God of the Old Testament

Today’s post is provided by my husband, Earl Dickerson

My bride, the amazing Berta, asked me about the Old Testament several times recently. Other persons had been questioning her. Their doubts had managed to raise thoughts.

For example, “Is the God of the Old Testament really our God?” What about the violence and murder and stuff? Why did God go through all the heartaches of Hebrew Scripture? Was all of it necessary or was part of it God’s mistake? Why not jump directly to Jesus and the good stuff?
Berta answered them in faith, but then came to me for confirmation.

Jesus makes it very clear in Scripture that He is a continuation of what His Daddy had been doing in the Old Testament. (Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” Or in Luke 16:17, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped.”)

Jesus believed in the whole Bible, Old and New. But still we question. Was all that happened in the Old Testament necessary? Was God just finding what really works?

The best explanation I’ve heard of what God has done since humanity’s Fall in to Sin at the Garden of Eden comes from Sandra Richter, professor of Old Testament at Wesley Biblical Seminary. Dr. Richter says God has been acting in a sequence of steps or increments represented by the five major figures of Hebrew Scripture. Increments were required because of the effects of Sin and the weakness of our humanity. Each increment offered God something lost through the Fall.

Before the Fall, every person on earth (both of them) was God’s person. After the Fall, no one was God’s person, represented by the fallen Adam. In Noah, God gained a man. In Abraham, a family. In Moses, a people. In David, a leader, the forerunner of the Messiah. Each step was necessary to build to the crescendo where God could complete the Salvation Act in Jesus Christ.

Dr. Richter writes, “Genesis 1-2 essentially provides a blueprint to God’s original intent for humanity: God’s people dwelling in God’s place with full access to his presence.*” To get there, God took us through the incremental covenants of Noah, Abraham, Moses and David.
Finally, we have the New Covenant with Jesus – which by the way was first spoken of in the Old Testament:

“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. {32} It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. {33} But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. {34} No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.{35} Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar– the LORD of hosts is his name:” (Jeremiah 31:31-35)

Hebrew Scripture turns out to be part of God’s grand rescue plan for me (and you, if you want it). As I see it, humanity started in a garden, Eden. We end in a garden, New Jerusalem. And a garden runs through the middle, Gethsemane. Our story has to account for all three gardens or it is inaccurate.

There were never any missteps by God, no intentional cruelty or second tries. The only way of humanity’s salvation was by the long and diligent investment on our behalf by a loving God in Christ Jesus. This is the Bible, the whole of it!

“Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:5)

In Christ Alone, Earl

End note: * The Epic of Eden, A Christian Entry into the Old Testament by Sandra L. Richter, copyright 2008 IVP.

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