A popular myth in circulation today says that the God of the Old Testament was harsh, stern, cruel, and mean–an unforgiving judge eager to punish, while the God of the New Testament, as represented by Jesus Christ, is all love. Psalm 25 gives the lie to this myth. In Psalm 25, God is all-over invitation, love, and goodness to those who acknowledge him and want those things.
Psalm 25 is a prayer by an individual person surrounded by strong enemies. He asks the Lord for help and rescue from them, even as he confesses his sin and asks forgiveness. He asks the Lord to teach and guide him. He looks to the Lord always, and places his hope in the Lord.
In response to these petitions and statements of hope and faith, an unidentified narrative voice provides strong reassurances concerning God’s nature and actions toward those who humble themselves and seek him, just as the psalmist is doing. Listen to these words from Psalm 25 NIV.
3 No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.
8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
12 Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.
Did you catch that? God is “good…upright…loving…faithful” toward those who “fear the Lord.” To “fear” the Lord in this context means to give him belief, honor, respect, and an honest attempt at obedience. To these people the Lord promises relationship When Scripture speaks verse 14, “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them,” this is a biblical way of saying that the Lord will meet and speak with those who want him. He will share himself with them. They will spend time together in fellowship. What more could any human want than to be in a special relationship of friendship with her creator?
How is all this possible?
The other portions of Psalm 25 show a person in deep prayer with the Lord, fighting as it were for his very life. He confesses sin, confesses belief, hope, and trust in the loving goodness of the Lord, and asks the Lord to rescue him from his strong enemies. This could be a recorded prayer of Jesus Christ, our mediator, when he took on human flesh and nature and died as a sacrifice upon the cross for us. In the verse below, to “intercede” means to pray for someone:
Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (NIV)
The God of the Old Testament is the God who appointed Christ his Son to die for us as one of us. Was God being “mean” to his Son? No, they both were displaying God’s love for us. God is love, and God loves in the Old Testament, just as much as in the New. Psalm 25 assures us of his love.