Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Unchanging God of the Old and New Testaments

God chose to reveal Himself very clearly in certain ways in the Old Testament. Since orthodox Christianity holds to the fact that God is immutable, it would stand to reason that He would reveal Himself in the same ways in the New Testament. Were that not the case, it would lend credence to those heretics and cynics who claim the God described in the Old Testament is entirely different than the so-called Platonic, Hellenistic God of the New Testament. In fact, the God revealed in the Old Testament is the same as the God revealed in the New Testament. That is made clear by the many parallel descriptive names and references common to both texts. For the purpose of this essay we will concentrate on only four.

The first way in which the Father’s self-manifestation parallels between the Old and New Testaments is in His name “El Elyon”. El Elyon was the name used by Melchizedek when he blessed Abram: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High (El Elyon), possessor of heaven and earth; Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” This was a declaration of God’s sovereignty and was an acknowledgement of God’s control of Abram’s victory on the battlefield. This name for God was used by several others in the Old Testament, including by Daniel. When Daniel was called in to Belshazzar to interpret the meaning of the divine writing on the wall, he referred to God as the Most High God: “O king, the Most High God (El Elyon) gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor.” Once again, the name signified God’s absolute control over circumstances. In the New Testament, the name is also used several times. It is used several times by those people possessed by demons who recognize the presence of God. The one from Gadarenes who was possessed by Legion called out to Jesus, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” Later, a demon-possessed woman followed Paul and his company announcing, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” The most significant use of this name of God was in Luke, when Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the coming Messiah. He described Jesus as, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” The use of “Son of the Highest” directly equated Jesus with God the Father, the sovereign King of the universe.

The second parallel is seen in the use of the qualifier, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”. This title is seen throughout the Old Testament and was meant to give immediate historical context to who God is and what He has done. It spoke of His faithfulness and gave concrete, point-in-time reference to His eternal presence. Likewise, in the New Testament, “the God of Israel”, or “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” is used as a historical anchor point and a testimony of God’s faithfulness. Even though it was short-lived, the multitudes who followed Jesus “glorified the God of Israel” as He healed many through the Decapolis and Sea of Galilee region. Where it shows up mostly is in the preaching of the disciples after the resurrection. Peter used these words when he preached to the people outside the temple in Solomon’s portico: “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.” Later, after Stephen was accused of blasphemy, he addressed the high priest with one of the earliest recorded Christian apologetic statements. In it he traced God’s plan of salvation from the call of Abraham, through the patriarchs, Moses and the Exodus, to Jesus Christ. Each step of the way, he identified God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There was no doubt in the high priest’s mind the point that Stephen was attempting to convey – that Jesus is God. That’s what angered them enough to stone him.

The third parallel is between the use of Jehovah and Alpha and Omega. Once again, orthodox Christianity holds to the truth that God is timeless. That attribute is found in His name He revealed to Moses in the burning bush – I AM. I AM has been phonetically transliterated variously as Yahweh or Jehovah. Jehovah (I AM) is a profound statement of God’s timelessness. Jesus equated Himself to God when He stated to the Jews, “before Abraham was, I AM.” The parallel is continued in timeless statements of God’s character throughout the New Testament, especially in the Book of Revelation. Jesus is referred to as the “Alpha and Omega, the First and Last.” The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet are analogous of the eternality of Jesus Christ in His Trinitarian relationship with (and as) Jehovah.

Finally, God’s steadfast love and mercy permeates both Testaments of the Bible. Those who futilely attempt to create schism between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament often declare they have different character traits. They claim the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath while the God of the New Testament is a God of love. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s character qualities remain consistent because He is immutable. The Psalmist perfectly describes the God of steadfast love that some would have us believe doesn’t show up until the New Testament. According to many Hebrew scholars, hesed (steadfast love and mercy) is the thread that weaves through and binds all the Psalms together. Additionally, Revelation pictures the God of wrath that those would say disappeared (worse yet, evolved) after the Old Testament.


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