“The Old Testament is so harsh, so bloody, I don’t accept it as part of the Bible. I can accept the New Testament, and the love of Jesus Christ (because that feels good to me), because God is love, but that Old Testament, ugh.” I am paraphrasing countless people who either consider themselves Christians, or “spiritual”, but who are turned off by the Old Testament. But my friends, Charles Spurgeon has a word for you. Here is his medication and meditation for September 15:“A people near unto him.” Psalm 148:14. The dispensation of the old covenant was that of distance. When God appeared even to his servant Moses, he said, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet”; and when he manifested himself upon Mount Sinai, to his own chosen and separated people, one of the first commands was, “Thou shalt set bounds about the mount.” Both in the sacred worship of the tabernacle and the temple, the thought of distance was always prominent. The mass of the people did not even enter the outer court. Into the inner court none but the priests might dare to intrude; while into the innermost place, or the holy of holies, the high priest entered but once in the year. It was as if the Lord in those early ages would teach man that sin was so utterly loathsome to him, that he must treat men as lepers put without the camp; and when he came nearest to them, he yet made them feel the width of the separation between a holy God and an impure sinner. When the gospel came, we were placed on quite another footing. The word “Go” was exchanged for “Come”; distance was made to give place to nearness, and we who aforetime were afar off, were made nigh by the blood of Jesus Christ. Incarnate Deity has no wall of fire about it. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” is the joyful proclamation of God as he appears in human flesh. Not now does he teach the leper his leprosy by setting him at a distance, but by himself suffering the penalty of his defilement. What a state of safety and privilege is this nearness to God through Jesus! Do you know it by experience? If you know it, are you living in the power of it? Marvellous is this nearness, yet it is to be followed by a dispensation of greater nearness still, when it shall be said, “The tabernacle of God is with men, and he doth dwell among them.” Hasten it, O Lord.
“Sin is so loathsome to a holy God.” If you can’t accept that word, perhaps you don’t believe in sin, or you can’t reconcile the idea of it being loathsome to God with your concept of God’s love. The key words here are “you” and “your”. You are the measure of truth, for you say in your heart, “my god would never allow the cruelties of the Old Testament.” Notice the small g in your god, the concept of god that is your creation, who is bounded by limits set by you, who you might even bless when your life is pleasant, and curse when trials and adversity are upon you. Folks, what if the adversities of life are the true blessings, and prosperity–when we most often tend to forget God–a test of your faithfulness? Ugh, how can that be, my god wants me to be happy 😃. Otherwise, why believe in god?
Then there are those who believe in god within themselves. “I am god, you are god, we are all god, we just have to believe in our power enough to manifest it.” Good luck with that when your precious child falls ill to the point of death, when your mother ceases to recognize you due to Alzheimer’s, when all the love you’ve invested in your spouse is betrayed by infidelity, when a hurricane destroys your home and business and the insurance company denies your claim. If you are god, can you change any of that in the slightest? “Well, I just need to increase my faith in my divinity.” Or, “I curse God for bringing this suffering.” Or “if God were just, this would not have happened.” It will, suffering will come to all, to test your faith, to build your endurance, to show you God is God, you are not.
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” – Matthew 27:50-54. The curtain of the temple, separating the priests from the “holy of holies”, was torn from top to bottom. Why is that significant? It showed that God did it, not some man, who would have torn it from bottom to top. The tearing of symbolized the removal of the separation. It was God’s way of saying, “now you may come near.”
What about all those nasty and brutal things in the Old Testament, how can that be a loving God? The book of Judges is certainly the ugliest, human sin on prideful, selfish display. That isn’t God at all. The book begins with the Israelites obeying God’s commands to conquer and occupy the territory He had given to them and ends with the explanation for the evil they committed. In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 21:25. The king was not an earthly king, it should have been God’s commands.
There is also beauty in the Old Testament, like the book that follows Judges, Ruth. There is wisdom in Proverbs, Psalms and Ecclesiastes. There is love in the Song Of Solomon. There is unshakable faith in Job, Joshua and Nehemiah. There is prophecy in Daniel and Isaiah. If you think it’s all violence and bloodshed, you haven’t read much…probably just enough to confirm your prejudices.