| DISCOVERING JESUS IN THE OLD
The God of the Old Testament...
The God of the New Testament...
By Ken Williams
Copyright (c) 2012 - All rights reserved
Before we can even begin to consider the title above, we must first try to figure out who or what God is. There are millions of different concepts of God. Obviously not all of them can be correct since some ideas of God negate other ideas of God. There must be some kind of a God, for, from the very earliest we can trace humans, they tried to fill that God-vacuum in their lives with various attempts at religion. Many of them have a striking resembance to various elements of sun god worship established way back at the Tower of Babel. The Bible tells us that Nimrod was a mighty hunter and that his kingdom was Babel (Genesis 10:9-10). From secular history we know that Nimrod was a very wicked man; that he established his rule in the southern part of what is today Iraq, and spread it northward into what became the Assyrian Empire many centuries later. The Babylonians were sun god worshipers. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were all sun god worshipers. God ordered the Israelites to totally wipe out the Canaanites because their form of sun god worship included the offering of babies as burnt offerings (burning them alive) in the belly of their god, Baal.
Today, Hinduism, the third largest religion in the world, has hundreds, even thousands of gods. Buddhaism, the religion of the followers of the teacher Buddha, who taught somewhere between the 6th and the 4th centuries BC., has a kind of self-god idea. People, after death, are reincarnated into other living beings (the type of animal is dependent on how they performed as humans); the idea being to move up the line until finally evolving into some sort of unexplainable absorption into nature, in which the person loses their self-identity and becomes one with, and is a god.
The American Indians had religious pactices which were wrapped up around the feeling that Mother Earth was god, although there were also many practices in which they tried to ward off evil spirits. Today we have something known as the New Age Movement, in which Mother Earth is the diety, and each follower has spirit-guides.
Among Christians, there are almost as many ideas of God as there are Christians. How many times have I heard someone say, "My God would't do that." Perhaps you have heard someone say, or even said it yourself, "A God of love wouldn't send anyone to Hell." Very few seem to agree on what God does and who He is.
In this study, I want to take a look at the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the God of the Bible.
The very first thing I want us to understand is that the word "god" is not God's name. The word "God" is what He is. It is His job description, so to speak. Let me illustrate. I have a car. "Car" is not the car's name. The word "car" is the category into which my car falls. My car has a name. My car is a Ford. To even further define it, my car is a Ford Windstar. Just so, the word "god" describes what He is; it is not His name. The Bible tells us His name. Moses is standing before the burning bush speaking with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses knows that he is standing before and talking to God; but he still asks God "What is your name" (Exodus 3:13). God answers, "I AM THAT I AM" (Exodus 3:14), and then God tells Moses to tell the Children of Israel that the "I AM" hath sent Moses to them. That is the word "Yahweh" in Hebrew. In English we pronounce it "Jehovah." It is part of the verb "to be." God's name indicates that He lives in the eternal present. He lives outside of the boundry of time and space. With the "I AM" there is not past and there is no future. Everything is in the eternal present. We as human beings cannot even think in those terms. Our minds cannot even begin to think in terms of infinity and eterntiy. It is beyond our ability to grasp. But then in verse 14 God tells Moses, "This is My Name forever" (NKJV); or, "this is My eternal name, to be used through out all generations" (LB); or, "This is My name for ever, and by this name I am to be remembered to all generations" (Amplified).
It was God's purpose in choosing Israel as His chosen people, that they should be a nation of priests, to reveal God to the world. Not only were they to teach their children and their children's children the "holy" name of God; but they were to teach reverence for that name to the entire world. They failed! As a matter of fact, they have refused (even up to our time) to speak or write the "holy name of God (Yahweh)." They were fearful of violating the commandment, "You shall not use or repeat the name of the Lord your God in vain [that is, lightly or frivolously, in false affirmations or profanely]; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain" (Exodus 20:7 Amplified). Over the centuries even the pronunciation of God's name was lost. When speaking of the name of God, Jews, even today, will substitute the word "Adoni," which means "Lord." If you read Orthodox Jewish literature, you will never see the holy name of God; the word "Adoni" or "Lord" being substituted. In weekly Sabbath worship when the Scriptures are read, every place the letters "Yod - Hey - Vav - Hey" (Yahweh) appears, they will pronounce "Adoni" instead. Even the word "God" will be spelled "G-d."
But before we get too high on our "holy horse," let's not be too hard on the Jews. We Christians have done the very same thing. If you read any of the older translations of the Old Testament, you will repeatedly see the word "LORD" (with all four letters capitalized). In the original Hebrew that is the holy name of God - "Yahweh." It should be translated into Engish as "Jehovah." In many more modern translations and paraphrases, the word is not even capitalized to make it stand out. The word "Lord" or "LORD" is not a name of God. The word "Lord" is a title.
All gods which are worshiped under various religious titles can be understood, comprehended, and could even have been created by the human mind - the human genius (even most Christian concepts of God). However, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is far beyond the grasp of human understanding. Even His name ("Yahweh") leaves us whirling in the uncomprehendable realm of infinity and eternity: Yahweh - Jehovah - the "I AM" - the One Who lives in the eternal present.
The next thing we want to discover about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is found in the very first verse of the Bible. The Bible begins with the words, "In the beginning God create the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1 KJV). Here are the first two indications that the Hebrew God exists, ONE God, in more than one person, and that one of those persons is the eternal Son of God, Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) the Messiah. Who is this "God" who "created the heavens and the earth?" The Gospel of John in the New Testament also begins "In the beginning." It says, "Before anything else existed, there was Messiah, with God. He has always been alive and is Himself, God. He created everything there is - nothing exists that he didn't make" (John 1:1 LB).
From the very first century AD, Christians have believed in something called "the Trinity" - one God in three Persons. To make it even more confusing, each of the persons of the Godhead is fully God. God the Father is fully God; God the Son is fully God; and God the Holy Spirit is fully God. Each is separate, yet each is not separate, operating in concert as "One God." I cannot understand that; but let's face it, if I could understand God in my small human, finite mind, then God would not be any bigger, nor would He be any more powerful than my mind could construct.
The Hebrew word for "God" in Genesis 1:1 is "Elohim." This is an unusual word that cannot be properly translated into the English language. It is translated "God" wherever it appears, but there is much more to it. "Eloh" is one singular God. It is the word from which comes the Arabic word "Allah" - "the Supreme Master of the whole world and the Creator of everything" (Islam in Focus by Hammudah 'Abd al "Ati"). The cry of Islam is that , "God has no son!" However, the God of Israel is ONE SINGLE GOD in plural persons. For right behind the Hebrew ONE God ("Eloh") is the term "im." In Hebrew, the term "im" adds the plural. It is like adding an "s" to an English noun. However, "Eloh" cannot be made plural. What this infers is that the Hebrew God is a "compound unity." We'll see that in a moment when we discuss the Jewish Shema from the Book of Deuteronomy. For now let it suffice to say that "Elohim" is the plural form of a singular noun. It is not making the noun plural. It is adding a concept to the noun - in this case adding the concept that this singular noun, God, is a compound unity. There is no such form in the English language. This is brought out more clearly in Genesis 1:26, where it says, "Then God (Elohim) said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness" (KJV). Wait a minute! Why would God refer to Himself as "us" and "our?" And why would God be speaking with Himself? That is "Elohim" - One God who is manifest in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - a compound unity. This is set out here in the very first verse of the Bible.
The next two letters following the word "God" are also very important. "In the beginning God..." then there are two Hebrew letters which are never translated into English, followed by the rest of the verse. Those two letters are the "Aleph" and the "Tav." They are the first and the last letters of the 22 letter Hebrew "Aleph-bet (alphabet)." Since they do not spell a word, translators have considered them to be untranslatable into English.
Most Christians are well aware of one of the names given Jesus the Messiah in the New Testament. Since all of the New Testament, with the exception of Matthew, was likely originally penned in Greek, the trade language of the day, Jesus is referred to by the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet - "Alpha and Omega." Jesus said, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last" (Revelation 22:13 KJV). Remember, the New Testament Scriptures were written by Jews to Jews. They were written in terms Jews would understand. This is a Hebrew concept which is repeated at least two more times in the Old Testament.
In Genesis, these two Hebrew letters modify "Elohim" (God), telling us something about this singular God in a plural personage. These two letters tell us that "Elohim" is "the beginning and the end," "the first and the last," "the Lord and Redeemer," "the Creator and the Savior. This clearly identifies the Messiah of Israel as the Creator of the universe.
Every Sabbath (Shabot in Hebrew), in Jewish Synagogues around the world, Jewish congregations recite the Shema. It is found in Deuteronomy 6:4), "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is ONE Lord..." This is the passage Jewish theologians use to demonstrate the alleged difference between Judaism and Christanity. They say the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is one and only one. They contend Christians worship three deities, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
There are two Hebrew words which are translated "one" in our English Bibles. One of them is "Lyah," meaning "one and only one." The other is "Echad," meaning "made one by bringing together," "a united one," "a compound unity." It is this latter word, which is used in the Jewish Shema, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord," as in a compound unity. To illustrate this usage, let's go back to Genesis where this same word is used to describe what happens in marriage. God says, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be ONE (Echad) flesh" (Genesis 2:24 KJV). Notice that two people become ONE. This is the same word used in the Shema. The Christian understanding of God is beyond the human mind to understand. Christians believe that in both the Old and New Testaments, God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit - One God, are joined as ONE in a compound unity. Each is a separate being from the other, yet each is fully God and is all of God that there is. The human mind is incapable of understanding such infinite concepts.
During the 400 years between the return of the Jews from captivity to rebuild the City of Jerusalem and the Temple, to the time of Jesus' ministry, Jewish rabbis and theologians did not have a problem with God having a Son. God's Son is not a totally New Testament concept. It was revealed in the Old Testament first. In Study #1 of this series, we looked at Psalm 2 where God the Father is speaking to God the Son. Would you follow me now to the Book of Proverbs for another reference to God the Son?
In Proverbs 30, we have the prophecy of Augur, the son of Jakeh. Augur laments that he is "stupid" and "ignorant" in comparison to God. Speaking of God who is far superior to himself, he says, "Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in his garments? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son's name" (Proverbs 30:4 KJV)? Assuming that our answer to these quetions is "Yahweh (Jehovah), and His Son, Messiah," Augur continues, "Every word of God is pure; he is a shield unto those who put their trust in him" (Proverbs 30:5 KJV). The question is two-fold: (1) What is God's name, and (2) what is His son's name. This is written to Jews, and the writer assumes that his readers know the answer to both of these questons. The questions are rhetorical.
Psalm 2 and Proverbs 30 are just two of the Old Testament passages which refer to the fact that God has a Son. There are others which we will note as we go along in this study.
So far we have learned that the word "God" is His job description, so to speak. "Lord" is His title; and His name is "Yahweh" in Hebrew, Jehovah in English. We have also seen that He is one God with plural persons - a "compound unity." This, alone makes the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be much different than any other god which is promoted in this world. Now let's go on to several of the terms which the Bible uses to help humankind understand something about this Supreme Being. For our purposes, we will look at just three of these terms in both the Old and New Testaments. They are: "God is Holy," "God is Just" and "God is Love." These are not just some things that God does as a part of His existence. These are inseparable from God, and without God, holiness, justice and love do not exist. We will look at each separately.
First, "God is Holy." Notice the capitalization of the word, "Holy." We must understand that holiness is not just something we know about God. Holiness is God Himself. In the Bible He is worshiped with the adoration, "Holy, Holy, Holy" (Revelation 4:8). The Hebrews had no punctuation marks or exclamation points. When they wanted to emphasize something, they repeated it. Jesus said, "Truely, Truely, I say unto you..." Repeating it three times was the ultimate in emphasis. God receives the ultimate (3 repeats) for holiness.
We tend to think of ourselves as being "not too bad" - even "pretty good" - compared to other people we might know. But "not too bad" and "pretty good" are a long, long way from "Holy." "Holiness" by definition is "perfection." None of us can seriously claim to have lived perfect lives, with never an impure thought or word. In addition to being "perfect" by definition, holiness means "the absence of imperfection." Unless somehow you and I can be made "perfect" we can never stand before a "Holy" God and live, let alone be accepted into His Heaven. The Apostle "whom Jesus loved," John, wrote in Revelation chapter 1, that he stood before God, and fell on his face as a dead man (Revelation 1:17). Here was the disciple who was closest to Messiah when Jesus was here on earth. This is the disciple that Jesus told to take care of his mother after His crucifixion. This is the disciple who became the beloved Pastor of the Church at Ephesus (according to church history). This is the dsciple who was banished to the Island of Patmos (a prison camp) by the Roman Emperor because of his faith. Yet, he was not good enough to stand in the presence of the Glorified Messiah before the Throne of God. The Bible delcares, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 KJV). Notice, "...ALL have sinned..." To "sin," means "to miss the mark" of "the standard" that God has set. The standard is "complete holiness." It seems strange that we would have to add the word "complete" to holiness, because "Holy" by itself is "complete." However, in our western world, at least in our minds, we have downgraded the world "Holy" to something less than God had decreed.
The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah declared, "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6 LB). The Prophet said that the very best we can produce is "filthy rags" compared to God's holy demands. In Isaiah chapter 6, we have the record of Isaiah being called up to Heaven. He writes, "I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flies. And one cried to another and said 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts'...Then I said 'Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts'" (Isaiah 6:1-5 NIV). In the Old Testament as well as in the New, we have a "Holy" God and a people who have fallen short of the mark.
Second, "God is Just." The only time we come face-to-face with the Justice System, is when we are accused of breaking the law. When we plead "guilty" or are determined to be guilty, then we must face sentencing - the consequences. The same is true of God's Justice. God is Just. It has already been determined that we have "missed the mark" of holiness set by God. Therefore, we wait for sentencing day; and God has already determined the sentence. It is the only sentence He could hand down based on His holiness. "For the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23 KJV). That is eternal separation from God, His holiness, and His Heaven. Does that seem awfully harsh? Anything short of that would make God less than Holy and less than Just. That would also make Heaven no better than life here on earth. The Bible says, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4 KJV). The Old Testament is the history of God punishing those who rebel against His plan and rewarding those who honor Him by faith. "But," we protest, "God is love! Surely a God of love would not send anyone to Hell!"
Third, "God is Love." Indeed, the Love of God demanded that something be done to redeem God's fallen creation. That Love sent the Son of God from Heaven's Glory, down to this earth, here to take on the "form of a man" (Philippians 2:6-7), that He might make the blood offering necessary to blot out the sins - the shortcomings - of the human race. God has done everything necessary to bring you into a right relationship with Himself. However, He will not force you. You have a free choice. In the previous paragraphs we noted, "The wages of sin is death..." However, that sentence goes on to say, "But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23 KJV). How can the blood sacrifice of Jesus be applied to my life and my sin? Come to God in prayer. Prayer is simply talking to God in plain, ordinary conversation just as you would with a friend. Acknowledge to Him that you are a sinner - you have come short of His holy demands. Repent! That means, "to make an about face." Currently you are running your own life; doing what you want to do. Now you tell the Lord you want to live for Him, and allow Him to direct your life through His Word, the Bible. The Bible says, "That if thou shalt believe in thine heart, and confess with thy mouth that God has raised him (Jesus the Messiah) from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Romans 10:9-10 KJV); or as John put it, you will be made "children of God" (John 1:12).
The perception that the God of the Old Testament is angry and revengeful, and that the God of the New Testament is Love and can overlook our shortcomings, is very far from the truth. The Bible says God is always the same. The Holy, Just, Loving God of the Old Testament, is the Holy, Just, Loving God of the New Testament. The God of Love provided a blood atonement. "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11 KJV). Faith in the atoning blood covers the stain of sin - Old and New Testaments.
Perhaps this does not make any sense to you at all. The Apostle Paul wrote that this is "foolishness" to those who are lost, but it is "the power of God" to those who believe (I Corinthians 1:18). Salvation is not like a pardon. A pardon simply forgives you of the consequences of your deed. God's salvation is much more than that. When God cleanses you with the blood of the Lamb (Messiah - Jesus), your sin is completely eradicated. Before God you become as though you had never sinned - you are made holy! That doesn't mean that you will be perfect from this point on. It does mean that you are now a member of God's family, and as a member you can come to your Redeemer and ask for forgiveness for those times and those things which are short of the mark. A constant study of the Bible will help you understand more and more of what God has for you individually. He does have a plan for you, both now and in eternity. Discover it!
"But," you protest, "In the Old Testament people were saved by keeping God's Law given to Moses at Mount Sinai." No! No! A hundred times...a thousand times NO! No one has ever kept the Law completely except for the eternal God who became the perfect man so He could suffer infinitely for His creation. Take a look at Hebrews chapter 11. "By FAITH Noah..." By FAITH Abraham..." By FAITH Isaac..." "By FAITH...by FAITH...by FAITH...by FAITH." Salvation has been by FAITH in all generations, all times, all ages, both Old and New Testaments. There never has been and never will be any other formula. However, because of their FAITH, the Old Testament believers did the things God asked them to do. It is no different today. Paul wrote, saying that when we receive God's free gift of salvation, "old things are passed away, behold all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17 KJV). James, in his epistle wrote that if you say you have faith, but there is no difference in your life, your profession is without merit and "your faith is dead" (James 2:17-26).
If, as a result of reading this study, you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, or, if you have been a follower of the Lord for a long time, let me leave you with a few suggestions:
1. Love God. He loved you first.
2. Seek God's presence. He is revealed in His book, the Bible.
3. Love God's chosen people, who are destined, according to the Bible,
at some time in the future to become a nation of priests, bringing the
world to the true God.
4. Find a group of people (a church - a fellowship of believers) where
you can grow together in God's love, with other believers.
Remember, the Book of Hebrews (in the Bible) commands that we
are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together with other
Links for more information:
Finding Jesus in the Old Testament
(the Jewish Scriptures)
Discovering the Jewish Roots of Your Faith
By Ken Williams
Jesus in the Old Testament? You bet! When Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, was on this earth, the respected rabbi taught about Himself from the Old Testament (there was no New Testament at the time). After His resurrection, He said to His disciples, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Messiah to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures (the Jewish Scriptures - the Old Testament) the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:25-27 KJV). Your Christian faith is built upon the Jewish Tanakh (the Old Testament). Therefore we should be able to go through the Jewish Scriptures and find Jesus virtually everywhere. That is exactly what we do in "Finding Jesus in the Old Testament."
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