An internet search titled, ‘God in the Old and New Testament,’ yields headlines such as “Why is God so different in the Old Testament than He is in the New Testament?”, or “Why was God so harsh in the Old Testament, but more forgiving in the New Testament?” and “Old Testament vs New Testament: A Tale of Two Gods?” Intriguing questions. But I wonder, is God really so different in the Old versus New Testament? Was He more harsh or forgiving in one or the other? And are we really talking two gods or One?
When God in the Old Testament called Abram, He promised that Abram would become a great nation, and his descendants would inherit the promised land (Genesis 15:1-7). The aging, childless Abram expressed doubts about these promises, so God made a covenant with him. In keeping with the practices of the day, animals were sacrificed and the halves laid out in a row to document the covenant.
Tradition required that both parties to the covenant walk between the pieces and pledge to accept the fate of the animals if they violated the covenant. But while Abram slept, only God passed through the pieces (v 17). God took on the responsibility of fulfilling both sides of the deal; Abram just had to believe and accept.
The Old Testament covenant with Abraham’s descendants required recurring blood sacrifices to cover sin. In the New Testament, Jesus laid aside His divinity to walk the earth and make a new, final covenant. Representing both God and Man, Jesus became the sacrifice that permanently reconciled humanity to God (Hebrews 2:16-18; 10:12). Once more, God took on the responsibility of the covenant and man needs only believe and accept.
Two covenants/testaments – One God. The same requirements, fulfilled by the same merciful and holy God. God isn’t different in the Old and New Testaments; He is forever the same.
Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses” (v 17).