Isn’t the Old Testament God a God of Hate and the New Testament God a God of Love?
Another of the frequent accusations against the Bible is that it contains two different conceptions of God.
The Old Testament allegedly presents only a God of wrath, while the New Testament allegedly depicts only a God of love.
The Old Testament contains stories of God’s commanding the destruction ofSodom, the annihilation of the Canaanites, and many other stories of God’s judgment and wrath. The accusers claim this demonstrates a primitive, warlike deity in contradistinction to the advanced teachings of Jesus to love one another and to turn the other cheek, as contained in the Sermon on the Mount.
These ideas about God seem to be in direct conflict, but a moment’s reflection will show otherwise.
Jesus Himself declared that the Old Testament may be summed up by the commandments to love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37). He also observed that God in the Old Testament had continually desired love and mercy rather than sacrifice (Matthew 9:13; 12:7).
This attitude can be seen with statements such as, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked… and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23, RSV).
God would not have destroyed certain nations except that He is a God of justice and their evil could not go unchecked and condoned.
He did intend and desire to punish them as a part of His plan, in consistency with His holy nature and jealousy for His wayfaring people. What He desires in consistency with His pure character, He does in justice, in their case, providing they have not repented and come into harmony with His nature (Jeremiah 18).
In the case of the Amorites, God gave them hundreds of years to repent, yet they did not (Genesis 15:16). Noah preached 120 years to his generation before the great flood (Genesis 6:3). The proper Old Testament picture is one of a very patient God who gives these people untold opportunities to repent and come into harmony with Him, and only when they continually refuse does He judge and punish them for their evil deeds.
Contrary to some popular belief, the strongest statements of judgment and wrath in the Bible were made by the Lord Jesus Himself.
In Matthew 23, for example, He lashed out at the religious leaders of His day, calling them hypocrites and false leaders, and informing them that their destiny was eternal banishment from God’s presence.
In Matthew 10:34 (KJV), Jesus says that the purpose of His mission is not to unite but to divide. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” He goes on to say that His word will cause a father to be against his son, a mother against her daughter, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law (Matthew 10:35).
We find judgment as well as love scattered very pervasively throughout the New Testament, and love and mercy as well as judgment throughout the Old Testament.
God is consistent and unchanging, but different situations call for different emphases. Therefore, when the two testaments are read the way they were intended, they reveal the same holy God who is rich in mercy, but who will not let sin go unpunished.