Old Testament God
Many Christians, and even non-Christians, think that the God in the Old Testament is exclusively God the Father and that He is either an unloving/unlovable remote deity, a "genocidal malevolent tyrant", or somewhere in-between.
We read stories about God:
- aiding and abetting the Israelites in the massacre of other people groups (including women and children).
- instructing Joshua to stone to death a whole family for what we would consider a minor crime of the father (Achan), apparently in order to appease God’s anger.
- Himself killing Uzzah, perhaps a faithful but just forgetful member of the escort for the Ark when he touched it to stop it falling off the oxen. Even David got angry at God over that one.
Many Christians reject the Old Testament, the "old covenant", as not relevant today, and the God of the Old Testament as being superseded or replaced by Jesus.
As "New Testament" Christians (not meant as a derogatory term), they regard Jesus as all love and grace and no judgment, and that He came to earth to portray the other side of God, as it were, and to defend us and save us from the wrath of the Father.
The Bible does not support this viewpoint. This doctrine is misguided, even potentially dangerous to our salvation, and does not fit the true picture of God.
We understand only a little of how God thinks and how He operates.
The Biblical fact, however, is that the three Persons of the "Godhead" (aka the Trinity) are in perfect unison and in perfect harmony in everything they do, as Individuals and as One.
Using our limited terminology, they appear to have individual "functions" or "job descriptions" in their interaction with humankind, however they have complete unity of character, motivation, purpose and action.
God does not have a split personality.
There are many prophecies in the Old Testament that foretell of the coming Messiah (Jesus), however I was surprised to learn that the Person who was involved most closely with the human race throughout the OT was in fact the Word (Logos), i.e. Jesus.
Jesus is the Creator, the "LORD God", in Genesis who "formed man of the dust of the ground".
The Hebrew words here are: LORD = Jehovah (singular), God = Elohim (plural).
The term "LORD God" clearly denotes both the singular and plural nature of God.
Jesus on one occasion referred to Himself as "I AM", inferring that He is the YHWH (Jehovah) of the OT.
Biblical evidence points to the pre-incarnate Jesus as being, in most if not all references, both the "LORD" and the "God" of the Old Testament.
This makes perfect sense and fits perfectly in the picture of God that we are assembling.
Jesus is, after all, our Creator and our Redeemer, our Alpha and our Omega, our Judge and our Advocate, the agent-Person of the plural Creator Elohim in Genesis 1:1, and the returning Saviour in Revelation 22:20.
As Jesus Himself said, referring to the Old Testament:
The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament.
SO how do we explain the alleged "genocidal malevolent tyrant" in the OT?
Clearly, this opinion is misguided.
We need to look at the big picture.
To consider some events in the New Testament:
God struck dead Ananias and Sapphira when they held back from the
apostles a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their land.
- Eleven of the twelve apostles were martyred for the cause, and the deaths described were brutal.
- Jesus will destroy all the lost when He returns. They will be "ashes" under the feet of the saved.
Sin is serious; it is like a cancer in God’s universe; He must contain it to this world, and ultimately eradicate it.
He must do this in such a way that sin won’t rise again, hence the Gospel (the good news).
God needed the apostles and the early church to understand the gravity of their calling and the deadly seriousness of their commission.
God emphasised this to the disciples by executing judgment on Ananias and his wife when they committed the unpardonable sin.
They might not be eternally lost (we can’t judge their hearts), however disobedience to God has consequences and God demonstrates this throughout the Bible.
God can execute judgment on the wicked at any time; that’s His prerogative.
God will judge everyone, and we will all be subject to either the penalty for sin (eternal death), or the reward for righteousness in Christ (eternal life).
Consider the global flood that wiped out all except eight people.
various times and on various occasions throughout history, ever since
the "fall" in Genesis, God has passed judgment and applied the penalty
for sin, directly or indirectly.
The Israelites were a special people.
They were chosen by God to represent Him to the world.
Their allegiance and faithfulness to God came and went, and they generally made a mess of their ambassadorship.
The Israelites prospered when they followed God however they suffered greatly when they wandered from Him.
God occasionally used the Israelites to execute His judgment on the people who were beyond redemption; e.g. to eradicate the pagan, barbaric tribes who practised all sorts of abominations, including child sacrifice.
God occasionally used the enemies of Israel to punish His chosen people and to get them back on track when they wandered.
God doesn’t play favourites; He won’t, He can’t.
Here is a short article on the subject:
Does all of this appear harsh, uncompromising?
Yes it is, but of necessity, for good reason.
We are in the middle of a war, between God and Satan.
This war is being fought over you and me.
The outcome of this war will determine not only our future but also the future of the universe, the future of all of God’s creation.
We know who wins the war; we know the future of the universe.
We don’t, however, know the outcome for every individual for whom a battle has been, is being or will be fought.
We are, each of us, the prize in the battle between good and evil.
We will, each of us, either die eternally with Satan or live eternally with God.
Although most of us are largely unaware of the big picture, we are all combatants and casualties in this "great controversy".
The good news is, however, that each one us can determine who wins the battle for our life.
We can win the battle if we choose to fight on Jesus’ side, or we can loose the battle if we give our allegiance to Satan.
There is no middle ground.
God doesn’t want to lose anyone; He loves each person equally, with an infinite love that we can only begin to comprehend.
He hates the effect that sin has on His creation.
He wants everyone to turn to Him, to repent and to be saved.
It’s our choice however; He won’t force us to choose Him. He can’t. It’s not in His character.
The act of destroying the wicked (the lost) is "strange" to God.
He must do it, however.
God’s creation must and will be restored to its former perfect state.
Would we want it any other way?
In the Old Testament, in the New Testament, in the eternal past, in the present, in the eternal future...God is love.
Below is the best sermon I have heard on this subject. Be patient and stick it out; it's worth the effort, especially if this subject is a "stumbling block" for you as it is for many of us.