Rabbi Schneider - Is God's Nature Consistent?
Old and New Testaments, are identical in what they reveal to us about God's nature. They first of all show us that above all else God is holy, He's separate, utterly unique, different from everything else. He is eternity. He's uncreated life. There's nothing comparable to God. Secondly I showed that both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament speak of this holy God as being compassionate above all else. Last week we looked at Exodus chapter 33 and 34, where Moses prayed to the Lord. He said, "Show me Your glory. Show me who You are". And God said, "Moses you can't see My face and live, but I want you to go over in the cleft of that rock. I want you to call upon My name Yahweh". And He said, "Moses when you call upon Me, I'm gonna descend and meet you. I'm gonna make all My goodness," notice the Lord said, "I'm gonna make all My goodness". His goodness is His glory.
Remember the Lord said to Moses, "I'm gonna show you My glory Moses. I'm gonna make all My goodness pass before you". And I just think it's really neat to understand that God's glory is a revelation of His goodness. So Moses, he does what the Lord says. He goes in the cleft of the rock. He calls upon the name, once again, of the Lord. And as he does Yahweh descends, meets him there and begins to proclaim His name over Moses and then reveals in to Moses who He is. So, Moses when he receives this revelation, in Exodus 34 now, he calls upon, he calls upon God. "Show me Your glory," in Exodus 33. And then God says, "Okay, I'm gonna show you My glory. Go in the cleft of the rock". And that happens in Exodus 34. God comes to him and meets him there while he calls upon the name of the Lord.
Now, the Lord comes to him and He begins to reveal to Moses His glory and His goodness. And here's what we read. We left off here last week. Exodus 34:6, "Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, 'Yahweh, Yahweh God.'" Remember Yahweh is God's memorial name forever, but it's translated in the Hebrew scriptures as "the Lord". And Jewish people will simply say Adonai, because they feel it's too holy to even speak. The Lord comes, the Lord God. The Lord God and then God reveals Himself. Who am I? The first thing God says is, "Compassionate and gracious". Now why am I making such a big deal out of this? Because people believe that in the New Testament we find a God of grace revealed, but in the Old Testament we don't see a God of grace revealed, we find a harsh law giver revealed. We find the moral law giver revealed, that mercilessly punish people for their sin. But the reality church, is that both the Old and New Testaments reveal that God is first of all holy and that the attribute that first proceeds from His holiness is His grace and compassion.
You see the Old and New Testaments show us that God is the same. He's not one God in the Old Testament and then a different God in the New Testament. He doesn't switch from being a harsh law giver in the Old Testament, with a frown on His face, this stern God. And then suddenly puts on a happy hat in the New Testament. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Let's continue reading this most profound revelation of who God is in the entire Hebrew Bible, in Exodus 34:6 and 7. As God revealed Himself to Moses the one, the Hebrew prophets, the Hebrew people refer to in referring to Moses as the prophet that God spoke to face to face. In other words, the Lord said to Moses, "When I speak to a prophet," the Lord said, "I speak to the prophet in a vision or a dream". "But not so with Moses," the Lord said. "With him I speak as a man speaketh to his friend face to face".
So in Judaism Moses was referred to as the face to face prophet. Moses calls upon the Lord, the Lord comes. The Lord, the Lord God, He's speaking into Moses. Moses is receiving revelation. He's full of revelation like he knows. He's not just hearing the words. He understands the depth of what the word means by the Spirit. "The Lord, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth". Now doesn't this seem like the God that we see revealed in the New Testament? Compassionate and gracious, full of lovingkindness and truth. We see the same God revealed in the New Testament. Remember Jesus said "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father". There's no difference.
Continuing in Exodus 34 verse 7, God says to Moses, "I'm the one who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin". Doesn't this sound like the God we see revealed in the New Testament? The God that forgives. Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more", to a woman that was caught in adultery. As Yeshua hung on the cross, what did He say? "Father forgive them for they know now what they do". So everything we've read so far in regards to who God is, in this most profound revelation in the Hebrew Bible of who God is, is totally consistent church, with who we see God revealed as in the Brit Chadashah, the New Testament. Let's continue on. "Who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin". Now listen to this, "Yet He will by no means leave the guilty go unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation".
Moses made haste to bow low and worship. So as stated the first part of these two verses, really easy for Christians to digest, that the Lord of Israel is compassionate and gracious, full of lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin. But yet when we come to the last portion here, we read something that causes some to stumble. And we read there once again, "Yet He will by no means," verse 7, "leave the guilty go unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers again on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation". Is that part consistent with the New Testament? Beloved one, yes it is. Jesus came and He forgives sin, but He also said this; He said, "Unless you believe," He was speaking to the leaders of His day. He said, "Unless you believe that I am He," meaning the Messiah and the Savior of the world, "you will die in your sins".
Once again, Jesus is saying, "I've come to forgive, but if you don't repent you're gonna die in your sin". And Jesus said that the penalty for that was eternal separation from God in the outer darkness, where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. That those that would not repent and enter into the forgiveness that Yahweh, that God provided, would be judged for their sin and that the wrath of God would fall upon them. So what the Lord is saying here in the Torah, is He's full of compassion and grace. He forgives iniquity, transgression and sin, but for people that won't repent, the same thing that Jesus said, they'll die in their sin and they'll be judged accordingly. The Old and New Testaments beloved, are completely consistent in what they teach us about God's nature.
Some may be wondering about the last part of this verse, that the Lord visits the iniquity of the fathers and the children to the third and fourth generation. This is just a spiritual trajectory. In other words, if I'm living as a father as an alcoholic or a woman abuser, whatever it is, the spirits that are on me are gonna be passed on to my children and then my children that potentially repeat the pattern, that same thing gets passed on to the grandchildren. And so this is just the dynamic of spiritual forces in action. Anybody that will can repent and will be forgiven, but when people do not repent judgment comes upon them and often times passes down the family tree through the third and fourth generations. So I'm just trying to help everyone that's listening today with an open heart understand that you can see that the Bible is a whole. It's not a God that's one way in the Old Testament and becomes a different God in the New Testament. He's always the same.
In addition to the confusion, because people read the Old Testament, they see how God judged sin and they get confused by it all. They don't see the big picture. They get lost in the forest amidst all the trees, additionally compounding the misunderstanding of who God is and the consistency of His nature between the Old and New Testaments. Compounding the confusion is the anti-Semitic theology that has been in the church for almost 2,000 years. I talked about this in my series, How Judaism and Christianity Separated. I encourage you to watch that.
Now stay with me. I'm gonna take you to a really excellent example of what I'm sharing. I'm going to the King James Version now of the Gospel of John, chapter 1 verse 16 and 17. King James Version, written in the 1600's, chapter 1 verse 16 and 17. Now I'm not picking on the King James Version. I'm not picking on any version. I'm just making a point to help you understand the anti-Semitic mindset that was in the church and how because of antisemitism the church began to see the Old Testament as something old, something that we don't want anymore, something that we don't need anymore, something that's relegated to the past. Hear what the King James Version says when they translated from the earliest manuscripts John 1:16 and 17. "And of His fullness have all we received and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ".
Listen again, here we go. "And of His fullness have all we received and grace for grace". How many grace is there? Two graces. "Of His fullness we've all received and grace," first grace, "for grace". They had one grace, now it's given a second grace. Listen again. I want you to catch it. "Of His fullness we have all received and grace for grace". One grace on top of another grace. You had grace, now I'm giving you for that grace another grace. Listen to the next verse. "For the law was given by Moses, but," catch that word but. "For the law was given by Moses, but," it's translated in the King James, "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ".
Now if you have a King James Version that you're using right now, you'll notice that the word but is there, but it's in italics. Why is the word but in italics? The reason is beloved ones, is that the translators are showing that we don't have this word but in the manuscripts that we're translating from, the earliest manuscripts available, we're adding it. And to show you that we're adding this word, they thought to help us understand it they needed to add it, because we're adding this word we need to italicize it. But I want you to think with me for a second. They added the word but, what does the word but mean? How is the word but used in conversation? How is the word but used in a sentence? The word but is used to set up a contrast. It's used to set up an opposition.
In other words, if you're employed somewhere and your boss calls you into the office and the door closes and the boss says to you, "You did a really good job on that assignment, but". As soon as he uses the word but, you know he's about to tell you something totally different. He's not gonna compliment you again. He's setting up a contrast. If somebody says to you, "I really like the dress that you're wearing, but". They're about to tell you another part of your clothes that doesn't look too good. But sets up two opposites. So with that in mind, let's read the verse again. "Of His fullness we've all received and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ". Notice what's happening here. The translators are setting up opposites between the law that was given by Moses and the grace and truth that came through Jesus, as if the law that was given by Moses is opposite or different than the grace that was revealed from Jesus.
Permit me to read it one last time. I really want you to get the point. "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus". As if grace and truth were not in the Hebrew Bible, as if the Old Testament was all about law, but grace and real truth came in the New Testament. The point is, the translators completely mixed it up. When we go back to verse 16, notice there was already a grace. "Of His fullness have all we received," listen now, "and grace for grace". Two graces. In other words, the law itself was an expression of God's grace. It was already grace, but then the greater grace came when Jesus was sent. This is why the author of Hebrews says this, "In times past the Lord spoke to us through the prophets and the fathers. He spoke to the fathers through the prophets in many portions and in many ways. But in these last days He's spoken to us through His Son, through whom He created the world and who was the exact representation of His likeness".
In other words there was truth that came in the Hebrew Bible. There was grace that came in the Hebrew Bible, but the fullness wasn't revealed until Yeshua came. Not opposites, just a progressive revelation. The revelation of God's grace kept on getting fuller and wider and deeper as time unfolded and culminated, beloved ones, with the person of Yeshua.
Before we close today I want to take you to the book of Deuteronomy in the Torah. I'm going here to chapter number 4 verse 7 and 8, just to illustrate for you beloved ones, that the law itself, let me say it again, that the law itself is an extension of God's grace. Hear what we read. "For what great a nation," the Lord is saying to Israel, "is there that has a God so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today"? Why was the law great? We have to understand that Israel lived in a barbaric world. There was no justice. There was no law. There was no moral code so to speak, in the nations of the world. If somebody stole a man's goat, that man may retaliate by going and killing the man that stole his goat, as well as his wife and his children and then burning the house down.
So God was calling His people up and out of a barbaric world to live in a just standard, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Now Jesus came and He said, "You have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you," when Jesus said that He wasn't nullifying the law, He was just calling God's people up to an even higher standard. He was saying, "Listen, if someone does you wrong, turn the other cheek. Bless your enemies". He was bringing law to it's fullest extent. He was calling up Israel to an even higher level. You see beloved, the God of Israel has made Himself more and more fully known through the time it culminated in the revelation of His Son, who is still being revealed to you and I personally every single day. I hope that this series is helping you understand how the Old and New Testaments, the Tanakh and the Brit Chadashah fit together like a hand in a glove. Abba wants us to understand truth and He wants it to be simple. I hope beloved, that I'm making it more simple for you. I love you and shalom.