Reconciling the nature of the God in the Old Testament and New Testament

February 23, 2016


Photo:, Montezuma’s war, Photographer: llpo’s Sojourn

The Old Testament seems full of violence, not just man against man, but violence that God seems to promote and even participate in. This seems so antithetical to the way God seems to be portrayed in the New Testament, there exemplified by Jesus who seemed to focus more on serving and forgiving. How do we make sense of this? I think that there are two issues to be looked at:

1. The initial question comes from the way God initiatiates and commands violence in the Old Testament, particularly against seemingly innocent people, causing many of us to be uncomfortable or confused; how can the God who loves, cares for and nurtures us to the point of dying and suffering for us, be so violent against the people He wants to draw to Himself? Particulary, when the violence seems to be carried out against innocent people, it seems to contradict the sense of fairness and kindness we expect of God.

2. The first question leads to a more fundamental question. How do we reconcile that the God of love and peace in the we are familiar with in the New Testament with the God of wrath and violence we see in the Old Testament – is the nature and character of God the same in both testaments? It is this question we will look at first.

The nature and character of God

One of the first things to do reconcile these two seeming disparate points of view is to be more thorough examination of the revelation of God in both testaments. If we look carefully, we will discover that there is much in common between the two testaments:

The themes of love, grace and mercy run not only through the New Testament but through the Old Testament as well

Ex 34:6-7, Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
Hos 11:8-9, My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
2 Samuel 24:14 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands
Psalm 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Nehemiah 9:31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

The themes of justice and wrath run not only through the Old Testament but through the New Testament as well

Luke 3:7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Matt 10:14-15 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
Matt 10:34  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Mark 9:42-48  “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
Luke 18:7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
Romans 9:22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?

Understanding the context of violence

For those of us who are disposed to relate to God as our Father, our Friend, and our Shepherd, we become uncomfortable with the expressions of wrath and violence displayed by God, particularly in the Old Testament. Part of our discomfort is due to our incomplete understanding of God (which we just addressed and partly due to our lack of understanding of the context of the culture in Biblical times.

Violence is found not only in the Old Testament but in the New Testament as well

⦁ Revelation 19:11-21 Heavenly warrior defeats the beast.
⦁ Rev 16:1-21 seven bowls of wrath
⦁ Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.

Malachi 2:16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. In this verse, divorce is considered an act of violence. How little do we understand what other violence we commit with any of our sins.
Lex tolionus (Code of Hammurabi) – the concept of “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” is actually a counter-cultural idea that the MAXIMUM penalty for a transgression should be not greater than the transgression itself
Herem – devotion (to destruction)- The destruction of entire cities was necessary to eliminate the gross sins committed by a city. Part of that elimination of a corrupted culture was so that it wouldn’t contaminate the Israelites (as was proven in the later history of Israel, Deut 20:18) as simply a patient and forbearing God executing his delayed judgement. In the dream where God was informing Abraham of the future (Gen 15:12-16) captivity and release of the nation of his descendants, he also informed Abraham that the time of judgements against the Amalekites had not yet come but would come at the time when Abraham’s descendents would return to the Promised Land.

God gives people up to their sins

  • Genesis 18:20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous
  • Pharoah who hardened his heart and then the Lord further hardened the Pharoah’s heart

Throughout scripture, there is a pattern in how judgement is carried out

  • God declares judgement for sin.
  • Warning is giving, and the opportunity to repent and avoid judgement is provided.
  • God’s judgement is carried through.

The deaths of innocents, the children

  • Throughout history, parents have always been the determinators for the welfare of their children – for good or for bad.
  • A declaration of war would have typically provided a warning period with opportunity for women, children and the elderly to flee.
  • The children killed in these episodes lived in a depraved environment with a miserable outlook for the future (a future that they may not have even experienced as a result of the culture of child sacrifice pursued by their parents).
  • Killing by the sword is a more merciful way to die, especially when compared with abandonment and starvation that would have resulted if only the adults were killed.
  • Death is not the end, and we can trust God to do what is right, not least of all with children who are not old enough to know any better

The sovereignty of God and other issues

God’s desire for justice for His children – While we need to be careful about how we ascribe our own feelings to God, there is a scriptural basis for our Heavenly Father’s passion for His childrena and a desire to seek justice on their behalf. Consider how an earthly father would respond if he saw his family being maliciously attacked by people who have no shame and whose intentions are purely evil.

God is God and we need to accept His authority not only when we don’t understand it but when His actions cause us consternation. We have had no voice in why He has chosen us to be His children and not chosen others. His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isa 55:8) and we need to have a humble spirit about what we do not understand. Think of the disciples reactions when they were in the boat and saw Jesus command the winds and waves to stop.


How could a loving God command acts of violence
Jesus and Old Testament vengeance
Old Testament Killer God

The heart of the Sabbath

February 17, 2016

Are we really ready to trust in God and rest in His provision for us. (John 5: 1-30, also Mark 2)


How God longs for us to come to Him, to be healed from our sin and to rest in His provision for us. In this encounter with the invalid man, Jesus probes not only the heart of that man but also the hearts of the Pharisees and through this passage preserved for us to read – our hearts as well.

To the invalid man, he asks what could seem to be an unnecessary question, “Do you want to be healed?” We are apt to think, of course the man wants to be healed, isn’t that why he is there at the pool? But after all these years of waiting, is it still in his heart to desire healing, or after all this time, has he resigned his heart to never being healed or perhaps he has gotten to the point where he is used to being taken care of and may not want a real change in his life, would he rather be in a place where he would complain about his situation or would he rather be able to take responsibility for his life?

And there is also the question for us: are we ready for God to change us? If God were to heal us of a sickness in our body or our spirit: What vulnerabilities would we feel if the sickness or bitterness or whatever is troubling us is taken away? What changes would have to happen in our lives or what changes would have to happen in our attitudes if we no longer could hide behind our disability? What self-righteousness would we have to let go of to let other people see a change in me? Are we ready to trust Jesus to change us?

It seems that Jesus was also thinking of the Pharisees reactions when He instructed the invalid man to not just “get up and walk”, but to “get up, pick up his pallet and walk”. He knew that when the man would be seen carrying his pallet that the Pharisees would notice and would verbally protest about “working on Sabbath” but in their hearts they would also protest Jesus’ authority which would be validated by the healing. Taking the offense, Jesus further challenged them by not only clarifying His relationship with the Father but by also outrightly accusing them of not believing in Him.

That leaves questions for us: Are we putting our trust more in Scriptures than in the one who gave us the Scriptures? Are we seeking more to know about God or to know God Himself? Are we ready to trust Him, rest in Him and  accept His authority over us?

Grief in the midst of hope

February 11, 2016

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered. We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endure; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow Psalm 90:1-10


We are foreigners in a fallen, broken world. It is with faith and hope that we look forward to the time that we go home and are fully healed and unencumbered by our bodies of sin and free of the need of daily penitence. But it is a great privilege we have in this world to not only be a witness of the love and the work of God but to be able to participate with Him in bringing His kingdom into this one. This privilege comes with a burden, though. The great love we receive from our Heavenly Father overflows in our lives as we share that love with all those around us – and that love experiences the pain of loss as our loved ones suffer the inevitable death that awaits all of us. Even though that death is a necessary precursor to our eventual healing and restoration to the God who loves us, it still hurts. It should hurt. It hurts in the same way that God was hurt by our rejection of Him beginning from the time of Adam and Eve and by the rejection experienced when the Son suffered and died and was separated for a time from the Father.

This is the pain we feel when we are separated from our loved ones, whether they leave prematurely or after a long life in this world. And though we look forward to the time when we can be reunited once again, in this world we experience the real loss and the real pain of separation. Even in the midst of hope there is grief. As we wait – we grieve and hope all at the same time.

Sometimes it’s a friend who leaves before us

On Glory’s shore

One more day of wondering of what the day will bring
Will it be a day with crying, some laughter or a song

Will it be a day with grief or sorrow, or overflowing joy
But we cannot worry for there’s never a way to know

And then maybe some tomorrow, I’ll wake on Glory’s shore
With no more tears of sorrow and no more cries of pain

And then one day in Glory, with joy I’ll shake your hand
For precious are the memories of the journeys that we shared

No more beers of sorrow will pour across our lips
No more furrows of worry will crease across our brow

No more silent worries, no more burdens we can’t bear
No more secret heartaches, no more fears we cannot share

For the one who’s shared our journey, shared our sorrows, laughs and joys
Is the one who’s shared His life with us and the one who’s brought us here

Sometimes our children are taken, sometimes very young, sometimes before they are born.

This Child of Ours

This child of ours we give to you
This little one we surrender
This tiny child we offer you
This helpless one so tender
This helpless one so tender

For ours is not to give and take
But merely hold awhile
It’s from your hand that we bring forth
Then return into your hands
Then return into your hands

What we conceive we dearly love
With bitter tears we grieve and lose
But we remember you also grieved
When from your Son you turned away
When from your Son you turned away

And it was yours to give and take
But you let go awhile
And from your Son you turned away
Then returned him to your hands
Then returned him to your hands

And we await the final day
When we shall finally see
The ones we lost beside you
And we shall cease our sorrowing
And we shall cease our sorrowing

It’s only for a little while
That we must bear our pain
The hands that brought us all forth
Shall restore us then in peace
Shall restore us then in peace

Sometimes our spouses are taken from us.

All in eternity

We wait for troubled waters to be finally stilled
We wait for dreams and wishes to be finally filled
We wait for some tomorrow when we shall finally be
All together, all is better in eternity

We had some fun and good times, with laughter as we’d fall
We had some small and big plans, our life was very full
We had our precious moments and memories so warm
Life together is life better, life in eternity

Side by side we labored, shouldered all we could bear
Side by side we wrestled, rested only in our prayer
Side by side encouraging each other as we’d go
Worked together, walked together towards eternity

I’ll miss your lilting smile that brightened up my day
I’ll miss your calming touches that kept me from going astray
I’ll miss your warm embraces, the joy you raised in me
Love together, love is better, love in eternity

Until I go to meet you on that eternal shore
Until I lay my burdens and my labors are no more
Until I greet you once again, my heart will ache for you
All together, all is better, all in eternity


The shadows in the valley are deeper
The light of life
Who walked by my side
Is gone

I long for the arms that once held me
That made me feel warm
That comforted me
At night

The pain of my journey o’erwhelms me
Away and at home
I’m feeling alone
Right now

But the one who called you home
One day will call for me
And we’ll all meet beyond the vale
And we’ll walk on the mountain of joy

The death of my beloved goes deeper
It rips through my soul
It causes my heart
To weep

I long to hear the voice that once called me
That made me feel home
That filled my heart
With peace

I’m missing your love and your friendship
The joy of my life
That anchored me through
The storms

But the one who called you home
Will one day call for me
And we’ll all meet beyond the vale
And we’ll walk on the mountain of joy

The light in my life goes deeper
Through pain and death
I shall find my rest
And peace

I look to the day I will hold you
Forever again
Life with you again
In heaven

There’ll be joy to displace all the sadness
The pain and the hurt
The loneliness will
Be gone

But the one who called you home
Will one day call for me
And we’ll all meet beyond the vale
And we’ll walk on the mountain of joy

As our loved ones are at the brink of passing from this life to the next, what do they experience as they draw near to heaven?

The Sweetness of Death

The sweetness of death all around me
The sweet taste of death in the air
Is the sweet breath of Jesus who’s taking me home
And the pain that surrounds me is the pain he will bear

Through the pain of the sorrows around me
The incense of heaven comes near
And reminds me of home and that I’m not alone
And the soft hand of Jesus is drying my tears

As the shadows of heaven enfold me
And the mercy of Jesus draws near
The pains and cares of this world start to fade
While the comfort of heaven overwhelms all my tears

In our room full of shadows we see dark and light
Some things that pain us and some things delight
But as we pass through the portal and out of the night
We’ll see shadows of heaven transform into light

All the people I regarded so lightly
And the friends I have clung to so tightly
I must let them all go but I’ll pray that they’ll know
The God of all Comfort who calls through the night

What would our loved ones say, now that they in the unrestricted presence of Glory.

My Eyes Have Seen the Morning Star

I ran as to win the race of life
I ran to win those who were lost
I ran with patience to the Lord of Lords, the King
I ran, but now I rest my weary bones

My eyes have seen the Morning Star
My ears have heard the Living Word
My hands have touched the nail pierced palms
My soul’s found rest within His arms

The treasure that was in the earthen jar
Is now released from chains of grief and pain
My soul has found Jesus at the journey’s final end
I wait for you to join me with my Friend

My eyes have seen the Morning Star
My ears have heard the Living Word
My hands have touched the nail pierced palms
My soul’s found rest within His arms

The life we shared together did not end
But in a while more we’ll meet my friend
And while you wait gain wisdom and you’ll shine like heaven above
So run, until you rest your weary bones

My eyes have seen the Morning Star
My ears have heard the Living Word
My hands have touched the nail pierced palms
My soul’s found rest within His arms

In the meantime, in this broken, foreign land, let us keep focused on Him who sustains us.

The Flame

When the fortunes and the heartaches that befall us
Burn away and the Lord shall reappear
The real work of our lives will rise triumphant
And the work of the Lord will be complete

When the Flame has burned all things around us
And the fortunes and the heartaches disappear
When the testing of our lives has been completed
Will our flames still be burning bright and clear

As the seasons of this life fly by our window
And the toils of our lives seem but a waste
When discouragement mounts high outside our doorway
We still can have the Hope that gives us peace

When the Flame has burned all things around us
And the fortunes and the heartaches disappear
When the testing of our lives has been completed
Will our flames still be burning bright and clear

When our lives are filled with wealth that falls around us
And the things in our lives are working well
When the blessings in this world come to our doorstep
Let us hold onto the peace that can endure.

When the Flame has burned all things around us
And the fortunes and the heartaches disappear
When the testing of our lives has been completed
Will our flames still be burning bright and clear

There are no obstacles to God’s plans

February 7, 2016

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11Acts 27-28)

Photo credit: gulfman1 via / CC BY-NC-ND

Back when Paul was in Ephesus, he knew that he must go to Jerusalem and then to Rome, no matter the obstacles. When in Ptolemais, despite receiving ominous news that he would be imprisoned in Jerusalem, he would not be dissuaded from going. In Jerusalem, when he was taken into custody by the Romans, he used the opportunity to appeal his case to Caesar – and get to Rome that way. Then, when being transported to Rome by sea, in circumstances he could not control himself and was subject to the decisions made by the Roman soldiers, God would not be deterred by the decisions that were made and allowed the Romans and all their passengers to survive a storm and shipwreck. On top of that, Paul would even survive being bitten by a viper.

God plans for you – and the world – will not be deterred. We should not get discouraged when circumstances seem against us; not by the stop lights we encounter, not by accidents, not by people opposed to us. We need to understand that our plans might not be His plans – but would we not rather be subject to His plans than ours. If we find ourselves getting  frustrated for any reason, we should keep in mind, that His plans for us will happen anyway – but if our plans are not His plans then we should question our plans.





No longer a sacrifice

February 5, 2016

We do not even consider it sacrifice, when give of ourselves to those we love (Acts 21:7-14)

The apostle Paul had it set in his mind and spirit that he was to return to Jerusalem despite danger he would face there – a danger even confirmed by his friends who were warned by the Holy Spirit that the danger was real. However, Paul was driven to do anything that God desired of him. There was no sacrifice that was too great when it came to serving the Lord who loved him. Paul’s response to the pleas for him to stay away from the pending danger in Jerusalem was, ” I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

I wrote the following poem to reflect that kind of spirit – the spirit that hopefully exists in my marriage and family and also in our relationship to God.

Was It Sacrifice

Was it sacrifice to have
More time to spend with you
More time to hear your stories
More time to see you through

Was is sacrifice to see
Your eyes so clear and bright
Your smile brighten up the day
Your face filled with delight

What was it that I gave up
What treasures did I lose
Whatever did I turn away
To have some more of you

Could you call it sacrifice to lose
The things I could not hold
But to gain some treasured moments
And some precious time with you

Was it sacrifice to lose
Some time to be at work
Some time to make more money
Some time to get ahead

Was it sacrifice to spend time
On all our countless walks
On all our countless moments
On all our countless talks

What decisions did I make
What did I decide not to do
When instead of doing other things
Instead I spent time with you

Could you call it sacrifice to lose
the things I could not hold
But to gains some treasured moments
And some precious time with you.

Time with Jesus

January 28, 2016

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschoooled ordinary men, they were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

This is a compelling statement. It challenges me to think about how much time have I spent with Jesus, and does it make a noticeable difference in my life. It makes me think about all the different situations that in which the disciples walked with Jesus. The time spent listening to his preaching, seeing people healed, seeing people respond to the call of Jesus. Then there is the thought of what happens when you offer a cup of water to someone , feed the hungry, visit those in prison, heal the sick (Matt 10:37-42). Where do I spend my time? In the end, would we rather be known by our education or by the time we spent with Jesus?

Filled to overflowing

January 26, 2016

Being filled with the knowledge of God is not just an intellectual exercise. (Colossians 1: 9-12)


If one is filled with the knowledge of God, it will overflow in the way one lives; it will be seen in a godly life that bears spiritual fruit. What a privilege to be able to pray for someone that lives in such a way and yet we can ask that such a person could have more of the knowledge and strength of God such that it leads to more patience, unwavering faith, and a thankful heart.

Avinu Malkeinu

January 23, 2016

We do not understand what love the Father has for us, it is more than we can imagine. (Eph 1:1-6)


We are Children of the Covenant. It was in our hearts to rebel against Him but He chose us to be with Him, to make us his Holy Ones. The Lord of the Universe has given us life and invites us to call Him Father. He is not only our Lord and King, but He is our Father and our Beloved. What kind of love does He have for us that He would invite us into such a relationship.

The song, Avinu Malkeinu, evokes the kind of emotion I feel as I think about what we have. It is a song that invokes a longing and a yearning for our Heavenly Father. I posted a link to Barbra Streisand singing this song, which she does so well. At the bottom of this post, you can see the translation of words which are sung in Hebrew.











Barbra Streisand singing Avinu Malkeinu


The Discipline of Siftings

January 23, 2016

We do not know how we will endure the sifting of our hearts, but we know that our Lord is able to help us because He has endured such sifting on our behalf. (Luke 21-22).

As the appointed time for Jesus’ suffering and death drew near, Jesus began to warn of the appointed times of suffering for the apostles and the world: the destruction of the temple, the end times, imprisonment and betrayal. He cautioned the apostles to be watchful and not lose hope in those difficult times. However, the apostles would not be able to grasp what Jesus was saying until the time when the Holy Spirit would fall upon them. In fact, they could only see fit to argue about who would be the greatest. It was in that context that Peter would vow that he would never abandon Jesus, and in response, Jesus warned Peter that his heart would be sifted.
We know that Peter would indeed succumb to the sifting, while at the same time, Jesus would endure His sifting as our Redeemer. But as Jesus was able to use that failure to strengthen Peter, may He strengthen us as we experience our failures.

The King is coming

January 22, 2016

The King is ready to bless those who accept Him and to kill those oppose Him. (Luke 19-20)


The crowds were ready to be rescued by the Messiah. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus tried to keep His identity quiet; He kept the demons from openly telling the people who He was and He ordered some of those who were healed to keep it quiet. However, in the days leading up to His entry into Jerusalem, Jesus by word and deed, became more open about who He was. He was openly setting the stage for a confrontation with the religious authorities that would eventually lead to his crucifixion. When He did finally enter Jerusalem, He was clearly placing his authority in the open, forcing people to make a decision about Him.

His set His authority by action in the way that he entered into Jerusalem on a donkey accepting the praise of the people and in the way He handled the money-changers in the temple courts. He set His authority by parables in the way that He set up expectations about how people use the resources He provided. He set His authority in the way He challenged the leaders to think about John’s baptism, taxes and marriage. He set up expectations about how He would give rewards to those who sought to love and serve Him and how he would give punishments to those who did not.

Are we preparing for the day that the king comes to us?

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