17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:17 (NKJV)
Note from the mamas: We asked Brother John to do a series on how to better understand parts of the Old Testament. Click HERE if you missed Part 1 of the series, titled “What’s Up with the Old Testament?” Click HERE if you missed the second part, titled “Deciphering the Old Testament, Part 2”. Read below for Part 3.
By Bro. John L. Cash
Well, I’m trudging along in my series of explanations of why the Old Testament (in places) is so gory and brutal. The main reason for this is that the Old Testament and the New Testament are two drastically different books. The New Testament is a book of Gospel—which means “good news.” The Old Testament is a book of Law—which always works out in the lives of people to be very “bad news.”
The Law of God reveals to us the mind of God. All of the things that are revealed in the Ten Commandments are pleasing to God. In order to save ourselves by the Law, we would have to keep it perfectly our whole lives. Nobody can do that. The children of Israel weren’t even able to keep the Law until Moses made it down from the mountain carrying the tablets of stone; they were already worshiping a golden calf.
Now there are probably thousands of laws in Old Testament. But we are not even able to keep the first ten.
The Bible says that if we break the Law in one part, we break the whole Law (because we become lawbreakers.) And once you break a law, there is no way to “unbreak” it. You just have to stand there and live in your guiltiness. I’ve been there. It’s horrible.
Now, let’s add another tragic element to the nature of the Law. There’s a penalty for breaking God’s Law. And that penalty is DEATH. Our God has declared, “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.”
That’s why you’re always seeing people being punished for their sins (or struck-down-dead for their wickedness) in the Old Testament. “The wages of sin is death.”
[I have to inject a side-note here. A lot of folks in the 21st century come to me with complaints against God. They say things like, “Why doesn’t God just lighten up? Why can’t God just tolerate sin?” The thing I say to them is, “Why can’t your newborn baby just lighten up? Why can’t you just stick his head in a bucket and tell him to breathe under water?” The answer to the second dilemma is, “Infants are humans; it is not in their nature to be able to breathe under water.” And the answer to the first query is, “God is holy and just; it is not in His nature to tolerate disobedience. The Creator of all things is not able to behave contrary to His nature.”]
Now, here’s where the good news of the Gospel, the New Testament, comes into view. The nature of God has not changed. It is eternal and unchangeable. God is just and must punish sin. But, in the New Testament, the object of God’s punishment has changed. In the New Testament, Christ Jesus is born. He is perfect God, and perfect Man. He is able to perfectly keep God’s Law, without sin. And on Calvary’s tree, He received punishment for every sin that has ever been (or will be) committed. And He died for every lawbreaker, so that they don’t have to die.
So…in a nutshell, that’s part of the explanation of the brutality of Old Testament. In the Old Days, a man died for his own sins. In the New Days, Jesus takes your place (if you will accept Him.)
And that’s why I love living under the New Testament instead of the Old.
(More tips on how to understand the Old Testament next week….stay tuned)
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher finished writing this devotion in the midst of drinking a half-gallon of Miralax for his wellness-colonoscopy tomorrow.) Their kids include Spencer (age 24), his wife Madeline (age 24), and Seth (age 20).