The God of the “Old Testament”—Is He a God of Love?
“THE God of the Old Testament, namely the Yahweh of Judaism, is a god of cursing, a god of anger, a god of jealousy, and I cannot feel close to him.” So says Youji Inoue, a Japanese Catholic priest, in an article entitled “Japanese and Christianity” in one of Japan’s leading newspapers, the Asahi Shimbun. But, he continues, this God eventually “developed and transformed into what is the God of the New Testament, that is, the God whom Jesus taught.”
To be sure, clergyman Inoue is not the only one who holds such a view. But do you agree with him? Do you also feel that the God of the “Old Testament,” or the Hebrew Scriptures, is a harsh and vengeful God when compared to the God of the “New Testament,” or the Christian Greek Scriptures?
With humans, personalities can change. For instance, the Bible urges those who love God to “put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:24) By studying the Bible and applying what they have learned, many who formerly harbored jealousy, anger, and so on, have made great changes, so that they now manifest in their daily lives the fruitage of God’s spirit—“love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Galatians 5:22, 23.
But can the same be said of the Creator, Jehovah God? Has he “developed and transformed” from “a god of anger” into the Christian God of love, as some would call him?
Jehovah—Always a God of Love
“God is love,” wrote the apostle John. (1 John 4:8) Therein he stated an eternal truth: The Creator, Jehovah, has been, is, and always will be a God of unchangeable love. And from beginning to end, the Bible record supports that statement.
When Jehovah created the earth, he lovingly made it to be an ideal home for mankind. (Isaiah 45:18) Later, when he created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, he made them “in his image,” that is to say, he endowed them with such godly qualities as love, justice, wisdom, and power. He also placed before them the prospect of having children, turning the whole earth into a paradise, and living in it forever. (Genesis 1:27, 28) Was not all of this evidence of a God of love?
When the first human pair succumbed to temptation by Satan through the serpent, they lost eternal blessings not only for themselves but also for their yet unborn offspring. At this crucial point, Jehovah pronounced the first prophecy recorded in the Bible, namely, that a promised ‘seed of the woman’ would bruise the head of the serpent. (Genesis 3:15) Was not this promise of hope and deliverance another outstanding expression of God’s love?
Some 2,000 years later, Jehovah promised his faithful servant Abraham: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves,” thus revealing that ‘the seed of the woman’ would come through Abraham’s family line. (Genesis 22:18) This promise solidified the hope of deliverance and showed that Jehovah’s love for mankind had not diminished with the passing of time. He had a blessed future in mind for humankind in making this promise. He is most certainly a God of love!
God’s Love Toward Israel
Further, Jehovah God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt in 1513 B.C.E. and concluded the Law covenant with them through Moses. In the second of the Ten Commandments, Jehovah said: “For I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God [a God exacting exclusive devotion, New World Translation] and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”—Exodus 20:5, 6, The Jerusalem Bible.
As the Sovereign and husbandly owner, Jehovah had the right to exact exclusive devotion from his covenant people, Israel. (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:14) When his people became unfaithful and turned to false gods time and again, was it not reasonable that Jehovah, out of his love for them, should discipline them, expressing his disapproval and condemnation of their wayward course?
On many occasions, Jehovah showed deep concern for his people and appealed to them to return to him. (Isaiah 55:7) Though he chastised them for their sins, finally allowing their nationhood to be destroyed and them to be taken captive into a foreign land, in due time he brought them back to their homeland. What does all of this show about Jehovah? Is he a jealous, hateful, and vengeful God? No! Rather, it shows that he is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.”—Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17; Joel 2:13; Nahum 1:2, 3.
Love Expressed Through His Son
Over the centuries, Jehovah God provided further details regarding the ‘seed of the woman’ and ‘Abraham’s seed,’ and through His prophets He foretold the coming of the Messiah. When the appointed time arrived, God demonstrated his love in an unprecedented way—by sending his only-begotten Son to earth to provide the ransom sacrifice.
Of this marvelous provision, the apostle John wrote: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Because God’s love through his Son, Jesus Christ, is so magnanimous, some have mistakenly concluded that He could not have been the same God as the one spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures as bringing punishment and judgment.
But is the God taught by Jesus so different from the God portrayed in the Hebrew Scriptures? Or is it that people have chosen to see just what they want to see? Does not that well-known scripture, John 3:16, clearly show that if one does not ‘exercise faith’ in the Son, that one will be “destroyed”? Furthermore, John went on to say: “He that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” (John 3:36) If this in no way detracts from the magnitude of God’s love, then why should his expression of displeasure against the unfaithful Israelites and others in the Hebrew Scriptures make him any less a God of love?
God’s Loving Purpose for You
Through his prophet Malachi, God stated: “I am Jehovah; I have not changed.” (Malachi 3:6) Not only has he remained unchanged as the God of love but his loving purpose regarding mankind and the earth has also remained unchanged. As Jehovah laid before Adam and Eve the prospect of everlasting life in an earthly paradise, so this God of love wants you to be among those who will forever live happily in that Paradise. (Luke 23:43; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:4) But what is required? Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Jehovah’s Witnesses will be happy to help you learn about Jehovah, the God of unchangeable love.