The idea that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are vastly different beings is a commonly held belief among both non-Christians and Christians. However, even a cursory study of the New Testament must lead us to conclude otherwise. Jesus Christ, the Son, revealed the character of God in both his actions and his teachings throughout His ministry. How does the God Jesus showed us compare to the God of the Old Testament?
- God is the Creator. He is mighty, powerful, and as the Creator, He is in full control of the universe. In Matthew 8:23-27 Jesus shows that He too is in control of the forces of nature when He calms the raging storm. The Old Testament has many examples of God’s dominion over creation. Genesis tells us that God created the world and everything in it. Psalm 89:9 and Psalm 107:25-32 tells us that God rules the forces of nature. Genesis 6-9 tells the story of the worldwide flood brought about by God. The plaques of Exodus 7-11 also reveal that God has complete authority over all of creation.
- God is just in punishing sin. In Matthew 11:20-24, Jesus denounces many of the towns in which he had performed miracles because the people hadn’t repented and turned to God. In Matthew 10:11-15 Jesus tells his disciples to ‘shake the dust from your feet’ of any town that refuses to welcome them or listen to their message. Genesis 18-19 and Ezekiel 27-28 tell the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and Tyre; towns that God destroyed because the people refused to repent and turn back to Him. Deuteronomy 32:35 says, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive and their destiny will overtake them.’ Ezekiel 18:20-21 tells us that the righteous will be rewarded but the wicked will be punished unless they repent and turn back to God.
- God is all-knowing and he knows the heart of man. In Matthew 23, Jesus scolds the Pharisees for focusing on rules rather than the spirit of the law. In Hosea 6:6 God says that He wants us to show love, not just offer sacrifices. Micah 6:8 tells us that God wants us to do what is right and to love mercy. Psalm 139 tells us that God is all-seeing and all-knowing.
- God is our shepherd. In Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus feeds the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish. 2 Kings 4:42-44 has a similar story. Additionally, God is shown to be our shepherd throughout the Psalms, particularly in Psalm 23 as well as in Jeremiah 31:10-14. God provided manna, quail, and water in the wilderness for the Israelites (Exodus)
- God is merciful and forgiving. John 8:1-11 tells the story of the woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees wanted to stone her. Jesus told them that the one who has never sinned may throw the first stone. They all left. Jesus showed mercy by saving her, but He also told he to ‘go and sin no more.’ He forgave but instructed her to receive that gift of forgiveness by not repeating her sin. He didn’t allow her to stay where she was. He lifted her up and restored her. Nehemiah 9:17 tells us God is merciful, gracious and forgiving. Psalm 145:9 tells us that God is good and compassionate. Finally, Jonah 3 tells us that God forgives when we repent and turn from our sins.
- God is love. In John 11:5 we are told that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus enough to do what was best for them and for all of those watching, even if they didn’t understand his actions. In Matthew 19:13-15, Jesus shows that he loves all of us, even the little children and wants all of us to come to him. Mark 1:41 tells us Jesus was moved with compassion when healing a man with leprosy. John 13:1 tells us that he loved his disciples. John 3:16 states that God loved the world enough to sacrifice his only son. Throughout the Psalms and Proverbs God is described as loving (Psalm 23, 42, 51, 92, Proverbs 15, 22). Additionally, Leviticus 19:18 tells us to love our neighbor, Deuteronomy 7:7-9 shows us that God loves His people, has set His heart on His people.
- God is compassionate. Luke 19:41-44 tells us that Jesus wept over Jerusalem and its people. John 11:35 tells us Jesus wept over Lazarus, even though he knew he was going to raise him from the dead. Over and over again Jesus showed compassion by healing the sick, blind, and spiritually oppressed. Over and over in the Old Testament, God shows compassion and mercy. He chooses compassion when Adam and Eve disobey. He chooses compassion over and over when the Israelites disobey in the wilderness and grumble and complain (Exodus) as well as during the period of the Judges when Israel continually sinned, turned away from God, then repented and turned back only to repeat the cycle.
- God is righteous and just. In Matthew 3:13-16, Jesus goes to John to be baptized because he wants to follow all of God’s laws and do the father’s will. Jesus shows us again in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:42) that he does the father’s will. Again, John 8:4-11 shows us that God is just. Psalms 71, 97 and 113, along with Proverbs 11:31 also reveal that God is righteous and just. Genesis 18 reveals that God is just when Abraham pleads with him to spare Sodom. Isaiah 61:8 states that God loves justice.
- God is mighty and powerful and controls all things. Jesus showed not only his authority over the forces of nature but also his authority even over death. How many times did Jesus raise someone from the dead? Mark 5:22-24 shows Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter. John 11 tells the story of Lazarus’ death and Jesus raising him again. Finally, Jesus showed his power over death when he himself was resurrected (Matthew 28:5-6). In 1 Kings 17:17-24, we find Elijah raising the widow of Zarephath’s son from the dead. In 2 Kings 4:18-37 the prophet Elisha raised the Shunamite woman’s son. Ezekiel 37 shows God’s power over death as He raised the valley of dry bones into a mighty army.
- God is peace-loving. John 4:1-28 shows Jesus as he encounters the Samaritan woman at the well. This is a woman who not only is a Samaritan and despised by society, but also a woman who has had more than one husband. Yet Jesus speaks to her, acknowledges her worth, wants to have a relationship with her. He broke the barriers of race and class and shared God’s love with her. Jesus was well -known for keeping company with those that the ‘upright’ members of society looked down upon and shunned. Psalm 91 tells us that God offers us peace and refuge. Proverbs 16:7 tells us that when we please God we have peace even with our enemies. In Numbers 6:26 God offers His peace. Isaiah 26:3 and 32:17 talk about God’s peace which comes from righteousness.
These are just a few examples of how Jesus revealed God’s character through not only His teachings but also his actions. Knowing that God’s is eternal and unchanging, that the God of the New Testament is indeed the God of the Old Testament is an important component in our Christian faith. We must know who it is we serve and worship. The Bible is a complete story of God’s love for His people and His desire to restore His creation. We must see that big picture.