Some people view God’s acts in the Old Testament as purely judgmental and angry. Today, R.C. Sproul counters this misconception by drawing out the stunning picture of God’s grace that the Old Testament reveals.
How many times have you heard God slandered in peoples’ evaluation of His activity in the Old Testament? How many times have you heard people say, “The God of the Old Testament is a tyrant—angry, wrathful God—I don’t want anything to do with that”?
Have you ever read the book of Judges? The book of Judges reads like an old American folk song with the repeating choruses, you know, the refrain that is repeated again and again and again and again and again. How does the book of Judges go? “And Israel did that which was wicked in the sight of the Lord, a stiff and hard-necked people.”
God had granted them the promised land, not because they earned it, not because they deserved it, but out of the free bounty of His mercy, He gives them the promised land. He tells them: “Now when you go there, I want you to behave yourselves. I want you to be a holy people.” But they don’t. They do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord. So, God is going to chastise His child, Israel.
So, He raises up the Philistines to come and smite the Israelites to drive them back to dependence upon their God. So then what happens? The Philistines come, and the Israelites become oppressed. And what do they do? They turn to their God, and they begin to weep, and they begin to cry, and they begin to groan. And just like God heard the groaning of His child when she was in bondage in Egypt, so now God hears the groaning of Israel under the bondage of the Philistines. So, God raises up Samson, or God raises up Deborah, or God raises up Jephthah to deliver His people from bondage. And God intervenes to bring fantastic victories, to let them escape from the yoke of the Philistines, and the Philistines are chased from the land, and everybody thanks the Lord.
And then the next verse begins: “And Israel did that which was wicked in the sight of the Lord. And God raised up the Midianites, and the people then became oppressed, and the people groaned, and so God raised up Gideon, and Gideon delivered the Israelites from the hand of the Midianites.” And then the next verse says, “And the people of Israel did that which was wicked in the sight of the Lord.”
The history of the Old Testament, ladies and gentlemen, is the history of an incredibly long-suffering, patient, forbearing, loving, merciful, gracious deity.