Bible Studies/Old vs New testament God
Hello and thank you for taking my question:
In the Old Testament, the Levitical sacrifices for sin only covered up sin, they didn't destroy it and kill it on the cross like Jesus did in the New Testament. Is that why God seems harsher in his response to sin in the Old testament as opposed to his response to sin after Christ's death?
That's an interesting question. I never really thought of it that way.
No, I don't believe that God dealt seemingly more harshly with Israel's sin than He does with ours. I believe that, in order to understand the apparent differences, one must understand God's plan in the greater context.
I would recommend that you Google the terms, "Dispensation" or "Dispensational Theology," to study up on this.
In a nutshell, God has dealt differently with mankind during various periods of time throughout history. In each of these periods (or Dispensations), there were specific rules, often additional revelation, miraculous activity to authenticate God's authorship of this revelation, and typically an increase in demonic activity. In each Dispensation, God gave specific rules, as well as warnings and judgment for disobedience. In each Dispensation, man failed, judgment followed, and a new Dispensation was established.
In the Dispensation of The Mosaic Law, God had chosen a people for Himself (Israel) to showcase Himself to the world. This is the way in which He chose to demonstrate Himself to all people groups and draw them to Himself. The Law was Israel's constitution, and, under a theocracy, this involved both political as well as religions guidelines, and also guidelines for everyday life.
God was showcasing His holiness. He wanted Israel, "His people," to be holy, distinct, separated to Him. God's instructions to Israel regarding sin and sacrifices, and His strict punishment for disobedience, reminded both Israel and also Gentile nations that God deserves our complete obedience. And, through that obedience, God stands ready to bless abundantly.
In the current Dispensation (The Dispensation of Grace, or The Church Age), God showcases His grace. The Law was intended as our "schoolmaster" (Galatians 3:24) to bring us to Christ--to show us that we cannot keep God's rules and that we therefore need to rely on Christ rather than on our own attempts at righteousness. The Law served its purpose.
Now, God exercises grace. We freely receive His gift of salvation, and we also live by faith, relying on His power to pursue God and live a life that honors Him. God still hates sin and punishes it. But we no longer need to live under the same set of guidelines God established for Israel in the Old Testament.
And yes, I believe that, in part, Christ's finished work on the cross might be part of the reason for that. His work is done. Finished. And we can turn to Him at any time to find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Wow, what a great God!