God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. Before time came into being: I AM. After the world has passed away and Satan is cast into the lake of fire: I AM. God will never change, never be imperfect, never sin. He is the Creator, Ruler, Judge and Savior of all creation.
Yes, yes, you say. I am a Christian. I know all of that.
Yet our reading of the Bible often does not reflect this knowledge. Many of us read the New Testament over and over again, and stay clear of the more ancient books. If we do read from the Old Testament, we read books like Genesis or Esther or Psalms—maybe even Job or Ecclesiastes. Not the prophets; not Lamentations; certainly not Leviticus or Numbers. Those books seem to contain nothing but doom, gloom, instruction and destruction. The excuses we list to get out of reading and studying these books are endless: They are boring. I do not understand the intricacies of ancient Jewish culture. I cannot pronounce that Hebrew name. I am not an Israelite. Is God seriously telling them they are forbidden to eat bacon?!? And the real kicker excuse: They were written before Christ, so they are not relevant to me as a Christian.
Wrong! Even in these books, the boring books, the ones we skip over because they are long and tedious and sad and scary, we can still find the “New Testament” attributes of God. He is still good, merciful, loving, patient. He is not different from the God who sent down his Son to die for our sins and save us from eternal death. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. If this is true—and it is—we should be able to find the awesome power of his love and mercy in any book of the Bible. There are amazing lessons for Christians to learn from the Old Testament, if only we will look.
I have recently been reading through Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations. Not happy circumstances—God warns Israel and Judah of the coming destruction and exile due to their sins, and when they refuse to listen, he follows through on his promises. Israel falls to Assyria; Judah falls to Babylon. Yet in the midst of reading about war and death, I was in tears while reading a portion of Jeremiah because of the love and mercy God shows to a single family as a result of their trust and obedience. God’s punishment is not cruel or uncompassionate; his mercy moves beyond justice. He is patient with Israel and Judah, even when they have rebelled against him for hundreds of years.