When folks tell me that the God of the TANAK (Old Testament) and New Testament are different; one being vengeful and angry, the other loving and full of grace, I have to shake my head. They just don’t get it and my reading this morning shows clear proof that they are one and the same. Man’s fall and resultant expulsion from the Garden some may claim are clear indications of how vengeful God was ‘back then.’ They may say that didn’t God put that tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden after all; why should God be surprised when man disobeyed the command not to eat of its’ fruit?
That Eve was deceived by the Accuser is clearly laid out in Scripture (Gen. 3:1-6); what is often overlooked is how Adam was present during this temptation and let it happen. True, Eve was not there when God commanded Adam not to eat of this particular tree (think of it, in a world full of ‘yes,’ the only one ‘no’ and they blew it!). Surely Adam instructed his wife of this single ‘no,’ but the Accuser is crafty and deceived Eve, so she took of its’ fruit and ate it. Then, Scripture tells us (Gen. 3:6), “…she took of the fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” The innocence and joy of the Garden were gone in an instant, and they hid from each other and tried to hide from God. No longer unashamed (Gen. 2:25); with rebellion and sin, shame entered creation.
God enters the Garden looking for Adam, calling to him as a father to a wayward son. What follows (Gen. 3:10-13) is the first example of the blame game; fingers pointing outward without any confession of their own sin. This continues to this day and will do so until the end of this fallen world. Their attempt at covering their own shame (sewing fig leaves together to cover their nakedness) was ludicrous, just as any attempt on our part to pay for our own failures falls far short. God sacrifices creatures to provide for them proper covering (would an angry and vengeful God do this?), but then does something many don’t understand. He expels them from the Garden, never to return (Gen. 3:23,24)!
Just so, some would claim, this demonstrates his vengeful nature. But really it truly demonstrates the grace God shows throughout His-story. The triune God speaks a very real concern, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever…” (Gen. 3:22) Adam and Eve (and all their progeny) were cursed with eventual death rather than living forever in a Garden of bliss. This is the peak of grace; imagine if they had remained in the Garden and had eaten of the fruit that would give them everlasting life. Shame, fear, doubt; all the ‘fruit’ of the fall would remain forever. Death for the human race is a gracious gift from a loving God that ends a life of suffering and temptation, allowing them to enter into an eternity of everlasting joy.
Again, this so-called ‘angry, vengeful God of the Old Testament demonstrates further grace by providing a path, a Way to that true life. By the sacrifice of the animals that provided them with clothing, God showed them that blood was required. This would lead to the sacrificial system laid down in Exodus and Leviticus, but all points to that Son whose heel would be bruised, but who would forever crush the power and threat of the Accuser. About two thousand years ago, an itinerant preacher and miracle worker was arrested and endured several mock trials (in violation of the Torah). He would then be handed over to a lily-livered Roman official who would condemn him to be crucified, even knowing he was innocent. That was that they all thought.
Jesus is risen; just as he said! He has left this planet but will return. The madness and evil that seem to run rampant over the Earth leave us with little hope. By God’s grace, the story is not over. When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), it was not a piteous cry of defeat, but a shout of victory! The debt had been paid; the Way was now open to all who believe to receive true life forever.