Have you heard people say ‘I like the Jesus of the New Testament but I don’t like the angry God of the Old Testament?’
Are they two different people and, if not, then why is the Bible even divided into the Old and New Testament?
As mentioned in a previous article, testament means a blood covenant, a solemn agreement or oath that is so serious it is ratified by the shedding of blood.
The Old Testament or covenant refers to the solemn agreement entered into by God, with the Israelites at Mt Sinai, after God brought them out of slavery to the Egyptians and they famously crossed the Red Sea on dry land.
This was when Israel’s first leader, Moses, was given the Ten Commandments, along with many other rules and regulations, collectively known as “the Mosaic Law”. The account can be read in Exodus 19 and following.
The covenant was a conditional one: The Israelites had to fulfil their part of the bargain to obey all the things that God had told them to do, and to make the required sacrifices of spotless animals for sin (all they had done wrong); and, in turn, God would multiply their possessions, heal their diseases, defeat their enemies and cover over their sin, so that they could be in a relationship with Him.
The list of promises if they obeyed and curses if they did not are found in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 28.
The rest of the Old Testament recounts Israel’s sad history of failure to live up to the rules God had imposed: a repeated cycle of disobedience and idol worship, followed by God’s warnings through his prophets, judgement through military defeat, their turning to back to God for a short time, and their fall into idolatry again.
The reason God gave Israel such incredibly high moral requirements (which realistically were impossible to keep), was that God was showing mankind how perfect and holy He Himself is, and how unable we are to be like Him or in a relationship with Him through our own abilities.
Like a small child who repeatedly tries to reach a door handle or climb an obstacle, until eventually they admit defeat and ask for help; so mankind would only get to the point of acknowledging their need for a rescuer from their sin, once it had been proved that they were unable in their own strength to “be holy” as God had called them to be.
All of us can identify with that desire to do the right thing or feel the noble emotion … coupled with the complete lack of desire or ability to follow through for long on that good intention, or indeed at all!
Hence the need for a New Testament – a new blood covenant between God and mankind.
This time God took all the responsibilities upon Himself and made the agreement unconditional. He came to the earth in the form of Jesus, who was both fully God and fully man. Jesus lived a perfect life, fulfilling God’s Law as no one had ever done before and then died on the cross, shedding His blood like an OT spotless sacrificial animal, to atone for all our wrongdoing (sin).
That is why the Bible calls Jesus “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.
Under this new agreement between God and humans, God has done everything that is required for us to be holy and in right relationship with Him. All we have to do is accept His free offer of grace (undeserved kindness) by faith (heartfelt belief that changes how we act).
The God of the Old and New Testaments is one and the same God. A God who is both completely perfect and incredibly merciful. His perfect holiness means that our sin cannot be overlooked because that would make Him unjust. His love means that throughout history He has made a way to pay for our sins and make us part of His family.