The Old Testament is widely considered to be primitive, violent and harsh, depicting God as angry, vengeful and jealous (which He actually is – but more about that later). Even many Christians don’t spend much time reading the Old Testament, opting instead for the New Testament’s seeming emphasis on love, forgiveness and peace. But are these generalizations accurate?
The Old Testament we have matches up with copies that date back to 150 BC; When Jesus talked about the Scriptures, he was referring to what is now the Old Testament, which at that time had already been used for approximately 300 years. It was affirmed – NOT “voted on”- at the Council of Jamnia in 90 AD. Every New Testament book refers to Old Testament Scripture. So, to assert that the Old Testament is undependable, outdated, or irrelevant, are statements that just don’t hold up to honest, scholarly examination.
But why does God seem so angry and jealous? Simply put, because He is. He is righteous and holy, and will not tolerate sin. He is “a just judge”, and “angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). He is jealous, and will share His glory with no other (Exodus 20:5 & 34:14). It may fly in the face of the unbiblical picture of God as the “grandfather in the sky “, but like it or not, this is our God.
But the really amazing thing as you read the Old Testament is the fact that, in spite of man’s never-ending rebellion and failure to have no other Gods, God always includes mercy and restoration when dealing with His people. He will punish sin, to be sure; but He will not destroy His own completely. The Old Testament is a vivid picture of the mercy, patience, and faithfulness of God toward a people who are only rebellious and faithless time and time again.
Most importantly, the Old Testament points us to Christ. He is on every page, and we get the first glimpse of God’s ultimate plan in Genesis 3. Every Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah was fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God’s righteousness and holiness demand that He punish our sin; this is what He did when Christ was crucified. He did not just secure our forgiveness; He did it by paying the penalty in full, and receiving the wrath of God that should have been poured out on us. The Old Testament is the promise that God will make a way, and the New Testament is the promise fulfilled in Jesus.