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Was the Old Testament God More Brutal Than Jesus? (Y1.T1.D41)

Updated: Apr 14, 2022

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In a recent blog post, I disagreed with a person who said the Bible portrayed God in different ways over the years. I understand why he might think that.

In the Old Testament, God commanded that a man who had been gathering sticks on the Sabbath be put to death, saying, "All the congregation shall stone him with stones outside of the camp" (Numbers 15:35).

In the New Testament, when Jesus and his disciples were gathering grain on the Sabbath, Jesus proclaimed, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

Isn’t this evidence that the Old Testament God was more brutal than Jesus?

No, the Bible is clear:

  1. Jesus declared, “Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

  2. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but Yahweh weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).

  3. “Yahweh is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness” (Psalm 103:8).

In Numbers 15:32–35, only God knew “why” the man chose to disobey his command not to work on the Sabbath, but we have no such insight into the heart issue.

We know every other time God destroyed his own beloved creations was because their thoughts and subsequent actions were evil.

Jesus also condemned evil. While he reminded the religious leaders that it is “lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:12), later in the same chapter he said, “The good man out of his good treasure brings out good things, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings out evil things” (Matthew 12:35).

God hasn’t changed from a brutal dictator into a gentle negotiator. End to end, scripture teaches us how to love others more than ourselves. Laws are made to protect a community, and God is against any evil that threatens the community. Those who have evil intent in their hearts will suffer harsh consequences—including the religious leaders who choose to use the law to destroy a man who loved enough to heal on the Sabbath.

Reveal My Heart Issue

Matthew 12:1–2, Mark 2:23–24, Luke 6:1–2

3 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no kind of work. It is a Sabbath to Yahweh in all your dwellings.“ (Leviticus 23:3)

Matthew 12:3–4, Mark 2:25–26, Luke 6:3–4

5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath day the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 But I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you wouldn’t have condemned the guiltless.'" (Matthew 12:5–7)

27 He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27)

Matthew 12:8–10, Mark 2:28–3:2, Luke 6:5–7

30 “You shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary; I am Yahweh." (Leviticus 19:30)

32 While the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been declared what should be done to him.

35 Yahweh said to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him with stones outside of the camp.” 36 All the congregation brought him outside of the camp, and stoned him to death with stones, as Yahweh commanded Moses. (Numbers 15:32–36)

Luke 6:8–9, Mark 3:3–4

11 He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if this one falls into a pit on the Sabbath day, won’t he grab on to it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day.” (Matthew 12:11–12)

Matthew 12:13–14, Mark 3:5–6, Luke 6:10–11

15a Jesus, perceiving that, withdrew from there. (Matthew 12:15a)

Meditation Moment

Dear God,

I confess my sins today because You are faithful and just to forgive and cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). I don’t want to be like those who cried out “Lord, Lord” and You didn’t recognize them (Matthew 7:21–23). Please reveal times where I am using biblical law to thrash another person and also show me where I’m failing to keep it. You alone know my heart (Proverbs 21:2).


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