You see, when we go through the Old Testament, especially during the time Moses and the law, we read about how people are put to death for sins that we have personally committed. And it can give us a perception of a God who is moody, harsh, legalistic, who has changed, or is even downright tempermental. Is it OK if I be honest? I mean, we know that God never changes, but man, something sure was different back then and we don't like the God we see at times!
Well, not suprisingly, most of this stems from a lack of knowledge of the power of sin, and the love of God. The two most powerful things on earth. The power of sin, and the even more powerful love of God.
Let's delve into this problem a little bit. We are not Jews. We are not Jews. Not in the common usage of the term, anyway, and none of us have been born into a Jewish nation seeking the Lord God Almighty. When we became Christian, most of us were not acutely aware of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. Of what He means to the Jewish culture. He was actually a God of love and faithfulness. But we pick up Leviticus and become deathly afraid of God in the Old Testament who would command a man to be stoned for stealing, sexual impurity, lying, etc. Moreover, we can't seem to reconcile this to a God of enduring love and faithfulness, who would take an entire nation out of slavery and give them immense blessing. And give us Jesus. We're missing something here, do you feel it? This lack of knowledge has had a tendency to distort our perception of God and at times the devil has used it to keep us at a distance from our Father, to keep us from coming to Him when times get hard. The things our Father doesn't go through for our sake. It's amazing.
So I'm going to give you a key that the Lord has mercifully given me right here, right now. I'm not going to waste any more time tonight because if I die before the end of this sermon I will regret it forever. I pray that you will carry this with you throughout the rest of your life, and the devil won't be able to use this fear of the "Changing God" to disrupt God's showing of His passion for you any more or our coming to Him like a child to a father.
So lets get into it. First of all, every sin listed in Leviticus, and every sin listed in the law. All of it. It still stands. It is still sin. Unless- God has changed it in the New Testament. For example, eating pork. There are some small examples of this. Now, with that in mind, here is the key. The only major difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament other than these small dietary changes is HOW GOD DEALS WITH SIN! Did you get that? Let me explain.
I once had a client who said to me something to the effect of how he heard on the radio a person talking about how homosexuality was a sin worthy of death in the Old Testament, and the radio announcer said that "so was eating pork and lying." He used it to justify homosexuality- a sin. Do you see how much damage a simple lack of knowledge can do? He was preying off of a lack of knowledge. Homosexuals don't have to be put to death any more, but that doesn't mean that homosexuality isn't a sin, in fact, the Bible lists it as an abomination in both the Old Testament and New. And it sure doesn't mean that God is for homosexuality. They are still sinning, but instead of being stoned to death, all they really need is Jesus Christ. All that homosexuals, adulterers, disrespecters of parents, murders, liers- basically any sin! All that they need now is JESUS! That's it. He is the payment for their sin. That is the reason Jesus changed it from "An eye for an eye" to "Turn the other cheek". He was the reason!
Somebody once asked me why God changed it. Why would God, who is Holy and Righteous, give us Jesus so that we wouldn't have to suffer the penalty for our crimes and be put to death for dishonouring our Father or Mother, or experimenting in the sin called homosexuality? Or stealing? (Sarcastically) I don't know. Maybe because He loves us? (Smile). That's the only conclusion I can come to. The God of eternity loves me. And He loves you too. He loves all of us.
Next time you read about how you need to be put to death for what you've done in the Old Testament, realize, YES! That's right! That sin IS worthy of death! I am worthy of DEATH! Amazingly, however, God, because of his love for me, has paid the price for that as well as every other mean and sinful thing I've ever done. And I don't have to die. In fact, I can live freer than I've ever lived before. I only need Jesus.
Once we really realize this key, that only the penalty for sins has been changed in the new Testament, the times that we read of God in the Old Testament always loving his people really start to stand out. When he seems harsh, it is because he was bound by his holiness to deal with sin. Do you understand that? A perfect, holy God can not allow sin and imperfection. And the way he dealt with it then was different than with Jesus today.
Let's build upon this knowledge and look at some examples of God's character in the Old Testament. In Psalms 103:7-13 David says, "He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. 8The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. 13Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him."
That is David. He's under the Law. In the Old Testament. That is the God he knew.
Many New Testament Biblical examples of law-abiding Jews were heartless, prideful, and filled with sin. Maybe this is another reason for our fear of the God of the Old Testament, who knows? The Pharisees were the strictist law-abiding sect on the planet. I mean, if ANYONE knew the God of the Old Testament, it was them, right? And they should reflect Him, like we reflect Jesus now. When I say the word "Pharisee", how many people have a negative reaction? Let's have a show of hands. Good. The hardness of hearts and actions of the Pharisees and Saducees, (as well as leaders in our own day), have left us with examples of law-abiding religious leaders portraying Godliness who really don't know the character and love of God. They only know the rules. For many of us, these "religious" examples of people under the law of Moses in the Bible have had more of an impact than those true law-abiding saints who loved the Lord with all of their heart and soul and mind- AND were Jewish.
But, how many people here today would be surprised to hear me say that Paul STILL considered himself a law-abiding Jew? Even after he was Christian. So did Jesus. How about a Pharisee? Paul was a Pharisee, if you consider the definition of a Pharisee as "a Jewish leader who was zealously obedient to God." He simply recognized the direction God was heading, and that sin was now dealt with differently if we had Jesus.
And what about Nicodemous? Remember, the one who came to Jesus by night? The one who in John 7:50 stuck up for Jesus in the midst of the other rulers of the Jews? He came with Joseph of Arimathaea as well, to get Jesus' body and annoint it with his own myrrh and aloes. Nicodemous was a Jew. Nicodemous was a Pharisee. Ha! He was a member of the Sanhedrin. And he knew his God!
So from now on, when you are reading the Old Testament and notice the harshness of God, I pray that you will remember two things. First of all, remember that death IS what we deserve. We do deserve death. It's not something to get depressed about, that's not what God wants from us. But we need to be real, people. It's what we deserve.
And secondly, remember that God has had a plan for salvation since the beginning of time. Even before that, actually. The law was never meant to be that plan. The law was given only to show us where we really stand when compared to God's standards. The plan is now, and has always been and will be Jesus Christ. He bled, died, and He rose again. And if we simply live a life filled with Him, we will be eternally blessed.