I can’t tell you how many times I have heard Christians tell me that the God of the Jewish Bible is cruel, punitive, and unforgiving, whereas Jesus is all about love and forgiveness.
Of course, you won’t hear that from Jews because, well, Jews don’t read or even recognize the New Covenant as scripture.
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If you ask me, saying that God was different before Messiah came is not only wrong on every count, but insulting to God. It can only come from someone who doesn’t know God, or messiah Yeshua (Jesus) at all, and is probably just repeating what they have heard from someone just as ignorant as they are.
Do you think the God we read about in the Old Covenant is cruel? Well, he did allow Job to suffer greatly for a long time, he enslaved his people for 400 years, and he completely destroyed both the Northern and Southern kingdoms, even allowing his house in Jerusalem to be wrecked- twice!
But isn’t this the same God who killed Hananiah and his wife, Shapira, simply for lying about how much they received from the sale of their property (Acts 5)? I mean, really?- loving and compassionate, forgiving and caring but still, if you lie to me you die! That sounds like the same God of the Old Covenant to me.
And what about Yeshua in the temple, when he turned over the money changing tables and wrecked the booths of the people selling animals? If he was truly forgiving, wouldn’t he have nicely asked them to leave the temple? Something like, “C’mon, Guys, you know this is not what God wants from you. Please take your business out of the temple area, OK? Thanks a lot, hey- love ya!”
But who was it that said, in Ezekiel 18:23, that he doesn’t get pleasure from anyone dying, and prefers that they turn from their sin, and live? It was the God of the Old Covenant.
And who regathered his people from exile and protected them as they rebuilt the temple? It was the God of the Old Covenant.
And who gave them a miraculous victory over the Seleucid king who tried to destroy them completely? It was the God of the Old Covenant.
Wow! Ya know sumthun? He ain’t so nasty, after all.
There was a big difference between what God had to do in the Old Covenant and what he was able to do in the New Covenant. Actually, in the New Covenant, God didn’t do much himself, but did things through Yeshua.
You need to understand that God doesn’t work on a finite level, which is the only level we humans can understand. God sees everything on an eternal basis, so when he speaks of life and death, he doesn’t mean breathing or not breathing, he means where you spend eternity.
When God first chose Abraham to be the father of his chosen people, a people chosen to bring God’s salvation to the world, he had to first build up this man into a nation. That is why he told Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved for 400 years (Genesis 15:13). Now, to those who don’t know how God works, it seems silly that he will make them a nation while they are enslaved. But it isn’t because he was cruel, it’s because he was smart.
The world back then was cruel and dangerous- a king of a town would destroy other towns, left and right, in order to become larger. If a small group of people, such as the 72 or 73 members of Abraham’s family, were to ever grow into a large number of people, they would have to be protected. So, God positioned them inside the strongest nation that existed at that time so they would be protected and given that chance to grow into a nation.
Yeah, OK, so they were enslaved and tortured and lived a horrible life, but that was also part of the plan, which was so God would be able to show them how powerful he was once the people were ready to fulfill God’s plan for them.
And once they were freed, God then had to be very strict with them to get them to leave their comfort zone of paganistic rituals and lifestyle, and take on the mantle of righteousness that they would receive from obedience to the Torah. If you read carefully, and think about it, every punishment that God exacted on the people when they were disobedient may seem cruel, but he was training the Jews to be his nation of priests (Exodus 19:6). When we read of a punishment, we also see that right after the punishment God followed it up with a way to avoid the punishment.
In Numbers 15, when the man was stoned for collecting sticks on the Shabbat, God ordered us to wear tzit-tzit as a reminder not to disobey.
In Numbers 21, when God sent snakes to punish the people, he also had Moses make a bronze serpent so the people could avoid dying.
When Abihu and Nadab were killed for offering strange fire while drunk (Leviticus 10), God ordered that no priest should drink liquor before approaching the sanctuary.
I was in management most of my career, and one of the things I noticed about good managers was that when they first took over, they were very strict. They wouldn’t “loosen the belt” until the people responsible to do the job proved trustworthy to do the work correctly.
This is what we are told in Proverbs 22:6, which says
“Train a child in the way he should go; and, even when old, he will not swerve from it.”
That has to be coupled with Proverbs 23:13-14, which says:
Don’t withhold discipline from a child — if you beat him with a stick, he won’t die! If you beat him with a stick, you will save him from Sheol.
We had a lot of hard lessons to learn when God was teaching us how to be his priests to the world, and God had to be hard on us, since we are (as God has often told us) a stiff-necked and rebellious people.
By the time he sent the Messiah, these lessons were all well-known (but still ignored), and at that point God knew punishment was not going to change anything. At that time, as it is today, the punishment of those who are sinful is not so much now while they are living on the earth, but reserved for them in the afterlife.
God never changes, he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, so the God of the Old Covenant is the same, exact God of the New Covenant.
What is different is which part of his plan for humanity he is exercising. He did the training, he did the punishment for disobedience, and the ways to remember not to be disobedient. He’s been true to his word with blessings when we obey, and he’s been true to his word with terrible punishment when we disobey.
We are now at the stage in God’s plan where all that we need to know- his Torah, who his Messiah is, and how we can save ourselves from eternal separation from God’s presence- has been given to us. What is left is God’s loving, compassionate, and patient nature causing him to wait until everyone he wants to have this chance to be saved has been given more than enough time to decide to obey or reject him.
If your religion has told you all that “Jewish” stuff in the Old Covenant isn’t for followers of Jesus, you might want to think about this: Jesus followed all that “Jewish” stuff, which is why he was an acceptable sacrifice.
God never changes, but his method for getting his message across does- from using harsh punishment to initially teach his people what he wants them to do, to sending prophets to get them back on track, to exile, to forgiveness and regathering his people from exile, to sending the Messiah, now our only way to receive forgiveness.
What comes next will be worldwide destruction and the creation of a new world for those who listened and obeyed. I don’t know when this will happen. Hey, even the son of God said he wasn’t privy to the date, so my suggestion is that you ignore your religion and start to pay attention to God, because it is what he said in the Torah that will be the plumb line you will be compared to.
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That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!