WHAT ABOUT THE OLD TESTAMENT?
A. Introduction: We are studying the character of God -- what God is like. Many Christians have inaccurate ideas about God's character and, as a result, they mistakenly think their troubles come from God or are allowed by God as He teaches us, tests us, purifies us, perfects us, and chastens us.
1. But, the Bible is very clear that troubles do not come from God. They are part of life in a sin cursed earth, an earth affected by sin. Troubles are just here. John 16:33; Matt 6:19
a. The Bible tells us that God is good and good means good.
b. Accurate knowledge of God's character is essential for strong faith. You cannot fully trust someone you believe may harm you. Ps 9:10; Heb 11:11
2. In the last few lesson we have emphasized the point that if you want to know what God is like, what God does, you must look at Jesus because Jesus is God.
a. The earth ministry of Jesus shows us a God who is good and good means good.
b If God is good and good means good, how do you reconcile it with what we see in the Old Testament? In this lesson we want to deal with God's actions in the Old Testament.
B. Let's first deal with some basic points about reading and understanding the Old Testament.
1. The Bible is progressive revelation. Many things are not fully stated in the Old Testament.
a. We do not yet have the full complete picture of God which is revealed to us in and through Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Heb 1:1-3; John 14:9
b. God's goodness, mercy, and lover are found all throughout the Old Testament, but we have to look a little closer. They aren't clearly spelled out, and we have been trained not to see them.
2. We don't start your study of God with the Old Testament. We start with the New Testament. Once we have a clear, full picture of God as He is revealed in the New Testament, then we filter the Old Testament through that picture.
a. That means if you have ten verses from the New Testament which clearly say one thing and one verse from the Old Testament which seems to contradict them, it means you do not yet have full understanding of that one verse. Don't throw out the ten clear verses. Put the one which seems to contradict on the shelf until a later time when you have more understanding of the one verse.
b. That means we must find out what the New Testament says about specific events in the Old Testament. For example, the Book of Job scares a lot of people.
1. But, the New Testament tells us what we should get out of Job -- that God is a merciful God who delivers His people from bondage. James 5:11; Job 42:10
2. If you didn't get that out of Job, you didn't read it right.
3. We must read in context. Everything in the Bible was written by someone to someone about something. You must determine those things before you can fully apply a verse to yourself.
a. The Old Testament deals primarily with the history of Israel. Much of their history is sad and dark because they repeatedly worshipped the idols and false gods of the people who lived around them.
b. You cannot take a verse about destruction on idol worshippers who sacrificed babies to false gods, rejecting God's many warnings through His prophets to repent or face judgment, and compare it to yourself when you yell at the kids too much, think an impure thought, or fail in marriage.
4. In the Hebrew language there is a verb tense which is permissive rather than causative.
a. God is said to do what He in fact only allows. For example, we read: God brought sickness among the people. It is in fact: God allowed sickness among the people.
b. The tense is similar to an idiom in English. Take the phrase, “It's raining cats and dogs”. We know that phrase does not mean cats and dogs are falling from the sky, but rather, “It's raining heavily”. In the same way, the Hebrews understood “God did” to mean “God allowed”.
1. Remember what we've said about the phrase “God allows”. We hear it as “because God didn't stop it, He willed it”.
2. But, God allows people to sin and go to hell. He is not for it or behind it, nor does He will it.
5. Something else you must know in order to understand some of the “scary” Old Testament passages.
a. There have been people, there are people, who reject God's offer of salvation, Old Testament and New Testament. As a result, they are enemies of God and enemies of God's people.
b. The offer of salvation is open to them even though they don't respond. But, God will protect His people, His children, from their enemies. And, God will ultimately remove all that is not His from His creation -- and that is good. Matt 13:37-43
c. When you see distressing things in the Old Testament, you have to determine who is experiencing the bad stuff and why. Is it an enemy of God's people? Then it is good that they are destroyed.
C. In trying to understand why bad things happen to people we come at the subject from a false presumption -- the idea that people do not deserve harsh treatment from God.
1. But God is not our personal pleasure provided in the sky. He is God Almighty, Lord of the universe, worthy of all our devotion, adoration, praise, and obedience. He was not created for our pleasure, we were created for His pleasure. It's not about us, it's about Him. Rev 4:11
2. The entire human race -- including you and me -- has rebelled against God. We say “Amen” to that, but, in the next breath say, “Why did God let this happen to me (them), I (they) deserve better?!”.
a. The amazing thing is that God has chosen to save us, that He in His sovereignty has chosen to provide salvation for all who believe.
b. We have it backwards: Look how much bad happens to people. No, look how much good happens to people.
1. God became a man and died for us so that we can be saved from our sin and rebellion.
2. God is good to all. He gives rain to all, harvest seasons to all. Matt 5:44,45; Acts 14:15-17
c. God's purpose is always redemptive (Old Testament and New Testament). God is working to save as many people as possible. You must view life and the Old Testament that way.
3. We look at Old Testament incidents where Israel was told to wipe out everyone (men, women, and children) and say, “How could a good God do that”? But, we look at it emotionally. Here are the facts.
a. God owes no man anything. All of us deserve destruction. Unsaved men, women, and children are children of Satan and they are by nature objects of God's wrath. Eph 2:1-3; I John 3:10
b. I Cor 5:6--A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Sin must be removed from the group because it has a corrupting influence on those around it.
c. These people are enemies of God's people (not a good place to be) and God protects His people.
d. These people could have been spared by submitting themselves to the Lord.
D. One of the main things God was doing in the Old Testament was revealing Himself as God Almighty or as the only God. That is why we see so many fierce demonstrations of His power.
1. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, the whole world was polytheistic or worshipped many gods.
a. Only Israel was monotheistic (worshipping one God) -- and that just barely.
b. Many of them got into idol worship in Egypt and they went back to it in the wilderness.
Ezek 20:6-10; Ex 32:1-48
c. So God began to demonstrate Himself to both Israel and Egypt as God Almighty, the only God.
2. People wonder about the plagues of Egypt. How could a good God do that? Consider these points.
a. Each plague was a challenge to an Egyptian god. The Egyptians believed thegods protected them.
b. The plagues occurred over a nine month period. Up until the last one, the plagues were annoyances to the Egyptians (as opposed to deadly) -- water of the Nile turned to blood, frogs overran the countryside, lice, flies, a disease killed the livestock, boils and sores, hail, locusts, thick darkness. God was showing His power not something sinister in His character.
1. Power to produce future confidence when Israel entered the Promised land. Deut 7:17-19
2. Power to the Egyptians so some would be converted. Ex 8:9,10,19; 9:19-21; 12:36-38
c. The Egyptians could have missed any of the plagues at any time.
1. As a group if Pharaoh had released Israel.
2. As individuals by joining Israel. Israel was not affected by the various plagues. God put a division between them and Egypt. Division means distinction, deliverance, redemption.
Ex 8:22,23; 9:4-7; 9:26; 10:23; 11:7; 12:13
d. What about the final plague -- the death of the firstborn? How could a good God allow that?
1. Ex 4:22,23--The very first time Moses spoke to Pharaoh he told him that if Israel was not freed, the firstborn sons would die.
2. Pharaoh had nine months of demonstrations of God's power to take the warning seriously, as well as one final warning. Ex 11:4
3. What about God destroying the whole army of Pharaoh by closing up the Red Sea on them?
a. Being an enemy of God's people is not a good place to be. That's what Egypt was.
b. The Promised Land was about a two week trip from Egypt. Had the army survived, they could easily have pursed Israel and attacked them in the land.
c. How many “deathbed conversions” do you think there were among the drowning soldiers?
4. God is good and He is love. But those themes are not as prominent in the Old Testament.
a. If God would have clearly revealed Himself as a loving Father, Israel and the other nations could have mistaken Him for the good god, the god of love -- one among many gods.
b. Most of the nations surrounding Israel had a god of light, a god of dark, a god of day, a god of night, a god of good, a god of evil, etc.
5. Isa 45:7--Some say, based on this verse, that God creates evil, and He can do what He wants to do -- good or bad.
a. But, we must read this verse in context (v1-25). God is speaking to Cyrus of Persia, a heathen king who believes in the god of light, the god of darkness, the god of good, and the good of evil.
b. God is making it clear to Cyrus, “I am in complete control of everything -- light, dark, good, evil, you -- because I am God Almighty”. v21-23
E. By the time of Noah there was great wickedness in the earth. Only Noah served the Lord, and God decided to destroy the entire population of the earth. How could a good God do such a thing?
1. We must understand the awfulness of sin -- a little leaven leavens the whole lump.
a. God marked out a righteous line through which to bring the Messiah (the descendents of Seth), and it was in danger of being wiped out. Gen 3:15
b. The sons of God (descendents of Seth) began to intermarry with the daughters of men (descendents of Cain). Gen 6:2
c. They were being corrupted. Only Noah's family was left. God had to preserve a righteous line. Luke 3:36-38
2. What does it mean that it repented the Lord, grieved the Lord, that He made man? Gen 6:6
a. Repenteth means to sigh, to breath strongly, be sorry, pity. Grieved means hurt.
b. Gen 6:6--He was sorry He had made them. It broke His heart. (Living)
c. God did not create man for this pitiful state. He was sorry it came to this. He is a reluctant judge.
3. We see the long suffering of God. He gave the entire population of the world 120 years to repent.
a. During that entire period God worked to draw men to repentance, pleading with men. Gen 6:3
b. Enoch preached and prophesied during this period (Jude 14) and then suddenly disappeared. Wouldn't someone wonder where he went? Gen 5:21-24
c. Enoch's son, Methuselah, lived longer than anyone else in the Bible (969 years), and his name means “after him the flood”.
d. People saw Noah working on the ark for 120 year. Some worked for him. He preached during the entire period. II Pet 2:5
e. People who knew Adam and Eve were alive during Noah's lifetime. Methuselah, Noah's grandfather, was alive during the last 243 years of Adam's life. Adam's grandson Enos died when Noah was 98. Noah's father Lamech was alive during the last 50 years of Adam's life. They possibly heard Adam talk about God and the Garden of Eden.
4. When the flood finally came, how many deathbed conversions do you think there were among people clinging to tree tops?
F. Let's look at an incident in the Old Testament and see some of these principles at work. Josh 2:1-24
1. Rahab was a prostitute who lived in Jericho and belonged to idol worshipping enemies of Israel.
a. God's demonstrations of power in Egypt caused her to realize the He is God Almighty. v9-11
b. As a result, she protected the Hebrew spies when they were discovered inside Jericho and she appealed to them for mercy.
c. The sign that she was to be spared was a red cord hanging on her house (a symbol of the blood of Jesus). She and her family were saved. Josh 2:18-21; 6:22,23
2. What about the other people in the city of Jericho?
a. God didn't have to save anyone -- including Rahab. Saving people is a demonstration of God's sovereignty, of His grace, or His kindness.
b. Israel marched around Jericho for seven days. Anyone could have come out of the city and asked for mercy from Jehovah. Anyone inside the city could have asked for mercy.
3. In this account we see:
a. God destroying the enemies of His people, and that's good.
b. God removing that which corrupts -- idol worshippers in the land, and that's good.
c. God receiving those who come to Him for salvation, and that's good.
G. Conclusion: We cannot deal with everything in the Old Testament which may make you shudder. But, we've given you some principles which you can use to help you rightly divide the word of truth.
1. The God revealed to us in the Old Testament is the same God revealed to us in the New Testament.
There is no contradiction. It's simply a matter of learning how to read the Old Testament.
2. God is a good God and good means good -- Old Testament and New Testament.