God of Mercy & God of Wrath
Must be two different Gods…right?!? Not so fast!
As we read and study the Bible, it becomes clear that God is the same in the Old and New Testaments. Even though the Bible is 66 individual books written on two (or possibly three) continents, in three different languages, over a period of approximately 1500 years by more than 40 authors, it remains one unified book from beginning to end.
In it we see how a loving, merciful, and just God deals with sinful men in all kinds of situations. The Bible is God’s love letter to mankind. God’s love for His creation is evident all through Scripture.
In both the Old and New Testaments we see God lovingly and mercifully calling people into a special relationship with Himself, not because they deserve it, but because He is a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in a loving truth.
At the same time we also see a holy and righteous God who is the Judge of everyone who disobeys His Word and refuses to worship Him, turning instead to worship gods of their own creation.
Is There Grace in the OT?
Absolutely! Consider these characters…
- Genesis 3:15: the first time the gospel appears in the Bible, if only in seed form. In this verse, God promises to send a seed of Eve to undo the curse and destroy the serpent, and as New Testament believers, we know Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of this promise.
- The basis of God’s relationship with Israel was His gracious election of Abraham, a pagan nomad.
- It’s also important to recognize that God gave Israel the law afterHe saved them.
- Listen to how David talked to God: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity… and you forgave the iniquity of my sin… For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you”. Only a God of immense grace could act in this way to a man with David’s moral failings.
- Jonah knew his Old Testament and the gracious God who stands at its center. He fled from the call of God because he knew the God calling him was more gracious than he was. Jonah, like us, wanted judgment on his enemies. But he served a God who loved to show grace to those least worthy of it.
While there are certainly differences between the Old and New Testaments, God’s character is consistent throughout eternity. That consistency should give us hope.
We don’t serve a God who became gracious. We serve a God who has been, is and always will be gracious. The whole Bible tells the story of this God, and the grace extended in that story is also offered to us.
Because of God’s righteous and holy character, all sin—past, present, and future—has to be judged. But God in His infinite love has provided a payment for sin and a way of reconciliation so that we sinners can escape His wrath.
We see this beautiful truth in verses like 1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
In the Old Testament, God provided a sacrificial system where atonement could be made for sin. But, this sacrificial system was only temporary and merely looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ who would die on the cross to make a complete substitutionary atonement for sin.
The Savior who was envisioned in the Old Testament is revealed in all its glory in the New Testament. The ultimate expression of God’s love is fully realized in the sending of His Son Jesus Christ.
The cross of Jesus Christ is all about God’s holiness. That may seem strange, that a place of blood and suffering and torment would be all about holiness.
At the cross we see just how much God values his holiness. We see that God will not violate his own holiness even to save the ones he loves.
Here at the cross we see wrath and mercy meet. When we look to the cross we see Jesus Christ serving the just sentence of a sinner.
So where is the mercy of the cross? All we see here is Christ experiencing all wrath and no mercy. How can I say that wrath and mercy meet here?
Christ served the complete sentence of just wrath that I deserved. This is the mercy of the cross, the sinless one serving the sentence of the sinner.
No wonder, then, that for all of eternity our minds, our hearts, will be fixated on this Savior, Jesus Christ.
God is worthy of praise for his patient mercy. God is worthy of praise for his just wrath.
The cross shows us the depth of our sin and the height of God’s holiness, the purity of God’s wrath and the greatness of God’s mercy.
The cross demands that we look to the one hanging there and put all our faith, all our hope, all our trust in him.