It’s a common belief these days that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are different. The former is seen as violent and aggressive while the latter is loving and kind. This view is not only restricted to non-believing people. My experience from talking to other Christians, and even the witness of my own heart says that at times, we Christians also want to see some level of difference between Yahweh and the Lord Jesus.
Why is this the case?
I think deep down we’re actually scared of the God we meet in the Old Testament. This holy God, who will not tolerate sin in human beings and brings upon us, even those he calls his most treasured possession, the most severe punishments for their unholiness. (Deut 7:6) And if this is the true character of God, even a short stocktake of our lives makes us fearful of what will happen when God comes to examine us. So to alleviate our fears, we say that this Old Testament God is not really God. Rather we look to the loving and kind Lord Jesus who forgives and accepts as the true revelation of God.
But Jesus won’t let us draw this distinction. Far from separating himself from the Old Testament, Jesus in fact aligns himself with it, fulfilling all its prophecies. (Mt 5:17; Lk 24:44) Jesus will even go as far as to adopt for himself himself the title “I am”, using the very words that Yahweh used in his revelation to Moses. (Jn 8:58)
Where does this leave us? Should we fear the Lord Jesus too? Wonderfully the answer is ‘no’. We need not fear the Lord Jesus or even Yahweh. Yes God has a hatred of sin. Yes he is holy and therefore punishes sin without favouritism. But it is because God hates sin so much, and is so committed to bringing justice to the world for our sin that God willingly took upon himself the punishment for our sin. Driven by love for humanity, God became human so that he might pay the price for humanity’s sin, so that we might have life in place of death.
In the end we don’t actually win by saying the God of the Old and New Testaments are different. Rather it is in embracing their consistency through the lens of the death and resurrection of Jesus, that we are freed from our fear of meeting God because as the Psalmist testifies “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psa 103:12)