Is the God of the Old Testament Unchristian?
Question: I read recently a reprint from an old book that gave a story that I think ought to shatter the “faith” of any Christian: “A mother was talking to her little child of the murder of the Amalekites. She explained that in those days enemies were murdered, but revelation was progressive, and Jesus told us that we are to love our enemies and do good to them that despitefully use us. Said the little girl, ‘Now I understand: that day was before God became a Christian!’” It seems to me that the Bible presents two Gods: the vengeful, warring God of the Old Testament, and the compassionate, forgiving and loving heavenly Father of the New, who was introduced by Christ. How can you reconcile two “Gods”?
Response: Again we have an old objection that is based upon a serious misunderstanding of the Bible. The God of the Old Testament is every bit as merciful as the God of the New Testament. Obviously, they are one and the same. The Old Testament prophets made it clear that God took no pleasure in meting out judgment upon sinners. The psalms are filled with praise to God for His mercy, kindness, grace, and love. In every one of the 26 verses of Psalm 136 it is said of God that “his mercy endureth forever.” Consider these further few examples of many more that could be given:
I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. (Psalm:13:5)
Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm:23:6)
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies (Psalm:25:10).
I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever (Psalm:52:8).
Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee…. Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion and gracious, longsuffering and plenteous in mercy and truth (Psalm:86:5,15).
The Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth to all generations (Psalm:100:5).
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy (Psalm:103:8).
It is instructive to go to Mount Sinai, where God revealed Himself to His people Israel and intimately to Moses. It was there that God spoke the law to His people from the midst of fire and smoke on top of the mount that quaked at His presence. It was a terrifying scene where God also executed severe punishment at the base of the mount upon those who turned to idolatry and immorality even while Moses was on Sinai speaking with Him.
Yet in the midst of this frightening revelation of His power and majesty and justice, God revealed Himself as merciful and longsuffering. Having asked God to reveal Himself to him, Moses journeyed back up onto the mount to meet Him. Here is how God revealed Himself to Moses on that occasion:
And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty… (Exodus:34:5-7).
As for Christ presenting God as a loving Father, He could not make God’s love and mercy more clear than it had already been presented in the Old Testament. Furthermore, almost half of the 54 times hell is mentioned in the entire Bible are contained in the New Testament. In the Gospels, Christ himself warned of hell 17 times and of coming judgment repeatedly.