“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” Ezekiel 18:30-32
Conversations about the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament have often been a stumbling block for those either trying to explain or understand the Bible. How can two halves of the same Book, the same God seem so contrary? How can the God of the Old Testament; jealous, vengeful, and demanding, be the same God of the New Testament who is loving, forgiving, awaiting patiently for the prodigal son to return?
I will say, in all transparency, that I struggled with this question when asked by new Christians and especially from pre-believers. How to reconcile the perception of dissonance? One Pastor that I had the privileged to work with for many years used to say, “context is everything”. This statement is very true, taking pieces and parts from the Bible in exclusion of their context can be misleading, confusing, and deterring to those who don’t understand the whole.
Easter of 2022, I started a journey with a group of about 30 women (around half are still going strong) to read through the Bible, chronologically in one-year. I have to say it has been such a beautiful experience reading God’s story, our story as it unfolded in history. It has been an enlightened blessing. Reading through Scripture in this way has engaged us in God’s story, how He envisioned it, the working out of it through His people, our struggles, failures, disappointments, bad decisions, and ultimately victory through Jesus Christ. I now see so much more clearly how God was (is) the same God then, now, and forever. His plan wasn’t one of constant redirection due to our rebellion, but one of sovereign provision from beginning to end.
The scripture above, I came across in my reading this week and was struck by how closely it related to what John the Baptist, Peter, Paul and the other Apostles, even Jesus himself spoke, repent and live! This has always been God’s message, when we turn away from the world, and turn toward Him, He will forgive, and we will be His people and He will be our God. This is only one very small example of where the New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament.
The Apostle Paul states in Romans, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4
Paul was writing to the Roman church about how we are to love one another and to accept each other’s differences, doing all we can to be at peace with one another, not causing others to stumble by our actions and words. Then he drops in this pearl pointing back to the Old Testament, that everything written there was to teach us, teach us about how we should live with one another in peace. The words of the prophets, music of the psalms, and the stories of the Patriarchs and what they endured to follow God and how He, in every circumstance, fulfilled His promises to His people. He protected, provided, and raised up those who followed His ways.
Even when we were disobedient, destructive, and deceitful, His promises did not fail. Our behavior did not affect His promises. He didn’t leave us to sit in the muck and mire we decided to wallow in. He loves us too much for that, and like any loving parent, he went to any necessary means to turn us back to him. But he NEVER reneged on his promises, NEVER.
Remember Jesus death on the cross and resurrection served as the payment for all our sins; past, present, and future. Those in the past who turned from their ways and back to God received the same benefit as is available to us. Jesus paid the price for all, and it is only through him (Jesus’ sacrifice) that we can be restored to God.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6
“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:24-28
The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. The sacrifice Jesus made of himself was made for ALL people in ALL times. It is enough. God’s love has not increased or decreased throughout time, He is not more willing, gentle, permissive, or forgiving now than He was then.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
As you read through the Old Testament, and I highly encourage you to do so, read it with an eye toward Jesus, knowing that as all the Old Testament history was unfolding Jesus had already died for their sins as well. Listen to how God continued to try and draw his people back to himself, to offer them countless opportunities to repent and return. He has always been the loving father and us the prodigal children, He is waiting, always waiting, expectantly for us to return to him. We need only to turn, and He’ll come running to meet us.
Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!
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