The other day I was thinking about the way people perceive God. Many times I’ve heard people complain that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament. They observe that in the OT God was vengeful, angry and full of wrath, punishing people and killing sinners, annihilating people groups and even their children and animals. But when you get to the NT, God has somehow changed. Now He loves people enough to die for them. He’s not into wiping people out but gathering them so He can bless them. It’s like God developed a split personality – He was mean during one era but now He’s nice and calling everyone to be His friend.
As I pondered the perceived differences between the OT and NT versions of God, I began to think the difference in the way we see God in the OT and NT is as simple as way a toddler sees his parents and the version an adult sees. As we know, a parent treats a two-year-old differently than the way they treat a thirty-two year old. In the OT, we see God treating people the way a parent treats a toddler, while in the NT we see God relating to the toddler who has now become an adult.
For example, the two-year-old sees the parent as large, strong, protective and big on discipline, whose primary word of choice throughout the day is “No.” They see punishment weekly, if not daily, and everything they do is new and usually wrong, with correction quick on the heels of most actions. Good parents step in when something is wrong, at times using physical restraint and punishment if necessary to keep the child safe. This is how many see God in the OT.
The thirty-two year old sees their parents as a comfort, a companion, an advisor and sometimes even a friend. Since they’ve grown older, they understand the need for the earlier disciplines, only now they comprehend in a deeper and more meaningful way that all the times their parents said “No” was for their protection and education, and not because mom and dad didn’t want them to have any fun.
Let’s look at this idea from another direction. In the OT God’s people were often referred to as the “Children of Israel,” but in the NT we are now called the “Bride of Christ.” Revelation 19:7 says, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” We’ve gone from being a child of our spiritual parent to an adult ready for marriage. If we see our relationship with God changing this way, we can see that the God of the OT is the same God of the NT. The only thing that has actually changed in this relationship is us.