Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
The question we should ask when we read the Old Testament is: “What does this passage teach me about the character of God?” Unfortunately, many people believe the Old Testament does not teach us anything worthwhile–or true–about God. In his book “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins wrote, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
It is not only atheists like Dawkins who find the God described in the Old Testament repugnant. Many professing Christians have bought into the false dichotomy between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament personified in Jesus Christ. When I was a student at a Baptist college, I never will forget hearing my Old Testament religion teacher make this comment: “The Bible is simply a collection of men’s ideas about God. In the Old Testament you find man’s worst thoughts about God: a bloodthirsty deity who constantly sought revenge. In the New Testament you find man’s loftiest ideas of God as exemplified in Jesus.” This is a common mind-set today among Christians and skeptics alike.
Yet the New Testament does not present a one-dimensional God whose only attribute is love. The same Jesus who declared “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16) will return in judgment to “strike down the nations, and . . . rule them with a rod of iron [as] He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (Revelation 19:15). Similarly, the Old Testament reveals more about God than just His anger against evildoers. From Genesis to Malachi we also find a God who is described as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness” (Psalm 103:8).
Which God should we listen to and attempt to please: the angry God of the Old Testament who appears to hate everyone, or the loving God of the New Testament who judges no one? In the first case, who would want to share the message of a God who is bad-tempered and impossible to please? In the second case, if God is so loving that He accepts everyone as they are, then why bother sharing the gospel since God won’t judge people anyway?
In truth, both the Old and New Testament reveal to us a variety of aspects of the same God “with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). God is both loving and just. His righteousness demands that He punish sin, but His love motivated Him to offer a way to forgive sinners.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Old Way Was One Way” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion” (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), 51.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.