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The Ark

Do the Old and New Testaments describe a different God?

Wed June 14th, 2017

Our God reveals himself in the Old Testament or the Jewish Scriptures as ‘Yahweh’ – 6823 times! The name is often taken to simply mean Lord but is best translated in Exodus chapter3:

13 Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I tell them?”

14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM., This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.


In the New testament God is revealed to us as Jesus, (Greek: God is or brings salvation).

Jesus says if we know Him we know the Father, and that He is the way that we know God.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who lives in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me

Just as in the Jewish scriptures which were written to the nation that served God, we see God revealed from a national perspective, in the New Testament we see God revealed in a personal way to a new grouping of people which is all inclusive.

In fact God is revealed to us as love and this new group of people are to be grouped together by their love.

1 John 4: 8The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice, for our sins

Some people who focus on the wars of the Old Testament and the taking of the promised land from other nations, see the God of the Old Testament as a belligerent, waring, vindictive God – if you like a Zeus like figure who is always out to ‘smite’. These people then love to portray Jesus as a God of love and so say that they are different. Is there any truth in this argument?

God of Love

To Moses God reveals himself this way:

Exodus 34:6 The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.

So God is a God of love, but also a God of justice!

This message appears elsewhere in the books of Moses but also throughout the Old Testament, from the Psalms to the Prophets

So, if the Old Testament describes a God of love, why do so many people not see Him?

This comes down to a few very specific instances of God’s interaction with the nation of Israel.

Slavery

You see teaching in the Old Testament about slavery but taken out of its temporal context it means something a little different to what it meant to the people in those days. All around Israel people were taken in slavery and worked until they dropped. It happened to Israel themselves in Egypt – something they sought release from and often remembered, and it happened in the nations around them. Slaves were effectively used as currency in the ancient world.

However, in an effort to change their cultural thinking, God introduces ‘rights for slaves’ which are very substantially different to the nations around them. Firstly, we must understand, that slaves were either taken by power – a conquering nation would capture slaves, or because of debt. In a world without bank loans, CAP (Christians against poverty), or bankruptcy, when someone couldn’t pay their bills they would sell themselves into slavery until they had paid off their debt. There was no other financial system to employ, we may not like it today, but basically you went to work for someone else without pay and they fed, clothed and housed you in return, until the debt was paid. Knowing the heart of mankind and the way they would not want to release their slaves, God made laws for the Israelites to ensure their eventual release. E.g. Deut 15:12

12 “If your fellow Hebrew, a man or woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, you must set him free in the seventh year. 13 When you set him free, do not send him away empty-handed. 14 Give generously to him from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. You are to give him whatever the Lord your God has blessed you with. 15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you; that is why I am giving you this command today.

So, contrary to popular belief, the Bible is not in favour of slavery, but rather seeks to mitigate the problems of debt that people got themselves into.

Wars

Perhaps the biggest reason people use to discredit God in the Old Testament is that of his apparent commends to the Jews to wipe out their enemies. Now before we take this too far, let us say that in those days it was often kill or be killed and many of the surrounding nations wanted to wipe out Israel or at the very least conquer them and make them into slaves. In other words, sometimes you had to fight before they killed you!

God talks about not giving the promised land to Abraham because the evil of the Amorites wasn’t complete (Genesis 15:16) The fact is they had it for another 430 years until a time came when they were so wicked that they God judged that they needed to be wiped out. Archaeology suggests that they were ridden with then incurable sexually transmitted diseases and were sacrificing their children to Molech and were a very violent race.

The Bible uses the language of hyperbolae when it talks about wiping them all out, because even the Bible tells us that some survived (which could not happen if they were all wiped out). God did tell Joshua to attack them but the hyperbolae of wiping out every man and woman and child was understood that way in those days.

In the context of a theistic nation, these judgements which often took hundreds of years to be fulfilled were appropriate and culturally warranted. It was kill or be killed and God was reluctant to kill.

Merciful

Jonah tells us this :

Jonah 4:1-4 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious. 2 He prayed to the Lord: "Please, Lord, isn't this what I said while I was still in my own country? That's why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster. 3 And now, Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."

4 The Lord asked, "Is it right for you to be angry?" …11 Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?"

The fact is that the God of the Old Testament is the same loving God as the new – He is patient:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

Is God a God of love in both Testaments? – Yes! Is God a God of Judgement in both Testaments? – Yes!

John 3:16-18 "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.

God has always loved and disciplined; He reserves judgement for a time that is coming, until then we can receive His mercy (Heb. 9:27)

The truth is that Christians get mixed up about this because we don’t know our Bibles well enough – this is one reason why we ought to read them more often! Yahweh is Jesus is Yahweh is Jesus, He has always loved us from creation and He will always love us too. He calls all mankind to repent and follow Jesus and that is why we carry this message.