I’ve heard there’s a movement – even some popular preachers – to diminish, if not flat-out discard, the Old Testament from common Bible teaching. “Let’s forget about God’s dealings with the Jews and let’s just focus on the good stuff, the Jesus stuff,” they seem to be saying. What a sad state that would be!
This came to mind just this morning as I was reading in the Scriptures. I’d never noticed it before, but foundational passages from both the Old Testament and the New Testament – Genesis 1:1-5 and John 1:1-5 – say virtually the same thing.
For comparison’s sake, let’s look at the two passages together:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waves. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day” (Genesis 1:1-5)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:1-5).
It’s hard to miss the many parallels. The first three words of both passages, of course, are “In the beginning.” But then they go on to introduce the first moments of Creation, and in John 1:3 we discover that the Orchestrator of it all was “the Word” – which John 1:14 later explains, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” It was Jesus, way back when God created a wonderful “something” out of absolute nothing, and when the Lord took on human flesh – came to bring light and life – to rescue humankind from the prevailing darkness and death.
Years ago a ministry founded by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, called Walk Thru the Bible, made its mission to teach the Bible and to show how Jesus is presented in each of the 66 books of the Bible. Wilkinson later authored a book, Talk Thru the Bible, to help readers capture this understanding. Even in the least known of the Old Testament books, we can find Jesus there.
So it puzzles me – and perplexes me – when I hear of those who would seek to set aside the Old Testament as if the God it portrays is no longer the God we seek to know, worship and serve today. As Hebrews 13:8 assures us, “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.” He hasn’t changed over the vast span of time since this world – and the universe – were created. Why would we disregard how He is represented in the Old Testament, just because its emphasis seems to be on the law, our need to be obedient, and God’s righteous justice for those who insist on disobedience and rebellion?
Recently I’ve been working my way through the “major prophets” – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel. And I have to admit, it’s sometimes difficult trudging through the chapters filled with gloom and doom. It’s more fun reading Jesus’ teachings about love and grace and forgiveness. But as Genesis 1 and John 1 clearly communicate, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one and the same. He hasn’t changed; He doesn’t have a split personality.
We worship and serve a God of love, grace and mercy. But that same God is also one of justice and judgment, hating sin every bit as strongly and perfectly as He loves His children. It’s not multiple choice. We don’t get to choose which characteristics or attributes of God we want and ignore the rest.
The same God who said, “I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay up on them” (Ezekiel 39:21) is the same incarnate God who said on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Is this easy for us to comprehend? Perhaps it is for you, but it’s not for me. Nevertheless, it’s right there, in black and white (and red, if you have one of those Bibles). If we’re to believe the Scriptures we must believe ALL of them, not just the parts that make us feel comfortable and unchallenged.