I heard a statement recently that really caught my attention. It went something like this:
“In the Old Testament if a Believer touched a leper, he was pronounced ‘unclean’ and had to be removed from the congregation. In the New Testament if a Believer touched a leper, the leper was healed.”
I have treasured the Old Testament all my Christian life and argued for its inclusion in the teachings of our modern day church, even defending it against those who would say it isn’t relevant to us Christians anymore. Some think of the Old Testament as just an old history book, which presents an angry, vengeful God who is Himself transformed in the New Testament by the coming of Jesus. I would still argue that this is a false conclusion and that while the Old Testament does record the history of ancient Israel, with all its struggles and battles, it also paints a picture of the true character of God and man.
God is characterized through his interactions with people as a patient, compassionate, wise, forgiving and loving God. In fact, the Lord describes Himself to Moses in Exodus 34:5-7 in this way: And God passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.” David also describes the amazingly gracious character of God in his psalms, as does Isaiah and other prophets.
Even though the Old Testament is as much “God’s Word” as the New, what Jesus does when He comes to earth, born of a woman and very much human, yet equally divine, is truly world-changing. The New Testament speaks of a new covenant with God, which allows us to live in a radically different way from the way our brothers and sisters of the Old Covenant lived.
So back to the statement I heard recently, mentioned above, we see an example of this huge difference. In the book of Leviticus, chapter 14, we read what the Israelites were to do if anyone had an infectious disease. That person was to “wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’. As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.” Now to be sure, this was an ingenious way to keep infectious diseases from spreading through the whole population in a time when there was little medical knowledge for a nomadic desert people. In fact, the requirement to shave and wash wasvery advanced hygiene in those days.
Nonetheless, contrast this to what Jesus did and instructed His disciples to do. He constantly laid hands on sick people and restored their health, their sight, their wholeness. Paul and the other apostles went around healing the sick, lame, diseased and possessed. The power which Jesus ministered in and with which He empowered His disciples, was the same power that raised Him from the dead after three days in a tomb. It was the power of God’s Holy Spirit, which Jesus sent to His people on earth during Pentecost 50 days after He had been resurrected.
God is the same God in the Old and New Testaments, but when Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to live inside all of His followers who invited Him there, everything changed. I can’t even begin to understand what power lives inside me. I struggle with the faith for that sometimes. But I do know that God keeps His Word and that Jesus said we would do even greater works than He Himself did because of the Holy Spirit. I choose to believe Him and seek to open up to Him in every way He wants me too. Help me, Lord! Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven….and help me play my part!
And God passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.”
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.