The big sentiment that is popularly held among Christians is the New Testament (though not of it’s choice) championing over its older sibling because of its generous supply of God’s grace and the lack of it in the Old Testament. While I do not view the New Testament as superior to its predecessor, I do experience difficulty in capturing the grace of God in the Old Testament, as it is often not explicitly mention in the English language. However, in our devotional journey with the Torah, my fellow colleagues and I have seen God’s grace generously splattered across the five books, proving that the above sentiment is nothing more than a fallacy.
The blinding cause for the failure to sight this characteristic of God is the numerous instances of God’s judgment, implying that grace has to be absent because of judgment’s presence. It is extremely unbiblical (and silly) to correlate grace and judgment. That is, for one to increase, the other must decrease. Christians tend to forget that the New Testament ends with a book that speaks lavishly about judgment. As such, the presence of Revelation does in no way nullify the presence of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.
It is common for me as a parent to both give grace and pass judgment to my children within the space of each day. Although there are certain days when one attribute is practiced more than the other, the varying amounts do not imply a trade-off relationship between grace and judgment. On the contrary, when journeying through the Torah, it would not be difficult to observe God’s grace being meted out each time judgment is passed.
In the conclusion to humankind’s story in Eden, embedded among the curses of judgment is the prophetic blessing of the embodiment of God’s grace (Genesis 3). In the gloomy chapter where Cain suffers the judgment of being banished from God’s presence for the murder of his brother, the grace of God on the other hand is not banished but emerges through a people who begins “to invoke the name of the Lord”. In fact, Cain fathers a prospering civilization because of God’s grace. With the story of Noah, the sin of humankind reaches a climax where God decides to eradicate humankind in its entirety. This judgment of total annihilation was averted by the grace of God manifested through the sparing of Noah and his family for Noah “found favor in the sight of the Lord”. From the first chapter of Genesis to Abram’s commissioning, I see the grace of God countering the escalation of sin. It seems like the younger sibling’s Romans resonating through the chapters (or Genesis resonating through Romans) that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”. This is best encapsulated in the endurance of God’s grace through “seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night” (Genesis 8).
The epitome of God’s unchanging grace is best portrayed in Israel’s relationship with God. With Israel’s election, van Wijk-Bos says that it comes with a purpose for “the status and the task of ancient Israel are not created for the sake of Israel alone but rather for the sake of the entire creation”. The status of Israel exemplifies the grace of God, for Israel is not chosen for possessing any merit qualities but is chosen for its insignificance. The responsibility of Israel is to point the other nations to God for Israel will be set “high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor” (Deuteronomy 26). However, for the most part, Israel fails in this task. Although God disciplines and passes judgment on Israel, God never gives up on them. God is committed to loving Israel to the end because of God’s covenant with Israel’s ancestors. It is a covenant that continues to invoke the unchanging grace of God despite of Israel’s repeated ingratitude and disobedience.
In other words, the grace of God survives through the Old Testament and enters the New Testament embodied but unchanged in its purpose and function. The grace of God does not make its debut in the New Testament for it exists from the beginnings in the Torah. The grace of God is the vehicle that carries and fulfils the intentions of God’s heart to bless the world through Israel. It is the vehicle that fully extends God’s love for humanity. It is the vehicle that allows the changing of God’s plan so as to bring Israel to its destination where the perfect Israel will be revealed.
[The above is a post migrated from a previous blog]