5. The Eternal Mercy of God

Just as the justice of God continued from the Old Testament through to the New Testament, the elements of God's mercy and forgiveness are also consistent elements of his personality. God described his character when he appeared to Moses at the time the Old Testament Law was given, and it includes aspects of both justice and mercy.

Exodus 34:6: Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, "Yahweh! Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth, 7. keeping loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and disobedience and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the children's children, on the third and on the fourth generation." WEB

Throughout the Old Testament, many people assent to the mercy and forgiveness of God in their lives. They see God as a protector, with the same attributes that were later to be shown in Jesus. In the Psalms, King David often described the assurance that his faith in God gave.

Psalm 103:2: Praise Yahweh, my soul, And don't forget all his benefits; 3. Who forgives all your sins; Who heals all your diseases; 4. Who redeems your life from destruction; Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies; WEB

Isaiah 55:7 : let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to Yahweh, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. WEB

Micah 7:18: Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, And passes over the disobedience of the remnant of his heritage? He doesn't retain his anger forever, Because he delights in loving kindness. WEB

Psalms 119:132: Turn to me, and have mercy on me, As you always do to those who love your name. WEB

The prophet Isaiah gave a message to remind God's nation of Israel that they had indeed been blessed with a continual mercy from God. Even though they had been disobedient on many occasions, and God had sent judgement on them, yet he did not forsake his promises for them. In Isaiah 54, God is likened to the loving husband of his nation, caring for her even though she strayed from him,

Isaiah 54:10: For the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed; but my loving kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall my covenant of peace be removed, says Yahweh who has mercy on you. WEB

Mercy from Judgement

At many times though the Bible, God has judged individuals and groups of people as deserving of destruction. In this context, God has also had a mercy in withholding some judgement for the sake of some righteous people who may be caught up in it.

In Old Testament times, when God was determined to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, he first spoke to the patriarch Abraham about the plans. At that time God emphasised how mercy would be shown for the sake of the righteous in their presence.

Gen 18:26 Yahweh said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sake.": WEB

Later he refines this down to say that for the sake of even ten, he would not destroy it. However, ten weren't to be found, and God destroyed the cities, but not before leading out one family of people living there for the righteousness of one man.

We see a similar situation in the New Testament. Here God is described as delaying his judgement on the world, for the sake of those that will yet come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. WEB

There is a severe destruction awaiting the world that humanity has build up, but again God suffers the wicked for the sake of those on whom he will have mercy. The mercy of God follows the same pattern over successive millennia.

Healing

During the time of the ministry of Jesus, a particular blessing given to individuals was the miraculous healing of illnesses. However, this was one out of a few periods through history where this occurred. Such periods also appeared in the Old Testament. During the ministry of Elijah, we also see similar healing,

1 Kings 17:17: It happened after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. WEB

1 Kings 17:22: Yahweh listened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. WEB

Also, in the later letters of the New Testament, we see a similar approach to the healing of illness to other sections of the Old Testament. Here, rather than the miraculous style of direct healing seen with Jesus and Elijah, it is focussed more of the role of God acting in response to prayer,

James 5:15: and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. WEB

The Future Blessing

The gospel taught by Jesus was always to speak of the “Good news of the Kingdom of God”. The critical aspect of that was that the world was to be a reformed place, with evil done away with, and all glory to God. Some of the most detailed glimpses into this time are in the Old Testament prophets, and spoken by God well before the birth of Jesus.

Isaiah 2:4: He will judge between the nations, And will decide concerning many peoples; And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war any more. WEB

Isaiah 65:25: The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, says Yahweh. WEB

The biggest of God's blessings on humanity has been consistent right through the whole of the Bible.

Conclusion

Although there is sometimes a perception that a change took place in the character of God between the records of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, it doesn't bear up to scrutiny. The primary elements of justice and of mercy in God are actually quite similar and consistent right through the whole Bible. There is a difference in focus between the Law of Moses, and the teachings of Jesus, but much of this is due to one being directed at a national justice system, and the other to individual behaviour principles. Regardless, the character, attitudes, and expectations of God on his people remains a constant.