One of the dirty little secrets among churchgoers is that we like Jesus a lot more than we like his Dad.

Jesus, we’re cool with. He’s easy on the theological eyes. Sure, he goes a little berserk in the temple, flipping over tables, but we all have our moments. Most days, he’s just hanging out with sinners, doing some Bible teaching, telling demons to go to hell, and getting the better of sanctimonious prigs.

But the Old Man of the Old Testament, Yahweh, comes across like the main character in a Quentin Tarantino retelling of the Bible. We’ll call the movie, “Once Upon a Time in Israel.” In this flick, there’s no problem locating the main Actor—just keep your eyes peeled for the blood. He’s making humanity sleep with the fishes in Noah’s day. He’s flamethrowing brothers in Aaron’s day. And he’s in the Canaanite-killing business in Joshua’s day. When the Old Testament God is around, there’s a good chance there’s a body count.

Jesus and the New Testament—good.
Yahweh and the Old Testament—not really so good.

So goes the popular, but largely whispered, dichotomy. We’ve filed divorce papers between Mr. Old Testament and Mrs. New Testament, but we go on tucking them between the same covers every night, just to keep up appearances around the children.

For some Bible readers, the God of the Hebrews just doesn’t seem to be playing on the same team with the God of the Gospels.

This testamental breakup is hardly novel. A fellow named Marcion, way back in the 2nd century, beat us to the punch by claiming that the god of the Old Testament was a mean and nasty waste of perfectly fine divinity. So, he fed the scriptures of this loser-god into the shredder. The church officially excommunicated Marcion, and rightly so, but unofficially communicates some of his same arguments on the sly today. After all, for some Bible readers, the God of the Hebrews just doesn’t seem to be playing on the same team with the God of the Gospels.

Let me, therefore, complicate the issue further. And in complicating the issue, also clarify it. Consider this my thesis: there is no dichotomy between the Old Testament God and Jesus because Jesus himself is the God of the Old Testament.

Genesis and Exodus Are the Bio of Jesus

Actually, that’s not “my” thesis. It’s been the confession of the church catholic from the get-go.

The Son was here, all along, being God and doing God stuff. He wasn’t stuck in a messianic training camp for several centuries so he’d be primed and ready for his 33-year mission.

So, what exactly was Jesus doing before his Bethlehem birthday? He was:
1. Creating the world. “All things came into being by Him [i.e., the Logos, the Word], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:2).
2. Appearing to Abraham. Jesus said, “Your father, Abraham, rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).
3. Sending Serpents to Kill Rebellious Israelites. “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents” (1 Cor. 10:9).
4. Appearing to Isaiah in a temple vision. “These things Isaiah said, because he saw [Christ’s] glory, and he spoke of Him” (John 12:41).

But this only scratches the surface. We could pile up examples to illustrate how the words and deeds and appearances of Yahweh in the OT are applied to Jesus in the NT. He is, after all, the God of the Old Testament. Genesis and Exodus are as much the bio of Jesus as Matthew and Mark are.

The Christian confession, “Jesus is Lord,” is thus the confession, “Jesus is Yahweh.”

Luther sums it up well: “[T]he God who led the children of Israel from Egypt and through the Red Sea, who guided them in the wilderness…, who nourished them with bread from heaven, who performed all the miracles recorded by Moses in his books, again, who brought them into the land of Canaan and there gave them kings and priests and everything, is the very same God, and none other than Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of the Virgin Mary, whom we Christians call our Lord and God…..Yes, Jesus of Nazareth, who died for us on the cross, is the God who says in the First Commandment, ‘I am the Lord your God,’” (Treatise on the Last Words of David, AE 15:313-314).

The Christian confession, “Jesus is Lord,” is thus the confession, “Jesus is Yahweh.”

Burning Our “Rules of Etiquette for God”

On this basis, I offer two suggestions to ponder.

First, if you really think Jesus is easy on the theological eyes, read the New Testament again. Like, 500 times, if you must, until you get it. He’s not a purring kitten but a roaring lion. He’s not Buddy Jesus but the GodMan with a sharp double-edged sword sticking out of his mouth. He loves us with a fiery, tornadic, warrior-like love that nails us to the cross with him and dynamites the tomb in an Easter blast. He crumples up our westernized, saccharine image of him and grips us in a mercy made of thorn, nail, spear, and Jewish blood. He’s your greatest fear and greatest love all intertwined in one mystic man who bears the name Yahweh.

If God never makes us uncomfortable, that’s probably because we worship an idol who has a personality strikingly similar to our own.

Second, I suspect the real reason the OT makes us squirm is not because it’s so difficult for us to make it palatable to unbelievers or credible to skeptics. No, the problem is not them but us. And, to make ourselves feel better, we make up excuses for God. We get all lawyerly as we concoct extenuating circumstances that downplay his rigorous divinity. But Jesus, who is Yahweh, will have none of that. He is God. We are not. And squirm, grumble, sulk in our theological room all we want—that ironclad fact will remain.

In fact, if God never makes us uncomfortable, that’s probably because we don’t really give a damn, or because we worship an idol who has a personality strikingly similar to our own.

The God of the Bible, Jesus the Christ, is an old pro at rubbing us the wrong way. He started way back in Genesis, and he's on a roll that ain’t gonna stop till kingdom come.

But he’s also not gonna stop hammering away at our stony hearts, putting a cigarette lighter to our Rules of Etiquette for God, and wrapping us in a baptismal bearhug that squeezes all our own life out of us and squeezes all his life into us. He loves us in that furious and terrifying and jealous kind of way. He loves us too much to leave us as we are—as stupid, lost sheep destined for the wolves of hell. So, he kills us and makes us alive. Good Fridays us so he can Easter us. Because that’s what the Old Testament God does, the God who, in the fulness of time, became Mary’s Son. He’s the God who in the beginning, made everything from nothing, and still reduces us to nothing so he can remake us anew in himself.

Jesus has always done the will of his Father, whether he was forming the cosmos, unleashing the Flood, zipping up Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea body bag, booming down the Ten Commandments, upending temple tables, stilling storms in Galilee, or emptying his veins onto the base of a Roman cross. He is Yahweh, the LORD, the Son of the Father. And his will is that you be his, all his, for now and for eternity.

What’s the best thing we can say to that? Amen. Yes, yes, it shall be so.