Sometimes, when comparing the New Testament with the Old Testament, it is said that the God of the Old Testament is about wrath and judgement but the God of the New Testament is one of grace and love.
Personally I find this way too simplistic. Not that I don’t see a significant difference between the revelations of Moses and Jesus. The sacrificial systems of Moses and Jesus were worlds apart after all.
But such statements do, I think, overstate the differences. After all, we know Jesus got angry and warned of judgement, and we know Moses interceded with God to show mercy towards sinful Israel. This was the same God. Even if it wasn’t the same revelation. Jesus went considerably beyond Moses, but he was in the line of Moses.
5 thoughts on “Moses or Jesus?”
It’s not just that OT God sometimes seems harsher that NT God. A bigger difference is God’s people in OT do different things – bad things happen to them, they go to war. NT has a lot of good news, Christians are not warlike.
I don’t think you can understand what Jesus was telling people without knowing what Moses said because a good part of what he said was that the religious leaders should KNOW better and be providing justice and mercy and compassion which is alot of what Moses gave to the people. I admit that I don’t understand a lot of the harshness and stoning etc. But over and over in the Old Testament God is telling and showing the people that love, justice, mercy and compassion are the things that really matter.
When I recently did a re-read of the OT, I was struck with how many times the themes of atonement and redemption were built into them. Yes, it was a very different time, and God’s approach to those times differed accordingly – but the thing that eventually hit home to me was that you couldn’t mistake it. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and Moses, David and Daniel – is the same God as the one who sent His son as the final atonement for all sin.
Matt, I think of it like this:
You know me, I think of everything in the primary context of covenant and covenant-keeping. It really helps to look at scripture from the view of what covenant is being talked about … is the issue concerning covenant making or covenant keeping or covenant breaking. Thinks make a lot more sense when you have this in mind.
Old Testament = Old Covenant = people of God in childhood and adolescence … more boundaries and opportunities to learn the harsh lessons of natural consequences of one’s actions. Yet, still from the perspective of a loving Father.
New Testament = New Covenant = people of God as new creation in Christ Jesus (bride/church) with more mature approach to relationship (love God/love others), less legalism. The indwelling Holy Spirit provides internal boundaries, as it were. Includes the perspective of a loving Father, but as revealed by the incarnate Son and elder brother, Jesus.
As always, there is no quick paradigm that can replace a robust understanding of the many genre in the bible, and how they all blend together to make the whole story of God’s work.
Appreciate you so much, bro!
I don’t think we can call the OT a graceless age. Am thinking about Abraham pleading for Sodom and Gommorah, God’s protection of Cain from blood revenge after murdering Abel, God’s sparing of repentant Ninevah in Jonah, God’s blessing of Egypt with great prosperity under Joseph’s governance, God’s expressions advocating social justice toward the poor in the major and minor prophets.
What is obvious in the OT is that God’s grace is most clearly focused upon Israel there, but it is not entirely just upon that people exclusively, at least in the Big Picture of things.
That Big Picture of things – grace toward the whole of the world becomes far more obvious with the emergence of Jesus Christ, the messiah and Son of God into the middle of human histtory as we know it.
Israel in the OT, and interpreted into its prophetic and salvic destiny “in Christ” becomes the conduit through which the rest of the world locates grace. One man, one humble Jew on a cross for us all, becomes the nexus – the pivot – upon which all the rest discover new hope and grace. It is an Exodus moment – one in which not only believing Hebrew people potentially locate freedom to unhindered relational access and worship God and to be freedom from slavery to religious institutional laws and systems, but this access to God is for all who have faith in Jesus Christ. That this occurs in answer to Jewish hopes and prophecies within the OT, suggests God’s kindling and nurturing of expectations toward it was a phenomenon exuding rich goodwill, hope and grace toward the whole of the world and not just an elite part of it.
Texts like the Psalms are richly expressive of themes of God’s unmerited favour (grace) toward the faithful, forgiveness of sinners – even `big time’ sinners such as David (adulterer, murderer).
With Jesus, this grace is brought into its most mature form. We have an advantage of seeing and interpreting it post the Gospels, post the cross, post the resurrection, post the Acts of the Apostles etc – when it is theologised `in new light’ in hindsight of what occurred before God’s grace was more obvious and understandable to us.
Yet still we’ve plenty to learn big-time now about grace, despite all the benefit of that legacy of biblical history over milleniums being gifted and at our disposal to learn from today.