Many people think of the Old Testament as basically a mash-up of genealogies, battle stories, verses about God’s wrath, and the Psalms. Ask someone about the differences between God in the Old Testament and God in the New Testament.
They will likely describe God in the New Testament as gracious, loving, and forgiving. On the contrary, they will likely describe God in the Old Testament as wrathful, violent, and angry. This could not be further from reality.
God’s mercy, grace, and love shine through in the Old Testament just as much, if not more than in the New Testament.
In this article, we will explore how the Old Testament is not about a wrathful, angry God, but is truly a love letter from God to His people.
The Old Testament Helps God’s People to Know Him
Throughout the Old Testament, God goes out of His way to be known by His people. Yes, God expresses violence and anger in the Old Testament, but only when people deserved it because God is just. A more prominent theme in the Old Testament is God wanting to be fully known by His beloved people.
One example of this is found in the book of Joshua. God says to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Joshua 3:7).
Since Moses has passed away and the people of Israel are preparing to cross the Jordan River and enter into the Promised Land, God goes out of His way to encourage His people that He is with them.
While some Israelites may have lost hope with the loss of Moses, God wanted His people to understand that they can be confident, because He is with them.
Another example of this is found in Isaiah. The Lord says, “You are my witnesses, and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he” (Isaiah 43:10).
God consistently reminds His people of His faithfulness to them. God hates to see His people go astray, and He goes out of His way to show His people of His love for them.
The Old Testament Reminds God’s People of What He Has Done for Them
Throughout the Old Testament, God reminds His people of what He has done for them in the past. God does not do this to gloat, but He does this so that His people will trust Him moving forward.
God is not bragging about how great He is, but He is reminding His people of their need for Him, and His track record of faithfulness and grace.
There are over 50 examples in the Old Testament of God reminding the people of Israel that He was the one who brought them out of exile in Egypt. Here are just a few such examples:
“I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you’” (Judges 2:1).
This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you” (1 Samuel 10:18).
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10).
“I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam” (Micah 6:4).
God seeks to remind His people of His love and faithfulness so that His people will know that He is steadfast and trustworthy. God wants His people to know Him, love Him, and trust Him.
These reminders that God gives not only serve to remind God’s people of His love but demonstrate God’s love for them.
If God did not overflow with love for His people, then He would not care if they were faithful to Him or not. He would not care if they worshipped other gods. He would not care if they remembered how God brought them out of Egypt.
God’s desire to be known by His people shows God’s intense love for His people. The Old Testament is saturated with examples such as these and goes to show how this truly is God’s love letter to His people.
Promises of What God Will Do in the Future
The Old Testament not only contains the history of God’s actions and reminders of these actions, but it also contains promises of what God will do for His people in the future.
The greatest of these promises is the messianic prophecies, promises of God’s ultimate salvation of His people. There are three primary texts that demonstrate God’s everlasting love for His people.
The first such text is found in 2 Samuel 7:
The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever (2 Samuel 7:11-13,16).
This text contains God’s covenant with David. In these words, God makes a promise of, not just a son, but a messiah, the chosen one who will rule God’s everlasting kingdom. God’s promises show God’s love by demonstrating God’s everlasting commitment to His people.
The second text in which God’s promises of His love for His people is found in Isaiah 6:6-7:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
If God did not care about the people of Israel, He would not make promises such as these, committing Himself to His people forever.
If God did not love His people, He would not send His Son as a child to die for His people. There is no greater example of God’s love for His people, and this text foreshadows this.
The third text that demonstrates God’s everlasting love for His people is found in the book of Jeremiah:
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
This is an excellent explicit Old Testament example in which God promises to completely forgive the sins of His people. If God did not love His people with a passion, He would not forgive their sins.
God is just, and He has every right to punish us for eternity for our indiscretions. However, God loves His people and has made good on the promises that He made thousands of years ago.
What Does This Mean?
There are countless misconceptions about God rooted in selective readings of the Old Testament. God’s love and mercy are on full display in the Old Testament, and it far outweighs the violence and wrath that God expresses.
The Old Testament is God’s love letter to His people and deserves to be read as such.
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Lucas Hagen is a freelance writer, recently graduated from Taylor University with majors in Biblical Literature and Youth Ministries. When he is not writing for Crosswalk, you can find him reading great books, playing guitar, competing in professional disc golf tournaments, and spending quality time with his lovely wife, Natalie, and their fluffy cat, Woodward. You can read more of his writing at habitsofholiness.com.