Oddly, the God depicted in the OT is very similar in characteristics to the gods of earlier cultures which we today would consider pagan. Those gods, particularly those of the Greeks and Romans, were characterized by very human-like behaviors. They fought among themselves. They meddled in human affairs and demanded obeisance from mankind in order to gain their favor and avoid their wrath, much like earthly rulers. They schemed and argued. They were jealous, vindictive, and easily provoked, having great ability to wreak havoc in the physical world. These similarities between the God described in the OT and those of paganism are troubling, if that depiction is seen as the unchanging and therefore ultimate description of God as portrayed in the Bible.
Of course, the OT is not all there is, and even that is a “mixed bag” as the common expression goes. In the midst of descriptions of God and His demands and wrath, we are introduced to His great patience and long suffering in dealing with the recalcitrant Hebrews, whom He had chosen for a special mission. Throughout their history as recorded in the Bible, these “chosen people” vacillated between obedience to God’s requirements and open rebellion against Him. The promise of physical blessings and the threat of physical judgments never seemed to motivate them for long. Time after time God sent messengers of various sorts to call the people back into compliance, so that the nation could continue to fulfill its role in God’s plan, which was evolving to the benefit of all mankind. In all of its failures, frustrations, conflicts, defeats, and confusion, the nation of
Immersed in the OT records there are numerous indications of a much grander and more transcendent picture of God’s nature and purpose than would be indicated by a mere casual reading of the historical record of God’s dealing with and on the behalf of Israel. The non-historical portions of the OT, in particular, are replete with glimpses of a coming day when God’s purpose would be fulfilled in a way that would bring about a marvelous transformation in the condition of all humanity, bringing to light His true nature in unimaginable splendor.
Finally, in the New Testament, Christ arrives and fully reveals the Father in His own actions, attitudes, and message. He demonstrates once and for all what God is really like. It is a picture continuously hinted at in the OT but fully realized only in the NT. With this final revelation of God, it was time to cast off those old assumptions and pre-conceived ideas about a god who operated like the pagan gods and embrace the God defined as Love that never fails. Thus one cannot look back to the OT for an understanding of God today. To do so would be the same as embracing the earlier gods of humanity’s embryonic stage of spiritual development and a digression of the most injurious type.