I have even heard people (maybe even me at some points of my journey) talk about “the God of the Old Testament,” as if the birth of Jesus fundamentally changed the kind of God we worship. Though it is true the incarnation brought something new and incomprehensibly beautiful, and though it is true Jesus offers a depth of redemption during this life that was not available before, it is also true that our God is the same God He has always been.
God has been writing His deliverance story since sin first entered this world. The birth and life and death and resurrection of Jesus was not a new book, it was a new chapter. The New Testament is the climax of the book, to be sure. Over and over, the Old Testament points to His coming, and looks forward to the day the Messiah would come and save God’s people once and for all.
Jesus was the rescuer and bringer of restored relationship promised in Genesis 3. But that doesn’t mean relationship didn’t exist between Genesis 3 and Matthew 1.
Part of the misunderstanding comes with how we view the sacrificial system and the law. We look at the New Testament and see grace, and look at the Old Testament and see works. Sacrifices seem to be some sort of standard that the people had to meet in order to appease God’s wrath.
In reality, the law and sacrifices existed to turn the hearts of the people towards their loving God. They often misunderstood this, too, and over and over, He corrects them.
That kind of correction is the message of Psalm 50.
God reminds the people that He created the universe. He crafted plants and knit together animals in the first place. It’s not like He somehow needs the sacrifices of the people to feed a hunger He can’t satisfy on His own.
It is not about the action. It is about the heart behind the action.
Sacrifices were about attitude: repentance for wrongs, thankfulness for blessings, recognition that God was greater and He was the One with the power to save.
And they were also about relationship.
In the correction offered in Psalm 50, God highlights the importance one sacrifice in particular: the thank offering.
“Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”– Psalm 50:14-15
The sacrifice of thanksgiving was one type of peace offering. According to the ESV study Bible, peace offerings were “the only kind of sacrifice in which the worshiper ate some of the sacrificial animal; its primary function was to eat a meal, in company with the sacrificer’s family and the needy, with God as the host.”
God wants to have His people over for dinner. He wants to sit around the table and hear about their days. He wants to join people of different statuses around the same meal, the rich helping provide food for the poor, both helping provide friendship for one another.
God calls his people, rich and poor, priests and common folk, to join together in gratefulness, relationship, and worship. He also reminds them that if they call on Him when they need help, they can trust He will deliver them.
Doesn’t sound too different than how the church is described in the New Testament, does it?
These similarities do not downplay the importance of what Jesus did for us. But maybe they can help us see that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is consistently good, consistently loving, and consistently focused on the posture of our hearts.
Have you ever struggled with the connection between the Old and New Testament? What connections do you see?
Today marks the 1/3 mark in my Psalm series! 50 Psalms down, only 100 more to go… It is exciting to reach this milestone. even though it is intimidating to see how much is left. Stay tuned for an announcement next week about how something new will be happening for the next part of the journey. I am excited to fill you in!
Walk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.