Reconciling God in the Old Testament
Hello, my dear friends! Have you ever read parts of the Old Testament and felt like God in the Old Testament is completely unlike God in the New Testament? Do you struggle reading the Old Testament because when you read about God He seems to be cold, distant, and harsh? I completely understand my friend. For a really long time, I felt this exact same way. I actively avoided the Old Testament because I was really unsure about God in that section of the bible. I was cool with Jesus and the New Covenant, but that Old one had me uneasy, uncomfortable, and to be quite honest a little afraid.
If you feel the same way that I felt, I don't want you to feel bad about the way that you feel. Many people may try to make you feel bad about it, but I want to tell you that this line of thinking is understandable. Many people feel this way and you are not alone. And if you feel a hesitancy to get close to God because of it, that lines up biblically, because the bible says that it's the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. And it also says that we love Christ because He first loved us. So if we, as humans, are not first seeing Christ's love or His goodness in the Old Testament, then why would we follow Him?
When I finally started to read the Old Testament for myself, I began to have a revelation about God that helped me to understand Him better in the Old Testament. So the bible says that God is the same today, yesterday, and forever. In the New Testament God is sweet, kind, and loving. In my personal relationship with God, He behaves in the same sweet way. So if that verse is true, then He has to be the same sweet and kind God that I know and love, within the Old Testament too. So as I began to read the Old Testament with the understanding that God is good, and what He does is to help us, and make us better; then the goodness of God started to showcase itself to me in the text. I think that the main issue that people have with God in the Old Testament is that many times they see God as being too harsh on the people that He deals with. I won't get into the specific examples that cause concern for people on this issue, but I will give examples of God being merciful on those who were evil in the Old Testament. So maybe that once you see that God is kind to some who do evil in the Old Testament; then you will see that the extreme measures that were taken in other situations were because they were necessary actions to protect and provide justice for His people. So here are five examples of God being merciful to those who did harm in the Old Testament.
Trigger Warning: Discussion of Topics Including Murder, Attempted Murder, Self Harm, and Deception
Let's first start off with the first murderer in the bible, Cain. Cain murdered his only brother because he was jealous that Able's sacrifice was accepted and his wasn't. So he killed his brother out of jealousy. God could have taken his life in an equal eye for an eye type energy. But the Lord decided to spear his life. He still punished him, but Cain was still able to find a wife, and he had a son. So Cain was able to live, and have a family, and build a city for his son. Even after Cain committed this heinous atrocity, he was still able to have his life and have a life filled with love.
' Then Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let's go out in the fields.” When they were out in the fields, Cain turned on his brother and killed him. The Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He answered, “I don't know. Am I supposed to take care of my brother?” Then the Lord said, “Why have you done this terrible thing? Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground, like a voice calling for revenge. You are placed under a curse and can no longer farm the soil. It has soaked up your brother's blood as if it had opened its mouth to receive it when you killed him. If you try to grow crops, the soil will not produce anything; you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” And Cain said to the Lord , “This punishment is too hard for me to bear. You are driving me off the land and away from your presence. I will be a homeless wanderer on the earth, and anyone who finds me will kill me.” But the Lord answered, “No. If anyone kills you, seven lives will be taken in revenge.” So the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who met him not to kill him. And Cain went away from the Lord 's presence and lived in a land called “Wandering,” which is east of Eden. Cain and his wife had a son and named him Enoch. Then Cain built a city and named it after his son. '
Genesis 4:8-17 GNTD
Next in the bible, we can see that God was merciful to Jacob. Jacob was known as a trickster in the bible. He tricked his twin brother out of the family blessing, and because of that his brother, Esau, was upset with him and made a vow to kill him. Jacob ran away and started to face many trials after tricking his brother. After some years had passed Jacob decided to come back home and meet Esau again. Esau had forgiven his brother for tricking him and he ran up to him and kissed him when they first met. Esau was completely over the incident and he and Jacob were both taken care of by Lord during all of those years. And the Lord still honored the family blessing through Jacob and his lineage.
'But Esau ran to meet him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. They were both crying. When Esau looked around and saw the women and the children, he asked, “Who are these people with you?” “These, sir, are the children whom God has been good enough to give me,” Jacob answered. Then the concubines came up with their children and bowed down; then Leah and her children came, and last of all Joseph and Rachel came and bowed down. Esau asked, “What about that other group I met? What did that mean?” Jacob answered, “It was to gain your favor.” But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have.” Jacob said, “No, please, if I have gained your favor, accept my gift. To see your face is for me like seeing the face of God, now that you have been so friendly to me. Please accept this gift which I have brought for you; God has been kind to me and given me everything I need.” Jacob kept on urging him until he accepted. ' Genesis 33:4-11 GNTD
3. Joseph's Brothers
Next up in the bible, we have Joseph's brothers. Joseph's brothers were very terrible towards him. They were jealous of him because their father favored him (which wasn't Joseph's fault, but Jacob's.) And they were jealous because God had sent him a dream that they would bow down to them. So because of that, they plotted to kill him, but they later decided against that and sold him into slavery, and then lied to their dad about it all. Later down the line, Joseph becomes second in command of Egypt during a famine. His brothers end up needing grain and they traveled to Egypt to go get some. Long story short, Joseph ends up forgiving his brothers and he ends up providing for them and their families. He literally sets them up FOR LIFE after the betrayal and plots to kill him. But God worked through Joseph to provide for them with more than they deserved.
'Then his brothers themselves came and bowed down before him. “Here we are before you as your slaves,” they said. But Joseph said to them, “Don't be afraid; I can't put myself in the place of God. You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened. You have nothing to fear. I will take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them with kind words that touched their hearts. '
Genesis 50:18-21 GNTD
4. King Saul
If you want an example of someone who TRULY did not deserve forgiveness, this was King Saul. King Saul tried to kill David on at least three separate occasions and David had MANY chances to take his life, but his conscience (Holy Spirit) would not allow him to. David spared his life when King Saul DEFINATELY deserved to be yoked up to see God Himself.
'Abishai said to David, “God has put your enemy in your power tonight. Now let me plunge his own spear through him and pin him to the ground with just one blow—I won't have to strike twice!” But David said, “You must not harm him! The Lord will certainly punish whoever harms his chosen king. By the living Lord ,” David continued, “I know that the Lord himself will kill Saul, either when his time comes to die a natural death or when he dies in battle. The Lord forbid that I should try to harm the one whom the Lord has made king! Let's take his spear and his water jar, and go.” So David took the spear and the water jar from right beside Saul's head, and he and Abishai left. No one saw it or knew what had happened or even woke up—they were all sound asleep, because the Lord had sent a heavy sleep on them all. '
1 Samuel 26:8-12 GNTD
The last example (in this blog post) of God being merciful to those who were evil, was the Ninevites in Nineveh. The people of Nineveh were deadly enemies to the Israelites. You don't see the specifics in the book of Jonah, however, one could assume they were at least as bad as how racists treat people of color today. God sent Jonah to Nineveh to tell them a prophecy that said that He would destroy the city for their wicked ways. However, because they repented, God decided to change His mind about punishing them. On top of that, He spoke to Jonah and got him to understand that he should care about the people of Nineveh (at least in the sense of not wishing death on them) because they are people too!
'All persons and animals must wear sackcloth. Everyone must pray earnestly to God and must give up their wicked behavior and their evil actions. Perhaps God will change his mind; perhaps he will stop being angry, and we will not die!” God saw what they did; he saw that they had given up their wicked behavior. So he changed his mind and did not punish them as he had said he would.'
Jonah 3:8-10 GNTD
'The Lord said to him, “This plant grew up in one night and disappeared the next; you didn't do anything for it and you didn't make it grow—yet you feel sorry for it! How much more, then, should I have pity on Nineveh, that great city. After all, it has more than 120,000 innocent children in it, as well as many animals!”'
Jonah 4:10-11 GNTD
So in conclusion, I hope that all of these examples have helped to provide you with examples that God's grace existed within the Old Testament. So when God had to take extreme measures on seemingly small or even big matters in the bible, keep in mind that God has the capacity for mercy on even the evilest of persons. So if He had to let them be removed from the earth, then there was more to the story that the bible didn't write about. So if you are reading the bible and feel as though God may be being harsh on someone, try to remember that 1 God is good, 2 everything works together for our good, 3 God can see our hearts and intentions in every scenario, and 4 there is always more to the story than what the bible has written about. So with these tools in mind, one could help to decipher the goodness of God from every biblical situation.