There are people who want to convince us to unhook the Old Testament from the Christian faith. We understand that they want to protect believers from the controversies, the restrictive laws and the so-called ‘cruel’ acts of God and His people in the Old Testament. Yet the Old Testament is vitally important to understand God’s fantastic future for us. For example,
# Four wonderful promises in the Old Testament
- To the serpent, the devil in the Garden of Eden, God promised, ’I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers, he [He] will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.’ 1 That refers to Jesus.
- To Abram, God promised, ‘…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ 2 That refers to Jesus.
- To David God promised, ‘Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne will be established for ever.’ 3 That refers to Jesus.
- To the Jews, God promised, ‘The time is coming…when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah….’ 4 That refers to Jesus.
All four these defining promises that a Saviour would come, are in the Old Testament. It should tell us something about how important the Old Testament is for us to grasp the significance our Lord Jesus.
# Matthew, Mark, Luke and John narrate how God fulfilled those 4 promises.
The words, ‘…to fulfil what was written’ occurs quite a few times in these books.
- The King on the Cross is the offspring of the woman, struck in His heel by Satan. The head of the devil was crushed because the sacrifice of Jesus destroyed the works of the devil. 5
- All people on earth who accept the suffering and death of Jesus, His resurrection and ascension on our behalf, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, will inherit the promised eternal life with God. What a blessing!
- The King on the throne of David sits at the right hand of His Father, the Lord God Almighty, and rules for all eternity in the New Jerusalem.
- Through the New Covenant in the Blood of Jesus on the Cross, we become the children of the Father and the Bride of Christ eternally.
# What happens if we unhook the Old Testament from the Holy Spirit inspired Book of Truth?
- We are left with a New Testament with no foundation; with no reason to believe that Jesus is that specially chosen Lamb of God; with no reason to believe the most wonderful miracle of all: God promised and everything happened.
- To unhook the Old Testament from the New, is an effort to rob us of the trust we have in God’s faithfulness and power. He promises us a glorious future with Him eternally. To unhook eventually means to unhook people from God’s plan for their lives.
We can have full confidence in God’s many promises scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. He will take care of us, help, encourage and comfort us in this life. And in eternity we will be in His presence always.
- Genesis 3:15
- Genesis 12:3
- 2 Samuel 6:16
- Jeremiah 31:31
- 1 John 3:8
People often complain that the Old Testament is a book of violence and terror. They give the wars king David fought, the Israelites’ battles with the Philistines and many other incidents, as examples. They cannot understand why the Old Testament is so violent, while God is supposed to be a a God of love, peace and happiness. So let’s consider some aspects of the Old Testament’s violence.
# Has the world ever known peace?
There was a short period of peace for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in God’s presence. Yet that peace was shattered when the evil one arrived. By deceit he became the ruler of the world (Genesis 3). Genesis 4 begins Satan’s violent reign when Cain murdered his brother, Abel. That became the characteristic of this age: violence, murder, hatred and wars.
# Violence in history and the ‘modern’ world
The Assyrians, Babylonians and the cruelty of tyrants through the ages are examples. At present it is the violence in Iran, Iraq, Syria and other places, the destruction by ISIS and Boko Haram in Africa, the Rohingya persecution and others. There is civil unrest in many countries, and that through the ages. Why? The answer is the character of the ruler of this world, Satan.
# What is Satan like?
- In the New Testament, Jesus gave a clear answer, ‘He was a murderer from the beginning….’ 1 Why is the devil so hateful and always tries to mess things up?
- Remember he forfeited his eternal life in God’s presence when he rebelled against God’s authority. 2 For that result he hates the God of peace. He is a vengeful, warring influence, always bent of destruction, whether of families, individuals or nations.
# The Bible is a book about reality, not a religious book.
- The Bible is not a fairy tale, it tells history as it happened. Scripture explains the mess the world is in under the devil’s reign. It contrasts it to the magnificent Redeemer, the Son of God who came to earth to crush the head of the devil. 3
- Jesus came to change it all (whoever wants to, can call on God to translate them out of the devil’s kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of light, through Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross 4). When Jesus comes the second time He will inaugurate a new heaven and earth, the home of righteousness. There will be no violence ever again on the new earth. What a great future awaits those who make Jesus their Lord.
God calls people in the midst of a fallen violent world, to become part of a nation under the headship of Jesus. Then the new nation will get a new dwelling, a home of righteousness where Jesus will rule eternally. 5
- John 8:44
- Mathew 25:41
- Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8
- Colossians 1:13
- 2 Peter 3:13
In the former blog we wrote that the Old Testament is necessary to build our faith in God (‘Why the Old Testament is necessary for faith’). The problem is that some people object. They deride the God of the Old Testament as a cruel, vindictive, tyrannical and murderous God. So the question is how to reconcile that aspect of God as part of God’s faithfulness?
The accusations against God mainly revolve around His commands about the Canaanites. Deuteronomy 7:1-2 says, ‘…and when God has delivered them [the Canaanites] over to you, and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally.’
The first issue is whether God hated the Gentiles (the Canaanites were Gentiles)?
# God did not hate the non Jewish people (Gentiles).
In the following examples in the Bible, God sent ‘missionaries’ to Gentile nations because He cares:
- He sent Joseph to Egypt, where he became second in command below Pharaoh. Joseph loved the Lord. It is virtually impossible that his faith escaped the Egyptians.
- Daniel was an exile in Babylon where he rose to a very high position. He was one of king Nebuchadnezzar’s trusted advisors. The king said to Daniel after he interpreted the king’s dream, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries.’ 1
- On a later occasion, with Daniel’s three friends 2 and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a tree, 3 the king said about the miraculous God, ‘How great are His signs, how mighty His wonders! His Kingdom is an eternal Kingdom; His dominion endures from generation to generation.’ 4
- God sent Jonah, the prophet, to Nineveh to tell them that God will destroy them if they don’t turn away from their sin. Jonah refused and fled, but via a big fish that swallowed him, God directed him back to Nineveh. The people listened and there was a great revival. God cares for Gentiles.
- Naaman was the commander of the army of Aram. He was a valiant man but had leprosy. A young Israelite girl whom they captured, told him about the prophet who could cure him of his disease. He travelled to Israel and was cured. Naaman exclaimed, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.’ 5 Logically he probably told his people and his king that he was healed by the God of Israel.
God never hated the Gentiles or excluded them from His grace and mercy. The miracle of the New Testament message is that God will, through Jesus, create one new people out of Jews and Gentiles. If so, then the obvious question, why destroy the Canaanites?
# Why did God want the Canaanites destroyed?
- God promised Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, but He allowed the Canaanites 400 years to repent of their immorality, child sacrifice and idolatry. They didn’t. 6
- God will always protect His people. When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, God promised retribution. 7
- God’s first command was that His covenant people would worship Him only. The Canaanites were not examples of moral living, ‘These Canaanite cults were utterly immoral, decadent, and corrupt, dangerously contaminating .…’ 8
- God promised blessings upon the Israelites if they obeyed Him9 and curses if they disobeyed Him. 10 The Israelites agreed to the Covenant. They knew the decrees of God very well.
- The problem is that sin is, simply said, delicious. To serve the Canaanite gods had some very attractive alternatives, like immorality, debauchery, et cetera.
- God wanted to protect His people from the love for other gods that would cause them to reap the curses they agreed to in the Covenant. God acts like a Father who cares for His children and warns them of possible dangers.
- Also, we have an examples of the destruction of godless societies all through history. Nations are given a chance to mend their ways, and if they don’t, they are replaced. For example, the mighty Roman empire later crumbled under its own unrighteousness.
- Daniel 2:47
- Daniel 3:1-30
- Daniel 4:1-37
- Daniel 4:3
- 2 Kings 5:15
- Genesis 15:15, 18-21
- Exodus 17:8-16
- M F Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, Chicago, 1988 revised edition, p 203
- Deuteronomy 28:1-14
- Deuteronomy 28:15-68