.
In an uncivilized world where every tribe had a god and the god was seen as only as strong as the armies representing them – the people of Israel eventually were the most powerful tribe/nation on the planet. People would come to Israel to worship the God of Israel. They would come to see the Temple where God lived.
So much changed with Jesus.
God’s strategy for reaching humanity changed, but His character has never changed.
Jesus lived a perfect and holy life (unlike anyone before him or anyone since) only to be arrested and tried by the religious and political leaders who felt threatened by Him. As a result, He was crucified on a cross. The religious and political leaders thought they had ended Jesus’ influence, but they were unaware of the bigger picture. In dying on the cross, Jesus was taking on the sins and wickedness of humanity so that we might be able to share in His holiness. We can now enter into the presence of a holy and majestic and perfect God because when we surrender our lives to Christ, His death counts for us.
After Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, the Temple was destroyed as he predicted. God no longer lived in a place, He lives within the people who have surrendered themselves to Him. We know longer needed to make sacrifices for forgiveness because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. We no longer needed a priest to speak on our behalf to God, those who follow Jesus are now priests in this new Kingdom able to access God directly.
Once the Messiah came, the Kingdom would no longer be limited by geography but would expand throughout the world. The Messiah’s Kingdom would no longer be political but spiritual. The Messiah’s Kingdom would not require a person to follow the religious rituals of the Jews but people from every background could now have a relationship with God.
A God Who Rescues
Before Jesus, the people were saved by trusting in the God who would come to rescue them. The Law (600+ laws of the Hebrew Scriptures) reminded us that we cannot live a perfect life and need God to rescue us.
After Jesus, we are saved by trusting in the God who came to rescue us and will come again. Jesus summarized the laws with this statement: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” Even this cannot be done without God’s help!
For more, check out the following:
- Hearing God Through the Scriptures
- Explore God – Is the Bible Reliable? by John Burke
- “An Overview of the Scriptures” in Discover Your Purpose
- “Slaughter of the Canaanites” by Dr. William Lane Craig
- “Problems in the Old Testament” by Dr. William Lane Craig (extraordinary miracles like Jonah in the whale, the “wrathful” God)
It is sometimes difficult to believe in a loving God who simultaneously allows death, genocide, and war to occur both throughout history and presently. It is one of the great Catch-22s of scripture, as we see God condoning stoning disobedient children in the Old Testament, and then telling us to turn the other cheek in the New Testament.
I think here it was explained very well that God’s character has never changed, He has simply switched up His strategies. (You could go further and say that His strategy has remained the same the whole time as well). Often, we get caught in a dualistic view of God: the God of the Old Testament was full of wrath and fury, and punished His followers, and the God of the New Testament was kind and loving, and that’s just the way it’s going now.
Verses from the Psalms like the one above point to a God that was always loving, that always intended to rescue not only His people but all in the earth. Indeed when we read enough scripture to understand His motives, we gain more and more appreciation for what God has given. If we have the attitude that we deserve just compensation for the good deeds we’ve done, and that we should get what we have rightly earned, then God may seem stingy and judgmental. However, after going deeper we may begin to understand that God created the earth and everything in it, that we never deserved anything, and that the fact that God even gives thought to man is an astounding revelation.
God has been consistent throughout scripture, and often when we feel that twinge of distrust or anger towards God we must work to remember what is static and what changes with the day.
Jesus is who I am always brought back to when being discouraged by Christians. I remember what Jesus was like, I think of when I felt his presence so deeply I did not embrace a homosexual lifestyle, I think of worshiping and feeling like was a child gathered in his cloak and I remember when I was an isolated little child, unpopular at a school of 30 kids in a National Park and I remember being ignored by the other kids on a swing set but singing to Jesus, I remember More Than A Carpenter and remember why my friend rejected Christianity and it took everything to hold onto His hand to not fall over the same cliff and I dream running and not growing weary and ….i WILL RISE ON EAGLES WINGS
Before actually embarking to read the whole Bible, over the course of a year, struggling with the “angry” God of the Old Testament was very real for me. However, seeing the whole journey I now see the truth spelled out in Psalm 103:8. The transition from OT to NT is spelled out well in your phrase, “God’s strategy for reaching humanity changed, but His character has never changed”