PASTOR ALLWIN JOHNSON - NATURE OF GOD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT BOOKS
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NATURE OF GOD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT BOOKS

PASTOR ALLWIN JOHNSON

Introduction

            The whole Old Testament (OT) has 39 books which can be divided into 5 Pentateuch, 12 History, 5 Poetry, 5 Major prophets and 12 Minor prophets. The whole Old Testament is just talking about God and His people. Le us see the main character of God in all 39 books of OT.

Genesis – God is the originator

            Genesis, the first book of the Bible displays God as the originator of world, life and covenant. Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and 2:7 says, “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. After God felt every creation is good, man fell into sin and the entire world was cursed by God. Then the sovereign God elected Israel through Abraham to be His own people. He made His covenant with Abraham(15:1-20) with a sign of circumcision (17:1-27) and blessed him to be a blessing over the face of the earth.

Exodus – God is the deliverer

            When Israelites were suffering under the cruel bondage of Egypt, God remembered the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (2:24) and He said “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of Egyptians... I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement” (6:6). The book of Exodus shows God as the deliverer of His people. The event of exodus is the act of salvation of the people of Israel through the blood of the lamb (Passover) and the power of God almighty (miracles). God also established the Mosaic covenant and blessed Israel “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” (19:5).

Leviticus – God is Holy

            Leviticus articulates the Holiness of God and instructs “How unholy man can worship Him?” God says “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy” (20:7,8). God instituted the atonement of sins through the blood saying “For the life of a creature is in the blood and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the alter; it is blood that makes atonement for one's life” (17:11) and He commanded “keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them” (18:5). 

Numbers – God's deal with the failures of Israel

            God elected, separated, redeemed and promised the Israel to give the land of canaan, but the Israelites disobeyed and rebelled against God. So God in His anger said “For forty years you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you... They will meet their end in the desert; here they will die” (14:34,35). Yet God had been faithful to His covenant to Abraham to take the Israelites to the promised land of canaan. During the forty years of wanderings, the whole generation except Joshua and Caleb died down in desert. Then God led the new generation to the promised land. Numbers enunciates that God deserts those who rebel against Him and fulfills His covenant through one who trusts in Him.

Deuteronomy – the God who keeps the covenant

            The whole book of Deuteronomy talks about the renewal of covenant which was originally established at Mount Sinai. The old generation fell down in the desert and new one had grownup. So God made a renewal and confirmation of His covenant through His servant Moses. God once again approved Israelites as His people as Moses says “You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the LORD your God... to confirm you this day as His people, that He may be your God as He promised you and as He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (29:12,13).

Joshua – God fulfills the promise

            The book of Joshua starts with a reaffirmation of promise of God “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses” (1:3) and ends with the fulfillment as Joshua says “Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (23:14). Joshua succeeded Moses and won every piece of the promised land by the power of the Lord of Hosts. God showed a merciless sword against the gentiles to fulfill His promise to Israel. Joshua 11:20 says “For it was God Himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that He might destroy them totally, exterminating them with out mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.”

Judges – God sustains His people amidst of their unfaithfulness

            After the death of Joshua, there was no one to lead Israel towards God. The whole generation died and a new generation had grownup, who knew neither the LORD nor what He had done for Israel. So as Judges 21:25 says “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” Whenever Israel fell in sin, God had given them in the hands of their enemies and whenever Israel repent and call-back their God, He saved them through a saviour to save them from their bondage. The book teaches that God sustains His people amidst of their unfaithfulness because of His faithfulness.

Ruth – God cares those who trust Him

            Ruth, a Moabite widow laid all her trust on her Israelite mother-in-law and leaned on the Israel community for the rest of her life. In her words she says “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God  my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried” (1:16,17). God honoured her faithfulness to her mother-in-law and gave her a prosperous and reputed life through Boaz. In fact Ruth took part in the genealogy of Jesus.

1 Samuel – God looks for a person after His heart

            God appointed Saul as a king of Israel, but he disobeyed God and lost his kingship anointing. Then “the LORD has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him leader of His people” (13:14). The great theme of this book is obedience. Samuel says “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (15:22). Disobedience threw Saul from kingdom and obedience brought David to the kingdom of Israel.

2 Samuel – God establishes the shadow of His kingdom

            After rejecting Saul for the kingdom, God established the shadow of His kingdom through the shepherd boy of Bethlehem. Davidic kingdom is related to the Messianic rule which is the promise of God to the Israelites because of his justice, wisdom, integrity, courage and compassion. The key verse of this book is the promise of God to David regarding Jesus. “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever... your throne will endure forever” (7:12-16). Thus God established a shadow with David.

1&2 Kings - God controls the kingdoms of the world

            God promised Solomon that if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, I will establish your your royal throne over Israel forever (1 Kings 9:5). But Solomon and succeeding kings of Judah and Israel failed to obey God. Kings did all the perversions against God and led their people to prostitution and Idolatry. So God destroyed the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and gave them as captives to Assyria and Babylon.[1] The book shows us that God controls not only the Israel and Judaic kingdoms but also the entire world. In His sovereign plan, He makes kingdoms to fall or to rise.

1&2 Chronicles – God keeps Israel

            The books deals from Adam to Exile of Israel and Judah, explaining the history of Israel. God displays Himself as a Hebrew God in this history book. After establishing David as a king of Israel, God promised David saying “I will raise-up your offspring to succeed you... He is the one who will build a house for me... I will be his father and he will be my son... his kingdom will be established forever.[2]” God had been faithful to His promise and raised few good kings in Judah to keep the line of David to Christ. In midst of all disobedience, captivity and turmoil, He had been a God of Israel always.

Ezra and Nehemiah – God restores the remnants

            God is always keen on keeping the covenant. As he promised by the prophet Jeremiah, He restored His people in their promised land. He raised three men—Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah to restore and rebuild the city and the temple. The remnants returned and rebuilt the city, wall and the temple amidst of opposition. They repented for their sins against God and remembered the gracious hand of God which gathered them again. As Ezra says God of our fathers, who has put into kings heart... and has extended His good favour to me before the king... Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me (7:27,28).

Esther - God protects the remnants

            Although this book does not mention the name of the LORD, we could see the protecting hand of God for His people. After the destruction of Judah and Israel, only few the Hebrews survived and lived in scattered places. Haman the Agagite plotted to wipe out Jews from the face of the earth. But God who is faithful in His covenant, raised Esther as a queen and humbled all the enemies of Jews. As Mordecai considers, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from any place (4:14).

Job – God  is sovereign

            The book of Job portrays the sovereign nature of God. Job, the righteous man suffered too much in his life and he lost every thing he had. Yet Job said “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD to be praised” (1:21). Job understood that God's love is apart from mere provisions and protection. He confesses “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (13:15). Elihu expresses the sovereignty of God “The almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in His justice and great righteousness, He does not oppress. He shows no partiality to any who are wise in of heart” (37:23,24).

Psalms – God is worthy to be praised

            The whole book of psalms is full of praise of God. God is worthy of all praises because of who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. Psalms describes more the nature and character of God with Israel and among the nations. David says “My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise His holy name forever and ever” (145:21). Throughout the psalms God has been proven worthy to be praised for His loving kindness, compassion, faithfulness, and His almighty nature. The shortest definition of psalms is the last verse of Psalms says “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (150:6).

Proverbs – God is the source of wisdom for life

            Proverbs displays God as the provider of wisdom for living in this world. Proverbs deals with the most fundamental skill of living and practical righteousness before God in all areas of life. The key verse is “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but the fools despise wisdom and discipline” (1:7). The book emphasizes that we cannot walk according our own plans and everything is in the hand of God almighty. So it says “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (3:5,6).

Ecclesiastes – God is the meaning of life

            The book written by Solomon, starts with “meaningless! meaningless! Says the teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Solomon felt everything—wisdom, pleasures, toil, advancement, riches and all that in the life are meaningless. He says “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. To the man who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness” (2:24,26). Finally he concludes that God is the only meaning for our life and we can find satisfaction only beyond the world. Finally he says “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13)

Song of Solomon – God is the author of love, marriage and sex

            Song of Solomon is a poetic book which articulates the romantic life and emotions of a couple with in the boundaries of marriage. According to this book, King Solomon had a actual romance with a Shulamite girl and they expressed their love to each other. The obvious passages of this book which affirm the joys of the love in courtship and marriage and teach that physical beauty and sexuality in marriage should not be despised as unspiritual. It also verbalises the strength of the erotic love as it says “love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away” (8:6,7).

Isaiah – God is the salvation

            Isaiah talks more about salvation. The word salvation appears 26 times and this is the highest ratio compared with the other prophetical books. The first 39 books talk about the human need of salvation and next 27 chapters talk about the provision of salvation. It is just like OT and NT division. The key verse is “Surely God is my salvation” (12:2). Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Judah. However God will remain faithful to His covenant by preserving the remnant and promises salvation through coming Messiah. Isaiah prophesied both birth and death of Christ in the world. The climax chapter, Isaiah 53 is the central theme book which enunciates about the atonement of Christ on the cross.

Jeremiah – God establishes new covenant

            In Jeremiah, God patiently asks the Israel and Judah to return to God before the judgement comes to them. God calls them “O Israel return to me... Circumcise your hearts you man of Judah” (4:1,4). But Israel and Judah failed to repent their sins. So God had given them in captivity to gentile nations. This is clearly stated in the Potter's house message of God to Jeremiah. The climax of Jeremiah is the promise of new covenant amidst of chaos of captivity. God says “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel... For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (31:32,33,34).

Lamentations – God is a compassionate God

            Lamentations is the song of mourning for the catastrophic situation of Jerusalem. Amidst of this turmoil, Jeremiah remembers “Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,  for His compassion never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:22,23). If God didn't show mercy on the Jews on their destruction, they might have wiped out from the face of the earth. It is God's compassion which always keeps the remnant for the salvation.

Ezekiel – God restores the Glory to His temple

            The prophet Ezekiel prophesies the restoration of the God's people to their land of Israel and the return of glory to His temple. In the vision of valley of dry bones, God promises to rehabilitate the people of God in Israel again. He says “I am going to open your graves... and I will bring you up from them... I will settle you in your own land” (37:12-14). He also promises the return of glory of God. Ezekiel says “Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (43:5).

Daniel – God's sovereign plan for the world

            The book Daniel gives the obvious programme of God for Israel and the whole world. The Key verse is “...the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to any one He wishes” (4:25). God proved the gentile kings that He alone is God of all. He revealed Daniel about the major future kingdoms and the kingdom of God at the end. After the major kingdoms, God will set up a heavenly kingdom that will not be destroyed, nor will it be let to another people... It will endure forever” (2:44). This is the prophesy of kingdom of God through Jesus Christ.

Hosea – God is a faithful partner

            Hosea portrays the God's faithfulness, love and forgiveness through his married life with the adulterous wife called Gomer. This illustration also shows the adulterous nature of Israel in its covenant with God. Like Hosea reconciled with his wife, God also reconciled with His people saying “I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one.' I will say to those called 'Not my people,' 'you are my people.' ” In Hosea, God is a faithful husband even to an unfaithful wife.

Joel – God has a Day in mind

            Joel talks about the day of the LORD and its events. He describes “the day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?” (2:11). Following this Joel warns Judah to return to LORD (2:12). So this day of the LORD could be the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem. In 2:28, Joel prophesies about the day of the LORD and this is obviously the day of Pentecost. Considering these, God has determined the particular days for everything.

Amos – God chastens and restores

            In the book of Amos, God gives a call to repentance saying “Seek the LORD and live” (5:6). But the stubborn Israel denied to seek the LORD. So God severely chastens Israel by allowing a destruction on it. God in His anger tells “I will destroy it from the face of the earth” (9:8). But He also adds “Yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob” (9:8). After the chastening, He promises to restore them back in their land saying “In that day I will restore David's fallen tent. I will repair its ruins, and build it as it used to be” (9:11).

Obadiah – The God who hates

            God talks tough on Edom and He determined to revenge for the harms that it has done for Israel. God says “Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever” (10). Once God who allowed Edom to fought against Israel and now the same God revenges Edom for His people because He is the sovereign God (1).

Jonah – God listens gentile prayer

            Jonah, who was commanded to warn the people of Nineveh, preached the judgement of God after a period of disobedience and chastise of God. People of Nineveh fasted and repented and turned from their wicked ways. “when God saw what they did... He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened” (3:10). The God who yields to the prayer of Israelites, answered first time to a gentile prayer.

Micah – God promises deliverance

            God was fed-up with the sins if Israel and Judah and brought the judgement over them as per His covenant regulations. The Israelites were blamed for their injustice, bribery, violence and pride. God promised the ray of hope and the divine deliverer who will come from Bethlehem and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD (5:1-5). The prophet says amidst of indiscipline “as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my saviour” (7:7).

Nahum – God who punishes

            The entire book spells out the horrible judgement on the city Nineveh. The key verse is “The LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished” (1:3). The Lord takes vengeance on His foes and maintains His wrath against His enemies (1:2). God punishes all men of the world for their sins against Him. But only for Israel, He shows mercy and restores them again. For others, He maintains His wrath against His enemies.

Habakkuk – God is the strength

            Habakkuk questions God, why you allow the wickedness and perversions in Judah? Why you use the wicked Babylonians as your weapon to chastise your people? God is sovereign and His plans are perfect. The righteous will live by his faithfulness. In the end of the book, the prophet understood and confess that in any circumstance “I will rejoice in the lord... The sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of the deer” (3:17,18).

Zephaniah – God is the God of judgement

            Zephaniah prophesied the judgement on Judah, Philistia, Moab, Ammon and the Jerusalem city. The judgement day of the LORD will be “a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom...I will bring distress on the people... because they have sinned against the LORD” (1:15-17). But He gives a narrow way of escape, “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you do what He commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger” (2:3).

Haggai – God takes pleasure in His temple

            Haggai is the prophet of the remnants who induced the Jews to build the temple of God. Because of their personal affairs, people were forsook the Temple work and they could not prosper. God says “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up to mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured” (1:7,8). When people give priority to God's work, God is pleased and honoured.

Zechariah – God is the God of Jews

            After the exile, God called Jews “return to me and I will return to you” (1:3). God's faithfulness to His covenant continues even after the exile of His people. God was so concerned about the Jews and He blesses them, promises them and destroys their enemies. Ultimately He prepares the remnant of Judah to bring forth Messiah from them. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9:9). Even though the Israelites disobeyed God bluntly, God never left them and never leave them.

Malachi – God sends the messenger of the covenant

            “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire will come, says the LORD almighty” (3:1). God dislikes the blemish sacrifices of the Israeli priests and the levites violated the covenant of God. All Judah became unfaithful to the covenant he made with wife of his youth. So God sends the messenger of the covenant, the Messiah to Israel. He will purify the levites and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD (3:3,4)

Conclusion

            The whole Old testament portrays God as a sovereign God who is always faithful to His covenant with His people. Throughout the Old testament God had been with and for the elected and predestined people of Israel.



[1] 2 Kings 17:22,23; 23:27

[2]1 Chronicles 17:10-14

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