On more than one occasion I have had conversations with people who have difficulty in reconciling the God of the Old Testament with the teachings of the New Testament. This is not something new. It was first conceived by Bishop Marcion in about 144A.D. Stories often considered from the OT are the Flood [Gen. 6-8]; Sodom & Gomorrah [Gen. 18-19]; the execution of the first born Egyptians [Exodus 11-12]; the extermination of Jericho, apart from the prostitute Rahab and her family [Joshua 6]. Why such death and destruction?
Compare this with the teaching of Jesus where he says to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” [Mark 12:31]. At face value there appears to be a difference. However, God said of Himself, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” [Malachi 3:6]. Therefore, it would be wise to look more closely at the stories and not make quick assumptions or casual conclusions.
The Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, the firstborn in Egypt and Jericho were all destroyed without human help, other than marching and blowing trumpets in the case of the latter. God brought about judgement, but it followed a period of unheeded warnings. Noah warned of the coming flood. Abraham pleaded with God should there be any righteous people in Sodom or Gomorrah. Pharaoh ignored the previous plagues that demonstrated God’s power. The people of Jericho were aware of the miraculous protection given to the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. They all had the opportunity to turn from their wickedness to worship the God of Israel.
Looking more closely at the evidence prior to the flood, we read that God grieved at how corrupt the earth had become and that people’s hearts were only evil all the time, [Gen. 65 & 12]. Yet he enlisted Noah to preach righteousness to them [2 Peter 2:5] that they might repent. They ignored him for 120 years and faced the consequences. Only eight entered the ark and were saved.
The message of the Bible is that sin will not be tolerated by God. The whole essence of having a chosen people was to bring a Saviour into the world through their lineage. God was determined to ensure that no other nations with false gods would jeopardise this. Ultimately, everyone will die and face God’s judgement for the life they have led. [Hebrews 9:27]. The message remains the same throughout the Bible. Sin cannot go unpunished. That’s why Jesus died on the cross. He took the punishment for all sin. If we fail to recognise who Jesus is and what He has achieved for us we face condemnation. Our sin remains unforgiven where it will be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God, [Heb. 10:31]. If we accept salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ we are saved from judgement; "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
Jesus spoke on love 13 times. He preached some 190 times on hell, repentance and judgement. At the dawn of the Church after Pentecost, the message of Christ was preached from the Old Testament. Peter, Stephen, Phillip and Paul all used it.
Finally, after The Flood God made a covenant (a promise) that He would never again judge the earth or the life on earth by destroying them with a flood, [Gen. 9:8-17]. However, that does not mean that it will not be destroyed by any other means at some point in the future. 2 Peter 3:10 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” Not flood but fire. Thanks be to God that we don’t have to face this because He loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]