Tag Archives: Old Testament

The Real God

God is vindictive and cruel in the Old Testament but loving and kind in the New Testament. That is what My friend told me.  He said, because God is so different in the two testaments, it is obvious to him that the Bible can’t be trusted.  Is he right?  See what you think.  Here is a quote from the Old:

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;” (Psalm 103:8-13)

So, how did my friend get such a wrong idea?  The key is in the last line.  God has fatherly compassion toward those who “fear” Him.  That word does not mean those who cower in fright, but rather, those who respect or revere God so thoroughly that they are eager to respond to what he says.  If you had occasion to meet your favorite celebrity (actor, author, athlete – whatever) and he or she asked you to do something with them, how eager would you be to to say, “yes?”  Like that, only much, much more because God is much, much more.  Those who respond with awe and eagerness to God discover His love, His forgiveness, His goodness.

There was a math teacher in my high school whose reputation among the students was either, “really mean and vindictive, a nasty disciplinarian” or, “an amazing and gracious guy who would do anything to help you learn.”  Guess what?  Turns out he was the same guy.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The Same God

The woman of my fantasies whispered in my ear. I had spent the night at the college infirmary and she woke me with the most seductive voice.  “It’s time to wake up, Honey.”  But when I opened my eyes, all my adolescent hopes were dashed.  I’m pretty sure that old lady knew what she was doing to us.  She could have sold alarm clocks with that voice…   But when you only hear a voice and can’t see the face, it’s easy to get the wrong idea.

That’s why so many people have screwy ideas about God – even people written about in the Old Testament.  Because they could not see God, they imagined all sorts of distorted things about Him.  But David – King David – had the right idea.  God said he was a man “after His own heart.”  David knew God.

Question is, was David’s God the same God portrayed in the New Testament?  You know how the 23rd Psalm starts out: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”  But take a closer look at how David ended that Psalm:

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

David’s God was the God of goodness and love, the God Who kept track of His people (He followed them…  probably not yet on Twitter) and cared for them faithfully.  This concept of God is nothing like how pagan gods were imagined to be.  It sounds right to us because it is a New Testament idea, but in David’s day it was fairly radical stuff.  Jesus reaffirmed the goodness and faithfulness of God in all His teachings.

But David’s final thought, the hope of living “in the house of the Lord forever,” is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches for those whose souls are dead, disconnected from God’s Spirit.  Without the redeeming work of Jesus, without being forgiven by God and reborn by His Spirit, no one can “live in the house of the Lord forever.”  Jesus made this clear when He spoke with Nicodemus:

“In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  (John 3:3)

“Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6)

Without being brought to life by God’s Spirit, our souls are dead and cannot “live in the house of the Lord forever.”  God had given David a peek under the tent to glimpse a mystery that would not be revealed until the coming of Jesus.  It  was the mystery of how dead souls are brought to eternal life.  Here’s the third verse of Psalm 23:

“He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)

Here’s how Jesus said it:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13a)

Maybe you have wondered if the Old Testament God is the same as the God described in the New Testament.  He is.  Scroll down through the previous posts.  Adam knew Him; Job knew Him 3500 years or more ago; Abraham knew Him; David knew Him; Isaiah knew Him and Jesus knew Him.  He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

John vs. John Lennon

Last time we got together, I made this statement:  “God loves us so He can love others through us.   That’s His purpose.”  And I said,” Jesus gave us many commands.  He summarized them in one command: “Love one another.” (See “The Acid Test”)

Did you buy that?  Is that true?  If it is, does that mean the Beatles were right when they sang:

It’s easy…   All you need is love… (ya ta da da da…)  Love is all you need…”  

And if you think John the Apostle and John Lennon were on the same page, think again.  There is a vast difference between the feel-good and be-nice kind of love behind the Beatles’ lyric (and most other pop songs) and what  Jesus commanded us to practice.  Jesus’ idea of love put a new, radical twist on an old command.  That’s why John wrote:

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.  (1 John 2:7-8 )

The old command, the one “you have had since the beginning,” came right out of the earliest writings of the Old Testament: “… love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18b).   But this old command was made new, radically new, when explained and demonstrated by Jesus.    John says you can see that new understanding, that new truth in Jesus.  How?

Jesus made “love your neighbor as yourself” new by comparing it to and combining it with  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,” and declaring these intertwined commands to be the foundation of all the teachings of the Bible.

All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:40)

But Jesus also made this old command new by His teaching and His example.  Love, He taught, is a choice to put aside what I want in order to minister to what you need.    A simple example might be for me to love you, by setting aside my desire to express anger and frustration, so that I can give you the opportunity to be understood.   Simple, but not so simple, right?   Jesus taught the most extreme example of that kind of love:

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  (John 15:13)

This new, radical form of love, is not the sappy idea the Beatles were singing about.   It is not “easy,” as they sang.   This new understanding of love was demonstrated most fully in Jesus’ choice to endure a bloody, violent death, so that you and I could live!   

But what does John mean when he says that “its truth is seen in Him and you“?   Chew on that.  See if you can figure it out and we’ll take it up next time.