“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice”
U-Turns and Divine Character
(Please read Malachi 3:6)
It isn’t all that unusual to hear or read critical references to a “stern, Old Testament God.” That term represents an all-too-common view of God, and is often used as the clincher point in explaining why someone doesn’t believe in God at all — that the Old Testament portrays too much bloodshed ordered or condoned by the Supreme Being. And sometimes the contrast between the rigorous demands of the Law of Moses and our liberty under Christ can lead to the inference that God somehow did a U-turn between the two Testaments, dramatically changing his nature and his dealings with human beings.
Before buying into that idea, we suggest a careful reading of the Old Testament. You will find there a God so merciful, forgiving and compassionate as to surpass mere human understanding.
Yes, God’s people in Old Testament times lived under strict laws and sometimes received dire punishment. God threatened them repeatedly, but when they repented he relented. It is proof of his compassion that he always gave them a way to escape. Clearly he preferred repentance to punishment – and still does.
There were calamities and wars in Old Testament times, but the same God is in control and similar things still happen. The New Testament is like the Old in both promising punishment for disobedience to God’s laws and offering blessings for obedience. So the only religious U-turns we should pursue are those made by sinners when they accept Christ.
God has not changed. We have his word for it in our text: “I, the Lord, do not change” (NAS). In this immutable truth lies our hope, now and forever.