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Is God ANGRY in the Old Testament and LOVING in the New Testament?


Has God's Word been abrogated?

If you have NOT seen the simpler article on the alleged problems with the Bible, this link will direct you to it - Abrogations and Contradictions in the Bible.

Many people think that God must have changed between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It appears that His Word, the Bible has been changed (or abrogated).  They see the situation as:-

Burn 'em good, Lord!  (An imprecatory prayer)

 

The Old Testament
God is angry,
ready to punish sinful men.




Forgive 'em, Lord.   (A prayer for mercy)

The New Testament
God is merciful,
ready to forgive sinful men.




The above interpretation is WRONG! God does not change and His Laws do not change.  The short answer is that God is always angry with man's sin, for God is HolyHoly = pure, totally without sin.; but also God is LOVE... God is love.  1 John 4:8  
... God is love, ...  1 John 4:16
.  He has made a provision to cancel man's sin.  Both the above cartoons are correct: God is Holy and God is Love.

The Old Testament deals with God's plan to send Jesus (The Messiah) to pay for man's sin.  Here God's anger against sin is emphasised, teaching us why we need Jesus.  The New Testament records the coming of Jesus and the payment for sin - the terrible death of Jesus on a cross.  Here the love of God and His mercy is seen in its fullness.  Both Testaments display both aspects, viz God's Holiness and God's Love.  But many people want a fuller explanation than this, that is, they want a detailed explanation of a "difficult to explain" passage.

Explanation of Nehemiah's Imprecatory Prayer

Imprecate = to call down
Imprecatory Prayer = a prayer that calls God to act against sinners, to give them what is just.  There are a number of Imprecatory Prayers in the Bible, 25 of them are in the Book of Psalms.


Nehemiah's imprecatory prayer causes people much anxiety today.  This is largely because people want to hear about God's Love, but do not want to hear about God's Holiness.




4  Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity!
5  Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.
Nehemiah 4:4,5

Nehemiah is an Old Testament hero, a Jew, one of God's own people.  He is praying against Sanballat and Tobiah who are important leaders from the surrounding nations.  They have a history of persecuting God's people.

Here's the wrong interpretationwrong

It's okay for Nehemiah to vent his anger against these evil people.  The Old Testament allowed Jews to have anger in their hearts.  They were even allowed to kill people.  But we cannot do this today because in the New Testament, Jesus taught us to love our enemies!wrong

There are two serious errors here.

  • First, it is assumed that Nehemiah is releasing his personal anger against his enemies.
  • Second, it assumes that there is an abrogationAbrogation = a change in the law. of God's law between the Old and New Testaments.  (Anger was allowed in Old Testament, anger is not allowed in the New Testament.)

The correct interpretationright

Nehemiah has no personal anger against his enemies; his anger to them is because they have offended God.  The OT will not allow self-centred anger ... you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.   Leviticus 19:18
The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; ... Leviticus 19:34
.

Nehemiah's reporting of the situation is full of Sanballat and Tobiah did this and that against me, but never a hint of Nehemiah hating them or retaliating.  Nehemiah (an Old Testament hero) is treating his enemies as the New Testament commands!

Nehemiah's prayer recognises the fact that Sanballat and Tobiah are God's enemies... they have provoked You to anger before the builders.  Nehemiah 4:5. They are unrepentant sinners, directly obstructing God's plan to rebuild Jerusalem ... the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you.  Deuteronomy 30:3
...  thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.   Jeremiah 29:10

Nehemaih's prayer hands these evil people over to God.  Nehemiah will keep on loving them and treating them well, but he leaves it to God to deal with them.

Nehemiah prays for God's will to be doneIn the New Testament, Jesus taught us to pray "Your kingdom come, Your will be done" ... Matthew 6:10  for Sanballat and Tobiah.  That is, that their iniquity will not be covered, their sins will not be blotted out.  This means they will be sent to hell.  This is the only right place for God's enemies.  The New Testament clearly supports this... it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you,
and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels,
in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
2 Thessalonians 1:6-9

Apostle Paul - New Testament

A loser percecuting ChristiansApostle Paul, in the New Testament prays an imprecatory prayer similar to Nehemiah's prayer.

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 2 Timothy 4:14

Alexander was an evil man and tried to hinder God's plan for the gospel.  He was an enemy to Paul.  Paul treated Alexander well and continued to treat him well.  But Paul also handed Alexander over to the Lord God!  Alexander now has huge problems.  God's justice is coming!  It may not come immediately in this life, but it will surely come!

Jesus - New Testament

Jesus also made many imprecatory statements against the scribes and Pharisees... woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.   Matthew 23:13 and the following verses.

A serious message

What should we understand and take to heart today from this explanation?

God's Holiness and God's Love

God commanGod's worldds all people to stop their rebellion and submit to Jesus Christ.

It's God's will that those who voluntarily submit to Jesus are treated by God just as if they have never rebelled!

It's God's will that those who continue to rebel will be eternally and justly punished!
  • God is always angry with man's sin.
  • God has made a provision for man's sin, Jesus Christ, (The Jewish Messiah).

  • God offers us His LOVE.  All people are invited to come to Jesus and have their sins cancelled and gain a living relationship with God.
  • For those who refuse, they are permitted to continue in their sins until God judges them and executes justice.

You, dear internet surfer, need to make peace with God through Jesus.  You need to find a good local church and become a commited member there.  God commands repentance and faith in Jesus.  The alternative of refusing God's love is truly dreadful - like that of Sanballat and Alexander.  We at Monash Christian Fellowship would like to help you find peace with God and His purpose for your life.

If you have questions you can email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Produced by Monash Christian Fellowship, Melbourne, Australia.  Author Pastor Bill Wheaton 2010.  This document may be freely reproduced and used for non-profit evangelism provided that it is unchanged and carries this credit.  Scriptures are quoted from the New King James Translation of the Bible.