God’s justice and mercy under the old covenant
Our lessons for this week on days 4 and 5 demonstrate that God has always been a God of Justice and a God a Mercy. There is not a “God of the Old Testament” and a “God of the New Testament.” There is one God, eternal, immutable, consistent.
But that doesn’t mean that something amazing didn’t happen with the dawning of the New Testament. And, something else amazing awaits us at the final days when Christ returns.
To illustrate this, let’s consider an analogy of a broken window.
Imagine that you broke a window in God’s house. That is not OK. Every child knows this. You can’t just run and hide. You can’t lie about it. You have to be responsible. You have to say your sorry.
But, it can’t stop there. Being sorry is important, but God still has a busted window. That’s not right. But, we have an even bigger problem: we do not have the means to fix the window. Think of it as an ancient stained glass window.
Under the covenant of the old testament, when the Jews would turn to God and confess their sins, and offer a sacrifice, God would be merciful and not require payment for the broken window. But, it was still broken. Sure, there was a temporary patch put in place. A little duct tape, some boards, but it wasn’t the same – it wasn’t fixed.
Justice existed: God saw the window, God required confession and repentance, There was no denial about it being broken and who broke it.
Mercy existed: God provided forgiveness and held back collection of payment (a payment that could not be made).
But, there was still a problem – the window remained broken. Every one of our attempts to fix it on our own, was the same as throwing mud at the window, hoping enough would stick that it would be noticeable or that we would cover up the window enough that we wouldn’t be reminded of it.
In case you haven’t already made the leap, the window represents our perfect relationship with God – the relationship that was crafted by God in the garden of Eden. We broke it through sin. Repentance and sacrifice are ways of confessing our sorrow, but our relationship, like the the window is still broken. Our self-righteousness and continued sin are acts of hurling additional insult onto the broken relationship, like mud on the window.
But, stay tuned, because, while God does not change, He did have a plan.
God knew the character of the Israelites and He was just in his judgment to kill them all and start over, but He also was merciful and responded to Moses’ plea. But there was also justice because they did not receive the handwritten tablets of God, but instead later received Moses’ scribed replicas. The calf was destroyed, ground up and all were forced to drink the bile of their sin. They did not receive the full blessings of God, but they did also not receive what was deserved.
He accepted the plea of Moses and restrained His wrath. Moses advocated for them, not for their merits but for God’s glory
No, they lived
He judged them rightly, justly, correctly. but He held back the execution of the judgment through His mercy