One of the most common criticisms of the Bible by non-believers is that the God of the Old Testament is a tyrant, completely different from the God of the New Testament. This idea appeared as early as the second century, with the heretic Marcion.
We have heard this criticism so often that I’m afraid most of us are affected by it. During this year of mercy, if God wills, I want to present a series of meditations on God’s mercy in the Old Testament. I am not planning to write scholarly articles aimed at increasing your knowledge of Scripture. Rather, I ask you to ponder these things in your heart, especially during your mental prayer time.
I hope we will all learn to appreciate the ways in which God showed his merciful character to the people living before Christ. St. Paul said,
For whatever was written before our time, was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. (Rom 15:4).
For this first post, let’s look at the broad Old Testament picture. We will delve into some of these points in more detail later.
Remember, use this for prayer, not as an intellectual exercise.
Goodness from the foundations of the world
God created the world without any need of his own. Every good thing originates in Him. He created man in His image and gave him dominion over everything on earth. He gave him a wife and the power to reproduce. When Adam and Eve sinned, God at once promised them a Redeemer.
Cast out of the Garden of Eden, man’s view of God was tainted by sin. Unable to see Him, men created their own gods. But to those who sought Him, He revealed Himself bit by bit, teaching them what they would have learned had they never been separated from Him.
He saved the faithful, from Noah to Joseph to King David. He spared pagans like Rahab who showed their openness to truth and goodness. He forgave repentant sinners, including the whole city of Ninevah.
And He continued to promise redemption. He whispered His secrets to open ears, inspiring prophecies that would be fulfilled hundreds of years in the future.
Thus, at the beginning of the Gospel, the Virgin Mary could say:
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation…
He has come to the help of His servant Israel,
For He has remembered His promise of mercy,
The promise He made to our fathers,
To Abraham and his children for ever. (Lk 1:50, 54-55)
Questions for reflection
As you ponder these truths, reflect on the following questions:
- How has God shown me mercy since the beginning of my life?
- When has He forgiven me?
- When has He spared me?
- How has He given me hope?
- How has He kept His promises?
End with vocal prayer
Now pray the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55 along with Mary. Ask her to intercede for you, that you might grow in your understanding and worship of God’s mercy in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Happy New Year!