Ignorance of the Old Testament Leads to Misunderstanding the Character of God

Biblical literacy is struggling. Most Christians know a few verses, the vast majority from the New Testament. OT verses we know and love are “The heart is deceitful. . . ,” “In all your ways acknowledge Him. . . ,” some Psalm 23, and a few others.

We know some major characters, especially if a movie has been made about them.

We know a few miracles–walls of Jericho, Noah’s flood, burning bush and a few others that were pounded into our head in Sunday School with pithy morals stuck on like, “So, be nice to your brother or God will kill you in a flood.”

OK, I guess I was never actually taught that specifically, but it got pretty close.

Most people think the Old Testament is an optional part of the Bible. Many treat it like the Foreword at the beginning of most novels–that thing you skip to get to the “good stuff.”

Christianity has always had the heretical element that viewed the God of the OT as being eviler than the God of the NT. It used to be called Marcionism; now it’s called Evangelicalism. (There was only a little, tiny bit of sarcasm in that lest sentence.)

One of the verses, or at least partial verses, most Christians know from the NT is “God is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Allow me to point out that’s not what the verse actually says. It specifically says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

The idea that God is evolving, that Jesus is this new thing that totally changes the OT angry God, and once Jesus got off the scene the much more mellow Paul took over is just plain goofiness.

When we don’t know our OT, we miss out on the vitalness of God’s unchanging self. We begin to make God in our image, throwing out the parts we don’t like and overemphasizing the parts we do like.

The OT shows God as a person. A person who grieves, who pleads with people, who gets angry, who takes joy and pleasure in those who seek Him. God is a living being and the OT makes this come alive.

Reading the Old Testament can be drudgery at times, but if you look for God’s personality it becomes fascinating. The Old Testament is trying to make some points, it is a revelation of who God is.

If you skip it; your understanding of the nature and character of God is going to be skewed way off into never, neverland. There’s a reason it’s in your Bible.

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2 thoughts on “Ignorance of the Old Testament Leads to Misunderstanding the Character of God”

  1. I actually find Jesus to be more terrifying than God as revealed in the O.T. (Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 5; Matt. 10:14-15, 28; etc.). Jesus demands all of me. His words are always tremendously convicting. He makes it all very personal and direct.

  2. Indeed! When people say the OT is more harsh than the NT, they are merely proving that not only have they not read the OT, they haven’t really read the NT either! This is the unchanging God we’re dealing with and we are changeable sinners. There are going to be pretty severe implications for us in that formula.

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